From the patch to the pill, many women struggle with which birth control option is best for their situation. Here, retired pharmacist and women’s health entrepreneur Marla Ahlgrimm explains the pros and cons of the most common type of contraceptive.
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, the pill comes in multiple forms. A combination product, which is often sold under the brand names Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Yaz, is an effective option for non-smokers under the age of 35. The combo pill is known for helping reduce the symptoms of hot flashes and regulating menstrual cycles. A progestin-only pill, which is most often referred to as the mini pill, is a safer option for smokers and heart disease patients. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that the mini pill may be taken by breast-feeding women as well as diabetics and those with blood clot disorders. The mini pill must be taken at the same time each day.
Seasonale and Lybrel are extended-cycle pill options that can stop a woman’s period for three to 12 months.
Aside from pill-based birth control, there are a number of insertable devices that have proven effective against unwanted pregnancy. The vaginal ring (NuvaRing) contains the same medication as a combo pill but is placed in the vagina for 21 days. It is then removed to allow cycle completion. Like the combo pill, a vaginal ring should not be used by smokers.
One of the most popular non-permanent long-term birth control options is an IUD (Mirena, ParaGard). Marla Ahlgrimm notes these are surgically implanted and, depending on which option is chosen, will prevent sperm from reaching an egg or release hormones to alter a woman’s ability to become pregnant. IUDs are best for women who have already given birth but are reluctant to consider sterilization.
Other forms of birth control include the patch, female condom, and surgical implants. Marla Ahlgrimm suggests that permanent procedures such as tubal ligation and Essure are considered only by women who have had children and are certain their families are complete.