The Truth About Birth Control

Despite medical advances that have expanded the availability and choices of birth control, many women make this important decision based on common misconceptions about the way birth control works and the effect it has on their bodies. 

Almost 45% of pregnancies in the United States are unintended, indicating that many women may not understand what’s available, how to use it, and what works well for them. 

Our OB/GYNs at The Association for Women’s Health Care in Chicago and Northbrook, Illinois, are birth control specialists who provide a full range of contraceptive options for women of all ages. We help you determine the birth control that’s right for you based on your age, lifestyle, health, and future pregnancy plans. 

We’re dedicated to making you feel comfortable and confident using birth control to prevent pregnancy. Understanding the truth about birth control is the first step in sorting through the wide range of options. Here are some of the facts.

The FDA has approved more than 15 methods of birth control  

No method of birth control works for everyone. The wide range of FDA-approved methods means that you can select the option that works best for you. Methods vary regarding convenience, permanency, and side effects. 

We can help you determine the pros and cons of each option. Here is a comparison of the effectiveness of the most common options:

Birth control doesn’t have to include hormones to be effective

Hormonal birth control is available as pills, injections, implantable rods, vaginal rings, and patches. These devices can include progestin or a combination of progestin and estrogen. 

But non-hormonal methods may be preferable if you have occasional sexual intercourse and don’t need daily birth control. 

When used correctly and consistently, non-hormonal methods can offer a high rate of protection from pregnancy. Here are some of these methods:

Combining two methods, such as spermicide and a condom, can increase your level of protection. 

Hormonal birth control doesn’t make you gain weight

There’s no consistent evidence that hormonal birth control makes you gain weight. While you can gain up to 4 pounds when you begin taking hormonal birth control, it’s usually attributed to water retention, not extra fat. It’s usually a temporary side effect that only lasts about three months. 

If the weight gain is real, it may be the result of other factors. Estrogen may be affecting your appetite and reducing your feelings of fullness after you eat so you eat more and gain weight. If this is the case, you may benefit from a progestin-only pill.

Consider any lifestyle changes that coincided with your start of hormonal birth control. If you began birth control at the start of a new relationship, a move to college, or a time of stress, your new lifestyle may be contributing to a changing diet and fewer healthy food choices.

Birth control doesn’t have to affect your fertility

The only type of birth control proven to change your long-term fertility is permanent sterilization. Unless you have underlying fertility issues, you have the same chances of getting pregnant after you stop hormonal birth control as you did before you started. 

Natural birth control can work if you’re committed to it

Most natural methods of birth control depend on fertility awareness to regulate the timing of intercourse. 

While these methods use proven scientific knowledge about the times you’re most likely to conceive, they require the commitment of both partners to avoid unprotected intercourse on certain days of the month.

Natural contraception may not be appropriate for you if getting pregnant could threaten your health or you’re not ready to accept the increased risk of an unplanned pregnancy. The failure rate of fertility awareness methods is 2-23%, with the highest number of failures due to inaccurate or inconsistent use.

Learn more about your options for safe and effective pregnancy prevention. Schedule an appointment online or call our Chicago or Northbrook office to arrange a consultation today.

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