Understanding Your Contraceptive Choices

Family planning is essential to your sexual wellness and reproductive health needs. Learn more about the five main categories of contraception, including determining which birth control method is right for you. 

Most women use some form of birth control at various times in life to prevent unintended pregnancy — and many depend on contraception throughout their reproductive years to help them stay in control of their family planning desires.   

If you’re sexually active but don’t want to become a parent just yet (or ever), finding the proper birth control is vital in managing your sexual and reproductive health needs. 

That’s where we come in. 

As women’s wellness experts specializing in contraceptives at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, Dr. Christina Parmar and Dr. Rania Ibrahim can help you make sense of your choices to find the birth control method that’s right for you. 

Five categories of contraception

Before making an informed, confident choice about contraception, you need to know your options. First, outside of abstinence, withdrawal, and a partner’s vasectomy, there are five basic categories of birth control. Within these five general categories, there are almost 20 specific contraceptive methods. 

Birth control exists on a needs-oriented spectrum: The first three methods are mid-range choices that meet average, everyday pregnancy prevention needs, while the last two are designed to meet specific, situational contraception needs. 

1. Hormonal birth control

This contraceptive method uses female reproductive hormones (estrogen and progestin) to prevent monthly ovulation. If you don’t ovulate, there’s no egg to fertilize. 

Combined oral contraception (the pill), the contraceptive patch, and the vaginal ring contain estrogen and progestin; progestin-only methods include the mini-pill, injectable birth control (the shot), birth control implants, and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs). 

Except for progestin-releasing implants and IUDs, hormonal contraceptives are a short-acting form of birth control that requires consistent use to be fully effective (i.e., taking a pill each day simultaneously or changing your vaginal ring each month).  

2. Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)

An IUD is a tiny T-shaped device placed in your uterus to keep sperm from reaching an egg. Progestin-releasing IUDs prevent ovulation and can stay in place for up to five years. Copper IUDs repel sperm by emitting copper ions and work for up to 10 years. 

A birth control implant is a matchstick-sized, progestin-releasing rod that’s inserted in your upper arm, just beneath your skin. Implants remain effective for up to five years. 

All LARC methods are designed to stay in place and remain effective for years. You can remove or replace them at the recommended time or remove them earlier as desired.  

3. Barrier contraceptives

As its name implies, barrier birth control prevents pregnancy by keeping sperm out of your uterus. Designed for one-time use, this category of contraceptives includes male and female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, contraceptive sponges, and spermicidal foams.

Barrier birth control is the only form of contraception that protects against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like HPV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia

4. Emergency birth control

Emergency contraception prevents unintended pregnancy following unprotected sex or birth control failure, such as condom rupture. Options include the morning-after pill or the prompt insertion of a copper IUD; both work by stopping sperm and egg union after the fact.  

5. Permanent contraception

Permanent birth control (sterilization) intends to prevent pregnancy for life by blocking, cutting, tying, or sealing off your fallopian tubes so an egg can’t travel to your uterus for fertilization. It can be done via tubal ligation surgery or achieved with the non-surgical placement of an implant device. 

Evaluating your birth control needs

Finding the ideal form of birth control means evaluating how each option meets — or doesn’t meet — your personal needs. It’s important to consider your:

Personal health history

If you’re considering combined hormonal birth control, which contains estrogen, your health history is an important determining factor. If you have a higher-than-normal risk of developing a blood clot, high blood pressure, or other complications, progestin-only methods (or another form of birth control altogether) may be a better option.   

General comfort level

Apart from LARC methods, which require no “user input” for years at a time, contraception is only effective when it’s used as directed — so it’s paramount that you feel fully at ease with the method you choose. For example, the pill may not be the right choice if you aren’t sure you’ll remember to take it at about the same time each day. 

STD protection needs

No matter what basic form of contraception you may choose, our team always recommends doubling up on contraception and using condoms (or another barrier method) if you’re not in a long-term committed relationship or have multiple partners. Barrier methods are the only way (apart from abstinence) to protect against STDs. 

Future family planning

If you won’t be ready to start a family soon but don’t want to think about contraception regularly, a LARC method may be the right choice. Or, if you know you’re done having children, you might consider permanent contraception, the most common form of birth control among premenopausal women whose families are complete. 

Finding your ideal contraceptive

Are you ready to find a form of contraception that meets your needs? Our reproductive health experts can help. Call or click online to schedule an appointment today at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas.