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It’s important to know your options. There are many factors that can come into play with birth control effectiveness, such as other medications and supplements, previous health conditions, weight and other lifestyle choices. Consult a physician before making any decisions with hormonal birth control.
External condoms are the most common form of birth control because of how easy they are to access, said Sydney Pederson, senior psychology major and president of Sex Talks.
Perfect use results in 98 percent effectiveness in pregnancy prevention, according to the Planned Parenthood Website. However, typical use results in only about 82 to 85 percent effectiveness, according to Planned Parenthood and Bedsider Birth Control Support Network.
The easiest way to improve the effectiveness of a condom is by using it correctly. Pederson said it is key to leave your condoms in a temperate climate without any friction – not in your wallet, back pocket or refrigerator – or the latex can weaken. Always check the expiration date.
“It’s really important to pull out fairly quickly after sex when using a condom, don’t just chill there,” Pederson said. “If you just chill there, penises tend to deflate. At that point the condom loses its efficacy because the thing that is keeping it taut is deflating.”
The pill is the most common form of hormonal birth control, according to WSU biology professor Karin Biggs. The combination pill is generally the first hormonal contraceptive prescribed to a patient because it generally works for most people and has several positive side effects, such as period regulation, reducing hormonal acne and reducing cramps, according to the Planned Parenthood website.
“A lot of people tolerate the pill really well, but it’s also common if they’re not gonna tolerate it they really don’t tolerate it,” Biggs said. “It’s usually the first thing a doctor describes because the risks are generally considered lower due to the lower amounts of both hormones.”
When used perfectly, the pill is 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy and typical use is 91 percent effective, according to Planned Parenthood. To be effective, the pill must be taken every single day at roughly the same time. One pill borrowed from a friend an hour before sex will not prevent pregnancy, Pederson said.
Emergency contraception is another form of a birth control pill meant to be taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex. Levonorgestrel pills, such as Plan-B One Step, are available over the counter and can be anywhere between 75 and 89 percent effective in preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex, according to Planned Parenthood.
Effectiveness drops by the hour after unprotected sex, so take the pill as quickly as possible, Pederson said. The Pullman Planned Parenthood clinic has an emergency contraception vending machine accessible 24 hours a day for a less-expensive price than many grocery stores, she said.
Long Term Hormonal Methods
The birth control implant, Nexplanon, is a matchstick-sized rod inserted into the upper arm that releases progestin to prevent pregnancy, according to the Planned Parenthood website. It is popular among many college students as it is generally covered by medical insurance and lasts three years, Pederson said.
Nexplanon is more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy and is generally fool-proof, according to Bedsider. The implant must be inserted and removed by a doctor.
Hormonal and copper IUDs, or Intrauterine Devices, are small, T-shaped pieces of plastic or copper that are inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. Hormonal IUDs release a small amount of progestin and the copper IUD is wrapped in safe copper that prevents the sperm from making its way to the egg, according to Planned Parenthood.
IUDs are more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. All IUDs must be inserted and removed by a doctor.
Temporary Hormonal Methods
The vaginal ring, NuvaRing, is a flexible ring worn inside the vagina for three weeks that releases estrogen and progestin to prevent ovulation and thus prevent pregnancy, according to the Planned Parenthood website. After three weeks, the ring should be removed for one week to allow for a period before another ring is placed.
When used correctly, the ring is over 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, but typical use is 91 percent effective, according to Planned Parenthood. Placing and removing the ring on the right day is imperative to success. You have to be comfortable with your vagina to use the ring, however, as placing it and removing it requires more contact than just putting in a tampon, Pederson said.
The birth control patch releases estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy, according to the Planned Parenthood website. The patch should be changed every week on the same day for three weeks and the fourth week should be patchless.
When correctly used the patch is over 99 percent effective and typical use is around 91 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, according to Bedsider.
The shot lasts longer than the patch, but works similarly and has a similar effectiveness.
Internal Barrier Methods
Internal barrier methods include the diaphragm, cervical cap and sponges. These methods of contraception are inserted into the vagina and are intended to prevent semen from entering the uterus, according to Bedsider. However, all these methods must be used in conjunction with spermicide to be most effective, Pederson said. Internal barrier methods are nonhormonal.
These methods are less effective than hormonal methods, and do not protect against STDs. But, both the diaphragm and the cervical cap are reusable. The sponge is not reusable and must be thrown away after use.
There are several natural methods of birth control, including withdrawal, more commonly known as “the pull-out method,” fertility awareness, sometimes referred to as natural family planning, and abstinence, according to Planned Parenthood.
Withdrawal is only effective when done right every single time. The responsibility falls completely on the penetrator.
Natural family planning refers to knowing and tracking your menstruation cycle and only having sex on the days when your body is less likely to get pregnant, according to Planned Parenthood. The success rate is anywhere from 75 percent with typical use to 99 percent with perfect use, according to Bedsider.
Refraining from vaginal sex is the only 100 percent effective way of preventing pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. They refer to other types of sexual activity that do not risk pregnancy as “outercourse,” such as kissing, grinding and masturbating. Abstinence and the use of “outercourse” are effective forms of birth control if vaginal penetration is not a requirement.