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Pros and Cons of Birth Control

Dec 02, 2015

Statistics have shown that at least one in two pregnancies in America is unplanned. This makes birth control very necessary. Before you make a decision on which birth control to use, you should consult your health care provider and get to know the pros and cons of birth control options. However, you should always note that even the most effective birth control method can fail. If you make an informed decision on the type of birth control to use, you reduce the chances of getting pregnant after all.

Pros and Cons of Birth Control Pills

Progesterone pills (POP) also known as “mini-pill” and combination pills are the most common types of birth control pills. Each pill in the combination pills contains both estrogen and progesterone. The progesterone pill is appropriate for women who cannot take estrogen and or are breastfeeding. Emergency contraceptives are also progesterone only pills, but are not meant for regular use. When it comes to effectiveness, when the pill is used according to the instructions, 1 out of 100 women might become pregnant in one year. However, if it is not used correctly, 8 out of 100 might be become pregnant. Here are specific pros and cons for pills:

1. Combination Pills

Pros

  • Reduced risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers
  • Improved acne
  • Reduction in the severity of menstrual cramps
  • Possibility of positive effect on bone mineral density
  • Decrease in androgen production that is caused by polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Reduction in menorrhagia (heavy bleeding) and related anemia
  • Relief from PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
  • More predictable periods that are lighter and shorter (no period in some cases)
  • Risks associated with pregnancy are avoided like blood clots, ectopic pregnancy, breast tenderness and nausea.

Cons

  • Offering no protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Higher risk of a heart attack, stroke or getting progestin linked clots
  • Side effects like headache, weight gain, depression, nausea, tenderness of breasts, bloating and irregular bleeding can occur

2. Mini-Pill (Progesterone Only Pill)

Pros

  • In cases of health issues like high risk of blood clots, heart disease, migraines and high blood pressure, mini-pill can be taken
  • Being safe for breast feeding mums
  • Quick return to fertility if you wish to get pregnant

Cons

  • Offering no protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections
  • Possibly less effective compared to combination pills
  • Must be taken at the same time daily
  • Side effects like ovarian cysts, irregular menstrual bleeding, decreased libido, breast tenderness, weight gain, acne, headache, hirsutism and depression can occur
  • Chances of ectopic pregnancy occurring

Pros and Cons of Other Birth Control Methods

Apart from the pros and cons of birth control pills, other contraceptive methods also have their advantages and disadvantages. The following are the pros and cons of several common birth control options that you can choose from.

1. Vaginal Hormonal Ring (Nuva-Ring)

Pros

  • Being effective against pregnancy if used correctly
  • Menstrual periods being lighter and regular
  • Decrease in acne and menstrual cramps
  • Decrease risk of getting uterine and ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease and anemia
  • No interference with sexual activities

Cons

  • No protection against sexually transmitted diseases
  • Side effects like headaches, nausea and increased appetite
  • High risk of getting blood clots
  • Only being given with a prescription

2. Hormone Patch (Ortho-Evra)

Pros

  • Menstrual periods being lighter and regular
  • Decreased acne and menstrual cramps
  • Decreased risk of getting anemia, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine and ovarian cancer
  • No interference with sexual activities

Cons

  • No protection against sexually transmitted diseases
  • Occasional side effects like irregular bleeding, increased appetite, nausea and headaches
  • High risk of blood clots
  • Prescription needed

3. Depo-Provera Hormonal Injection

Pros

  • One injection protects you for three months against pregnancy
  • Menstrual periods stop
  • Assisting in the protection against uterine cancer
  • No interference with sexual activities

Cons

  • No protection against STIs
  • You must see your doctor after every three months.
  • Side effects like weight gain, decrease in bone density and fatigue
  • Spotting or irregular bleeding during the first three to six months

4. Male Condom

Pros

  • Lowering the risk of getting STIs
  • Being cheap and available
  • Men participate in preventing pregnancy

Cons

  • For one time use
  • May interrupt sexual activity since it is worn right before penetration
  • Can break
  • Some women are allergic to latex

5. Female Condom

Pros

  • Protection against STIs
  • Men are not required to withdraw.

