The approval of “the pill” for contraceptive use in the United States in 1960 provided women with added control over their reproductive system. In particular, the pill enabled women to better control when and if they chose to become pregnant.
While today the pill is still the No. 1 reversible birth control method used in the U.S., there are many other options available for women going far beyond oral contraception.
Known as LARCS, or long-acting reversible contraceptives, these are excellent birth control options that are safe, effective and have been on the market for the last 10 years.
Doctors including Katie Mang-Smith, OB-GYN at Women’s Health at Valley View Hospital, consider the intrauterine device, or IUD, superior to the pill because they view it as safer, reversible and the most effective form of birth control on the market.
The IUD, which lasts three to 10 years depending upon the type, is a T-shaped device wrapped in copper or containing hormones. It is placed into the uterus by a doctor. The efficacy of the IUD comes from the simple fact that it eliminates human error. Women don’t have to remember to take a pill on a daily basis, and its efficacy is not affected by the use of antibiotics or other medications. It is also safe for women with migraines.
The IUD works by either building up a barrier to sperm with hormones or, in case of the copper IUD, the device is downright toxic to sperm. Mang-Smith recommends a newer version called Skyla for teens and young women who have not yet had children.
Mang-Smith also recommends Nexplanon, a birth control implant. This soft, matchstick-sized rod is inserted into a woman’s upper arm to prevent pregnancy by releasing hormones. While this must be inserted by a health-care provider, Mang-Smith notes that this is perhaps the easiest of the LARCs to use and is 99 percent effective. Unlike taking the pill daily, one insertion of Nexplanon lasts up to three years.
Lastly, Essure provides permanent pregnancy prevention. This convenient, quick office procedure requires no anesthesia or incision, and takes minimal recovery time. Essure is inserted via a camera through the vagina, cervix then into the uterus. It does not emit hormones, but rather uses coils placed in the fallopian tubes to block the release of eggs. This is an irreversible form of sterilization. After insertion, Essure takes about three months to become effective.