Navigating the many types of birth control can be overwhelming and even confusing. There are many terms for hormonal birth control such as “the pill”, “the shot”, and the “IUD”. There are also barrier methods and others which can lead to many questions. Is birth control healthy for women? Are there risks? Are there any other options? Birth control is “the norm” in our society, but worth a conversation that we at Birth Choice want to have. Thanks for checking out our blog and seeking to be informed…we think you’re a smart cookie!
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2012 the birth control pill was used by about 10 million women in the US. Over 5 million women used condoms as a method of birth control and close to 4 million women used the IUD1. These statistics make it apparent that birth control is common but are women aware of the risks involved such as: cardiac complications2, higher risk for sexually transmitted infections3, and breast cancer4? The research done by the American Journal of Psychiatry in November 2017 found that females using hormonal contraception were 97% more likely to attempt suicide than those not taking the drugs5.
Different types of birth control carry varying risks and every woman should know the possible side effects that can occur from short-term or long-term use. Let’s take a closer look.
First up: the birth control pill aka “the pill”. The pill consists of one or more types of artificial hormones called estrogens and progestins. It works by inhibiting ovulation, sperm transport and by changing the lining of the inside of a woman’s uterus so that implantation of a newly conceived embryo is unlikely. The Mayo Clinic released a study in 2006 that links development of premenopausal breast cancer to taking the pill6. Other side effects that women have experienced include: high blood pressure, blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, depression, weight gain, and migraines7. The pill has an estimated failure rate for avoiding pregnancy of 9%8.
Next up: Depo-Provera aka “the shot”. This is a long-lasting progestin hormone that is injected into a woman’s muscle every three months. It works by decreasing ovulation, by inhibiting sperm transport and by changing the lining of a woman’s uterus. Two major world studies link development of breast cancer at an increased risk of 190% when a woman takes Depo-Provera for 3+ years9. Women who are using Depo-Provera also have a much higher risk of contracting AIDS if their partner is infected10. The shot has an estimated failure rate for avoiding pregnancy of 6%8.
Then there is the Intrauterine Device also known as the “IUD”. This is a t-shaped device made of hard plastic that may also contain copper or progestin hormones. A doctor inserts it into a woman’s uterus and it works by irritating and thinning the lining of the uterus and obstructing sperm transport. There are many negative medical side effects including: uterine perforation leading to a hysterectomy and infections. All use of IUDs has been associated with an increased incidence of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). The IUD may also cause infertility12. IUDs have an estimated failure rate for avoiding pregnancy of 1%8.
The condom is a barrier method contraceptive. It is a latex device that is used to prevent sperm from reaching the ovum, thus preventing fertilization. The condom has an estimated failure rate for avoiding pregnancy of 18%8. The US National Institutes of Health concludes that use of condoms does not eliminate the risk for sexually transmitted diseases11.
Vasectomy and Tubal Ligation are forms of “’Permanent’ Sterilization”. Surgical sterilization attempts to achieve permanent sterility by cutting, burning or tying a woman’s fallopian tubes [tubal ligation] or a man’s vas deferens [vasectomy]. These do not always prevent conception. Complications for women include: bladder puncture, bleeding, and even cardiac arrest after inflation of the abdomen with carbon dioxide. About half of men who undergo a vasectomy will develop anti-sperm antibodies which could lead to a higher incidence of autoimmune disease as well as prostate cancer13. Permanent sterilization has an estimated failure rate for avoiding pregnancy of 1%8.
Finally, Natural Family Planning, also known as NFP, is a natural method that works by combining calendar charting, basal body temperature, and cervical mucus methods to become aware of when a woman’s body is most fertile. By observing cervical mucus and other biomarkers, the woman is learning about her cycle without the use of hormonal contraceptives to manipulate what is naturally occurring. With the awareness of the body’s ovulation and fertile window, there is the opportunity to abstain from sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Fertility awareness method effectiveness is over 97%, thus has an estimated failure rate for avoiding pregnancy of less than 3%14. One benefit of NFP is that there is no increased risk of cancer or other diseases. Another benefit is that statistics have also shown that married couples who use NFP have a divorce rate that is less than 5% which is far lower than the national rate of about 50%15
Birth Choice, cares about the health of women and would like everyone to make educated decisions that weigh the risks against the potential for pregnancy while also including the unique health history that each person carries. If you have any general questions, call the Medical Professionals on the Birth Choice Women’s Mobile Clinic. They would be happy to help.
The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information without consulting a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.”
- Kippley JF, Kippley SK. The Art of Natural Family Planning (Fourth Edition). The Couple to Couple League. 2007; 245.