Cons

  • May be uncomfortable, noisy or moveable
  • Can only be used once
  • A bit pricey

6. Hormonal Implants

Pros

  • Long term up to three years
  • Being effective in protecting against pregnancy
  • Light or no menstrual bleeding

Cons

  • No protection against STIs
  • Minor surgery is required for insertion and removal
  • Side effects like hair loss, irregular periods, weight gain and depression
  • Infections can occur where the capsule is inserted

7. Intra-Uterine Device (IUD)

Pros

  • Being very effective in preventing pregnancy
  • No requirement for daily attention, simply ensuring that it is in place
  • It is comfortable and your partner does not feel it
  • Levonorgestrel IUD reduces menstrual flow and can be used as treatment for heavy periods.
  • Removal is at any time of choice and no delays in getting pregnant

Cons

  • Offer no protection against STIs
  • Need a professional for insertion
  • It can fall out or puncture the uterus, but this happens rarely
  • Copper IUD has side effects like menstrual cramps, heavier and or longer period. Spotting can occur between periods.
  • Risk of infection twenty days after insertion

8. Contraceptive Sponge

Pros

  • Can be inserted before intercourse and offer 24 hour protection against pregnancy
  • No need for a prescription

Cons

  • No protection against STIs
  • Can only be taken out six hours after intercourse
  • Women who are allergic to nonoxynol-9 cannot use it.
  • Increased risk of urinary tract infections

9. Cervical Cap

Pros

  • Insertion can be several hours before intercourse
  • It can stay in place for 24-48 hours and offer protection all through
  • No need to add spermicides each time you have sex

Cons

  • Does not offer protection against STIs
  • It’s a bit pricey including price of the spermicidal gel
  • A doctor has to fit it
  • The sizes are limited
  • Can only be taken out after six to eight hours of intercourse
  • Can be moved out of position
  • Some women are allergic to the spermicide or the cap material
  • Cannot be used by women who have had abnormal Pap smear tests
  • Can increase risk of UTIs

10. Spermicide

Pros

  • It is cheap, readily available and there is no need for a prescription

Cons

  • No protection against STIs and increased risk of HIV due to the irritation from the spermicide
  • Being effective for only an hour and may interfere with sexual activity
  • Some people are allergic to spermicides
  • Not being very effective when it comes to preventing pregnancy
  • Increased risk of UTIs

11. Diaphragm

Pros

  • Can be inserted before intercourse up to three hours
  • There is no need to take it out as it is effective for six hours, but spermicide must be reapplied.

Cons

  • No protection against STIs
  • Needs a professional to fit it and sometimes it needs a prescription
  • Not readily available
  • Can be a bit pricy including the price of spermicide
  • Can move or come out during intercourse
  • Some women are allergic to the spermicide or diaphragm
  • In case of a gain or loss of weight, it must be refitted
  • With intercourse, spermicide must be reapplied
  • Increased risk of UTIs

12. Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)

Pros

  • Being natural
  • No side effects
  • No cost

Cons

  • No protection against STIs
  • Being effective for women who have given birth the past six months, haven’t had their period and are breastfeeding exclusively
  • Effectiveness ceases after the periods return
  • Vaginal dryness

13. Fertility Awareness Based Methods

Pros

  • Natural
  • Approved by religion
  • Woman is aware of her menstrual cycle and body
  • Effective for partners who are careful and avoid coitus during ovulation

Cons

  • No protection against STIs
  • You must know when ovulation begins, which can be difficult if you have irregular periods
  • Intercourse must be avoided at least once a week each month

14. Tubal Ligation

Pros

  • Being very effective against pregnancy
  • Long term plan - lasts forever

Cons

  • No protection against STIs
  • Need for a minor surgery
  • Permanent decision
  • Only women who are sure they do not want children can do it
  • It is expensive.

15. Withdrawal

Pros

  • Being natural with no side effects
  • No cost
  • Men participate actively in preventing pregnancy

Cons

  • No protection against STIs
  • It is a difficult and tricky method
  • May decrease pleasure since you are both thinking about your actions during sex
  • Women have no control