Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 21: Contraception

World Contraception DayWelcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl never knew about.

Birth control is about so much more than just one type of pill. First of all, there are dozens of varieties of the Pill, and beyond that even more types of contraception! With so many options available, you’re bound to find the birth control option that’s right for you, and Planned Parenthood can help you find it.

Birth Control Pills: The Pill is probably the first thing people think of when they think of birth control, and it’s no wonder: Since its introduction in 1960, it has become an iconic symbol of women’s liberation. Taken at the same time every day, the Pill is an incredibly effective form of birth control that works by suppressing ovulation. And there are many different types, from those that are specially designed to reduce the number of periods you have in a year, to progestin-only mini-pills, from name brand pills to generic pills, and more!

Vaginal Ring: Not everyone likes taking a daily pill; some people are naturally forgetful, while others have hectic schedules that don’t make it easy to dedicate a time of the day to pill-taking. That’s where contraceptives like NuvaRing come in: This flexible ring is inserted into the vagina, where it releases a low dose of daily hormones. Leave it in for three weeks, remove it for a week, and then start the cycle anew with a new ring!

Birth Control Patch: Ring not your thing? Maybe a patch is where it’s at. It works a lot like the ring, only instead of inserting it into your vagina, you pop the patch out of its wrapper and stick it to your skin, where it stays in place for a full week, releasing hormones all the while.

depoDepo-Provera: Maybe you don’t want to mess with daily pills, weekly patches, or monthly rings. You still have reliable options! One of them is the birth-control shot, or Depo-Provera, an injection that lasts for three months!

Implant: Not impressed that Depo-Provera lasts for three measly months? How about something that lasts for three years? And maybe you want something more discreet than a patch. A birth-control implant is about the size of a small matchstick and is actually inserted under your skin. And it lasts for three years!

Intrauterine Device (IUD): IUDs are due for a comeback! More and more people are discovering the benefits of this long-acting form of birth control, which is inserted once and is then active for years on end — no having to remember daily pills, monthly rings, or trimonthly shots. There are two types: non-hormonal copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs. They are said to be a great choice for teens, and earlier this year, a new type of hormonal IUD, Skyla, came onto the market.

Elaine cleans out a pharmacy's sponge supply

Elaine cleans out a pharmacy’s sponge supply

The Sponge: Some people don’t want to be on birth control perpetually — they want something they can bust out only when they’re about to have sex. A birth control sponge contains spermicide and is inserted into the vagina before intercourse. Remember the classic Seinfeld episode in which the sponge went off the market and Manhattan women hoarded them in their linen closets as they screened “sponge-worthy” mates? This contraceptive option is actually not as effective as hormonal methods like pills, patches, shots, and rings. And the contained spermicide might increase risk for HIV. However, for many people, sponges are a preferred method of birth control.

Cervical Cap: The cap, or FemCap, can also be whipped out when the need arises. It is a small silicone cup that can be placed into the vagina to cover the cervix, creating a barrier to sperm’s entry. Like sponges, they aren’t as effective as hormonal methods.

diaphragm 150Diaphragm: For you history buffs out there, the diaphragm was one of the first modern forms of birth control — the one for which Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger was thrown into the slammer for smuggling into the country illegally. Can you believe that less than a century ago, contraception was considered “obscene” and, therefore, unlawful? The diaphragm is a lot like the cervical cap — a silicone cup that’s inserted into the vagina; however, it’s a lot more effective than the cap, though still not as effective as hormonal contraception. So, if you’d like to honor birth-control pioneer Sanger’s place in history, come on down to Planned Parenthood and get fitted for a diaphragm!

Condoms: There are a lot of advantages that condoms have over other forms of birth control, and the big one is that they protect against many sexually transmitted diseases! There are two main types of condoms: male condoms, or external condoms; and female condoms, or internal condoms. Avoid lambskin condoms, as they don’t protect against sexually transmitted viruses, like those that cause herpes or AIDS. And, when a condom is used in addition to another birth control method, you’ve just increased the efficacy of your contraception!

plan bEmergency Contraception (EC): If you’re having vaginal intercourse, the best way to prevent pregnancy is to use reliable birth control. But sometimes we need a back-up method. So whether the condom broke or you weren’t on the Pill, the “morning-after pill” is there for you after you’ve had unprotected sex and wish to reduce pregnancy risk. It’s most effective when taken as soon as possible after sex, and earlier this year, Plan B, a type of emergency contraception, was approved to be sold over the counter to people of all ages! You can even buy some EC to keep in your medicine cabinet to have on hand in case of emergencies.

To learn about these and other types of birth control, make an appointment at your local Planned Parenthood, where a health care provider can go over all your options with you and help you find something appropriate for your lifestyle and preferences.