Think back. When you walked out of your sex ed classes, how knowledgeable did you really feel about sex? This is if you were one of the lucky ones to receive any sexual education at all. We’ve not been very quiet about our extreme disappointment with the sex ed most individuals have received/are receiving in schools, ourselves included. With lack of education comes lack of understanding, and from this stems a misconceived lack of options. When you think about birth control, which options come to mind? Typically, it’s the big two: condoms or pills.
Though more and more options are becoming available, not everyone is aware of them, and this makes it nearly impossible to mindfully select the best birth control method for you and your body. So, rather than tell you what to do, we’d like to just lay out some facts. Hopefully, you walk away with answers, questions, and the knowledge that there’s an endless wealth of information out there about you, your body, and your sexuality, so never stop learning!
There are SO many options when it comes it preventing pregnancy. 20 types, actually, but countless different brands and methods. It’s important to talk to your doctor and listen to your body before making a choice, we cannot stress this enough. Below we have outlined each different type of birth control and how it can play into pregnancy.
Before reading, please know that we are not recommending any specific type of birth control or discounting any other. It’s also important to keep in mind that there are a LOT of misconceptions about these different types. After this list, keep reading to hear some debunked myths and other ways which birth control can be used!
- Abstinence is when you do not engage in any sort of sexual activity at any time (ie. no contact between your genitals and any part of a partner’s body).
- Is a squishy porous foam object which is inserted into the vagina before intercourse. It is made of plastic foam and contains spermicide to immobilize sperm as it comes in contact with the sponge. Sponges prevent pregnancy by covering the cervix and blocking sperm from entering the uterus. By inserting the sponge deep into the vagina before intercourse, sperm is blocked and cannot enter the uterus. In addition, the sponge releases spermicide throughout intercourse, which keeps the sperm from moving.
- This skin patch is worn on the lower abdomen, buttocks, or upper body. It releases hormones progestin and estrogen into the bloodstream. You put on a new patch once a week for three weeks. During the fourth week, you do not wear a patch, so you can have a menstrual period.
- The ring releases the hormones progestin and estrogen. You place the ring inside your vagina. You wear the ring for three weeks, take it out for the week you have your period, and then put in a new ring.
- Combined oral contraceptives contain the hormones estrogen and progestin.
- The progestin-only pill has one hormone, progestin, instead of both estrogen and progestin. It is prescribed by a doctor.
- An injection of progestin into the buttocks or arm every three months by a doctor.
- The implant is a single, thin rod that is inserted under the skin in the upper arm. The rod contains a progestin that is released into the body over 3 years.
- The internal condom helps keeps sperm from getting into the body. It is packaged with a lubricant and is available at drug stores. It can be inserted up to eight hours before sexual intercourse.
Breastfeeding as Birth Control
- Continuously breastfeeding will suppress production the hormone that is required for ovulation.
- This operation to stop sperm from leaving through the penis.
- Barrier method placed inside the vagina to cover the cervix to block sperm. The diaphragm is shaped like a shallow cup. The cervical cap is a thimble-shaped cup. Before intercourse, you insert them with spermicide to block or kill sperm.
- Using a calendar to track fertility patterns. Knowing the number of days in the month when you are fertile (able to get pregnant), days when you are infertile, and days when fertility is unlikely but possible. If you have a regular menstrual cycle, you have about nine or more fertile days each month. If you do not want to get pregnant, you do not have sex on the days you are fertile, or you use a barrier method of birth control on those days.
Pull Out Method (Withdrawal)
- Removing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation removes the source of sperm from the site of impregnation.
- Not a regular method of birth control. Emergency contraception can be used after no birth control was used during sex, or if the birth control method failed, such as if a condom broke.
- An external condom worn on a penis keeps sperm from getting into a woman’s body. Latex condoms, the most common type, help prevent pregnancy, and HIV and other STDs, as do the newer synthetic condoms. “Natural” or “lambskin” condoms also help prevent pregnancy, but may not provide protection against STDs, including HIV.
- These products work by killing sperm and come in several forms—foam, gel, cream, film, suppository, or tablet. They are placed in the vagina no more than one hour before intercourse.
- Tubal ligation or “tying tubes”— Fallopian tubes can be tied (or closed) so that sperm and eggs cannot meet for fertilization. The procedure can be done in a hospital or in an outpatient surgical center. You can go home the same day of the surgery and resume your normal activities within a few days. This method is effective immediately.
- Transcervical Sterilization— A thin tube is used to thread a tiny device into each fallopian tube. It irritates the fallopian tubes and causes scar tissue to grow and permanently plug the tubes. It can take about three months for the scar tissue to grow, so use another form of birth control during this time. Return to your doctor for a test to see if scar tissue has fully blocked your fallopian tubes.
- Copper T intrauterine device (IUD) —This IUD is a small device that is shaped in the form of a “T.” Your doctor places it inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It can stay in your uterus for up to 10 years.
- Levonorgestrel intrauterine system (LNG IUD)—The LNG IUD is a small T-shaped device like the Copper T IUD. It is placed inside the uterus by a doctor. It releases a small amount of progestin each day to keep you from getting pregnant. The LNG IUD stays in your uterus for up to 6 years.
Myths, taboos, and misconceptions
I’m breastfeeding so I can’t get pregnant.
While breastfeeding tends to postpone ovulation, this is not a guarantee. Ovulation can occur even when a woman is breastfeeding. The nursing mother should use birth control if she wishes to avoid pregnancy.
You can’t get pregnant if the woman doesn’t have an orgasm.
Pregnancy occurs when a sperm from the man fertilizes an egg from the woman. While the man must ejaculate to release sperm, it is not necessary for the woman to have an orgasm to get pregnant. A woman of childbearing age releases an egg each month as part of her regular menstrual cycle. This occurs whether or not the woman has sex or an orgasm.
I won’t get pregnant if I douche after sex.
Douching is not an effective method of contraception. After ejaculation, the sperm enters the cervix and are out of reach of any douching solution.
I don’t need contraception because we only have sex during the “safe” time. You’re only fertile one day a month.
Myths such as these most likely arise from a lack of understanding of the menstrual cycle. There are four major hormones (chemicals that stimulate or regulate the activity of cells or organs) involved in the menstrual cycle: follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estrogen, and progesterone. A delicate balance of these hormones regulates the release of an egg (ovulation) and — if the egg is not fertilized — menstruation.
While a woman’s cycle is more or less regular at most times, this balance of hormones can be disrupted by various factors, including age, stress, medicines, etc. Therefore, pinpointing the time of ovulation and predicting any “safe” days can be difficult. Couples who have success with the rhythm method of contraception must carefully monitor the women’s menstrual cycles and evaluate symptoms of ovulation, as well as any external factors.
I won’t get pregnant if we have sex standing up or if the woman is on top.
Some people believe that having sex in certain positions, such as standing up, will force the sperm out of the woman’s vagina. In truth, positions during sex have nothing to do with whether or not fertilization occurs. When a man ejaculates, the sperm is deposited well into the vagina. The sperm will, by nature, begin to move up through the cervical canal immediately after ejaculation.
You can use plastic wrap or a balloon if you don’t have a condom.
Plastic wrap and balloons are not good to use as condoms. They don’t fit well and can easily be torn during sex. Condoms are specifically made to provide a good fit and good protection during sex, and they are thoroughly tested for maximum effectiveness.
I won’t get pregnant if my partner pulls out before he ejaculates.
Pulling out before the man ejaculates, known as withdrawal, is not a foolproof method of contraception. Some ejaculate (fluid that contains sperm) might be released before the man actually begins to climax. In addition, some men might not have the willpower or be able to withdraw in time.
I won’t get pregnant because this is my first time having sex.
A woman can get pregnant any time ovulation occurs, even if you’ve never had sex before.
I won’t get pregnant if I take a shower or bath right after sex, or if I urinate right after sex.
Washing or urinating after sex will not stop semen and sperm that have already entered the uterus through the cervix.
The Pill is effective immediately after you begin taking it.
In most women, one complete menstrual cycle is needed for the hormones in the Pill (oral contraceptive) to work with the woman’s natural hormones to prevent ovulation. To be effective, the Pill must be taken as directed.
