Birth Control: More than just “the pill”

bcToday I want to talk about misnomers.  We all know that “Kleenex” refers to any facial tissue.  We all store our leftovers in “Tupperware”, though not a single piece of plastic in our pantry may be etched with that name.

But let it be clearly known that when your friendly gynecologist asks, “Do you need Birth Control?”, we do not mean “birth control pills”.  Yes, the handy and beloved “pill” has been the mainstay of contraception for happy women around the world for 50 years.  Its pivotal role in helping women take charge of their reproduction is one of the main reasons women are ‘taking over the world’ as my sweet mother likes to say.  But please, don’t be so passe.  Birth control now refers to a myriad of contraceptive options.  Women of all ages, both new and seasoned users, should be open to talk to us about modern choices.

LARC (long-acting reversible contraceptives) benefits include the fact that they are:

  • Long-acting
  • Highly effective at preventing pregnancy
  • Very safe
  • Easy to administer
  • Super cheap over the long haul

LARC methods are becoming ever more popular.  Just for example, the Mirena (levonorgestrel IUD) is a small flexible plastic T-shaped insert placed in your uterus by your gynecologist in less than 5 minutes, which provides you with pregnancy protection for up to 5 years!  The bonus is that the IUD often results in super light or even absent periods.  (Bye, bye tampons and pads!)

The Paragard (intrauterine copper contraceptive) is a non-hormonal copper version of the IUD, around for decades, that can stretch that contraceptive benefit up to 10 years!  (Imagine paying one copay and not having to worry about birth control for a decade! Yippee!).

The Nexplanon (etonogestrel implant) is a tiny, flexible plastic rod we slide under the skin in your upper arm in the office with numbing medicine in the skin.  (Voila! – you are now worry-free for 3 years).  With each of these, we take the trouble of contracepting out of your hands–because let’s be honest, remembering to take a pill every day can be really tough.  But you are still in control.  When the time is right, we take it out and fertility resumes.

For those of you pill users (the honest ones who can admit they miss their pills more often than they like) who treasure the benefits of hormonal contraception like the short and light period, less crampy periods, skin benefits, and ovarian cancer risk reduction, there are some other hormonal contraceptive methods you should consider.

The Nuvaring (vaginal ring) is a thin, flexible plastic ring you wear in your vagina, changing it out only once a month.  (Trust me, you can’t even feel it).

Ortho-Evra (contraceptive patch) is a small square sticker you wear on your skin and change once a week.   These two carry all the same benefits of the pill, but with easier use.

Lastly, for you real winners…you organized, perfect users who have managed to incorporate taking a pill at the same time every day flawlessly into your busy lives, congratulations!  The pill remains a wonderful and effective contraceptive.  Remember, we now have dozens of choices of pills. Some newer formulations have lower hormone doses and better side effects, so be open to revisit the issue of pill choice when getting refills on your next visit.

Ladies, we certainly don’t have the lifestyles of our mothers.  We are busy ladies, often juggling family and demanding careers, college and grad-school classes, jetsetting in and out of airports for work and fun, active in sports and some with daredevil recreational hobbies.  So I say, “Let the lifestyle of the woman in 2012 be reflected in her ‘birth control’.”  Find out what is right for you.

Please…talk to us today!

-Reena Talreja Pelaez, M.D.