Birth Control by Melissa Dhas, WHNP
Women start birth control for multiple reasons. Although the intended use is contraception, it can also be used to help regulate irregular menstrual cycles or decrease the symptoms that occur with menses, such as heavy bleeding, painful cramps, acne and mood changes.
A “normal” menstrual cycle length is every 25-35 days. If you are having cycles in shorter or longer intervals, then you should make an appointment with your gynecologist to discuss why this is happening.
Birth control comes in many methods, so there is something for everyone!
Types of Birth Control
The condom is used as a barrier method and is the only birth control that also protects against STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases). It can be used alone or in combination with other forms of birth control.
The birth control pill is taken at the same time every day in order for it to be effective. Most pills are made of a combination of estrogen and progesterone in varying types and dosages, which work by preventing ovulation and therefore preventing pregnancy.
A progesterone only pill, also known as the “mini-pill”, is available for those women who shouldn’t take estrogen or those who are breastfeeding. Women with uncontrolled blood pressure, migraines with aura, or a history of blood clots should not take estrogen.
The patch is also a combination of estrogen and progesterone but is worn on the skin and changed on a weekly basis. On the fourth week, the patch is removed and menstruation starts.
The ring is another way to combine estrogen and progesterone, but this time in the form of a vaginal ring. The ring is placed, by the patient, into the vagina up against the cervix where it stays for 3 weeks. After that time, it is removed and menstruation starts. Some women also use the ring continuously to stop menstruation completely.
Depo-provera® is an intra-muscular (IM) injection that is administered to the patient by a provider in the office every 3 months. This form of contraception is another progesterone only birth control. It can result in the cessation of menses, light menses, or irregular bleeding.
Nexplanon®, is a rod that contains progesterone that is placed in the arm by a provider during an office visit. During this procedure, the patient’s arm is numbed and the rod is inserted under the skin where it can remain for up to 3 years. It can also be easily removed at any time prior to that. This form of contraception can result in the cessation of menses, light menses, or irregular bleeding.
The IUD is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of contraception.
- Non-hormonal vs. Hormonal
- The non-hormonal IUD (Paragard®) is made of copper and lasts up to 10 years. It will not stop menses or make them lighter. Most patients experience the same amount or heavier bleeding after placement.
- The hormonal IUD (Mirena®, Kyleena®, Skyla®, Liletta®) is made of progestin and lasts up to 6 years. Most patients experience cessation of menses or light irregular bleeding.
Both types of IUDs are placed in the office by a provider, during a pelvic exam. The patient should expect some pelvic cramping during placement.
** Every person is unique and may experience different side effects after starting birth control **
- Possible side effects include (but not limited to) irregular bleeding, weight gain, nausea, acne, anxiety, and depression. Alert your provider if you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, migraine with aura, bleeding that exceeds changing a pad/tampon every hour or lasts greater than 2 weeks in duration.
- After starting any form of birth control it can take up to 3-6 months for the body to respond to the change in hormones and for cycles to become regular/normal.
- A second form of contraception should be used for the 7 days following the start of birth control before it is fully effective to prevent pregnancy
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Additional information can be found at ACOG FAQ’s
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