Only cis-women take birth control.
They go on to point out that:
- This may be a surprise to some, but trans and queer people have the ability to procreate and to engage in sex that results in pregnancy. It’s frustrating that birth control is only marketed to cis straight women when LGBTQ+ folks need it just as much.
- There are challenges keeping us from getting birth control when we need it — including fear of discrimination from medical providers and lack of access to health insurance — but not being able to get birth control can have harmful consequences for us.While seeking out reproductive healthcare, LGBTQ+ people are often shamed for our sex lives or treated differently because of our marginalized identities. Even well-intentioned doctors don’t know much about how we have sex and how birth control impacts our bodies.Additionally, LGBTQ+ Americans have barriers to getting birth control because we’re almost 10 percent less likely than straight Americans to have health insurance, and 20 percent of us are living in poverty. When trans and queer people can’t access the reproductive health care we need, we’re forced to go underground to get it. Some trans women buy hormones on the black market because they can’t get them from a doctor, and they sometimes end up being toxic.
- We’re excluded from the reproductive rights movement, even though we actually have the hardest time getting adequate healthcare. Our society loves to gender things, which led to “reproductive health” becoming synonymous with “women’s health” — cis women’s health, in particular.Cis women refuse to prioritize trans women’s reproductive rights because they’re afraid of being forgotten about. But in reality, the reproductive rights movement isn’t winning because they’re ONLY representing cis women.When we fight for barriers to accessing reproductive health care to be removed for trans and queer people of color (POC), everyone benefits, even cis straight women because they face some of the same challenges.
Not all about babies
Aside from pregnancy, there are many more reasons that birth control may be used. We did some research on and quoted from Young Women’s Health.org to compile a *noninclusive list* of some common reasons. Each can be clicked to take you to their website to learn more!
Birth control pills are used to treat many different conditions including:
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): is a hormonal imbalance which causes irregular menstrual periods, acne, and excess hair growth. For girls whose menstrual periods are irregular (too few or not at all), birth control pills work by lowering certain hormone levels to regulate menstrual periods. When hormones are at normal levels, acne and hair growth often improve.
Endometriosis: Most girls with endometriosis have cramps or pelvic pain during their menstrual cycle. Birth control pills are often prescribed continuously to treat endometriosis and work by temporarily preventing periods. Since periods can cause pain for young women with endometriosis, stopping periods will usually improve cramps and pelvic pain.
Lack of periods (“amenorrhea”) from low weight, stress, or excessive exercise: Birth control pills may be prescribed to replace estrogen, which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle. Normal estrogen levels and healthy weight are important for healthy bones. If lack of periods is caused by low weight or an eating disorder, the best treatment is weight gain to a normal healthy weight.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Symptoms of PMS such as mood swings, breast soreness, weight gain and bloating, along with acne can occur up to 2 weeks before a young women’s period. Birth control pills may be prescribed to stop ovulation and keep hormone levels balanced. Symptoms may improve, particularly when oral contraceptive pills are prescribed continuously.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI): Birth control pills are often prescribed to girls who have ovaries that don’t make enough estrogen because of radiation and/or chemotherapy or a genetic condition such as Turner Syndrome or other conditions. The goal of this treatment is to regulate the menstrual cycle and keep bones healthy.
Heavy Menstrual Periods: Birth control pills can reduce the amount and length of menstrual bleeding.
Acne: For moderate to severe acne, which over-the-counter and prescription medications haven’t cured, birth control pills may be prescribed. The hormones in the Pill can help stop acne from forming. Be patient though, since it takes several months for birth control pills to work.
If we could only offer one piece of advice for the rest of our lives, it would be the following: commit to being a lifelong learner. No one knows everything, it’s that simple. Learning and being open to new information is positively necessary for us as human beings, particularly when it comes to our body and our well-being. We are so pleased to be able to share information like the above with you, but this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s out there.
So, we hope you’ve learned something and that you’re as excited as we are to learn more, every damn day! If you’re walking away from this read with questions, ask away!
We’re your resource, we’re here for you.