Most of us have an understanding of the basic and most popular forms of contraception: the pill and condoms. While both of these options are largely effective and a great choice for preventing an unwanted pregnancy (and most STDs in the case of condoms), there are many contraceptive options that are far less well understood. If you want more information on some lesser known contraceptive options that don’t require taking a daily oral pill or using protection each time you have sex, read on for the pros and cons of five different methods of preventing pregnancy.
1. Contraceptive Patch
The contraceptive patch is the most similar option to the pill on this list. It’s a beige, band-aid-like square patch that you replace each week for three weeks, not wearing a patch for the fourth week while you have your period. This option doesn’t require you to take something at the same time each day, but it does have downsides of being visible and only coming in a beige shade which may not be ideal for people with different skin tones. The patch is covered by most insurance plans and costs up to $45 if you’re paying out of pocket. The only big things to keep in mind are to never put the patch on your breasts, don’t let makeup, oil, or soap loosen the patch, and to fold the patch before throwing it away so that hormones aren’t released into the soil. While the patch is more than 99 percent effective with perfect use, it is generally closer to 91 percent effective given our tendency to forget to replace the patch, start a day late, not notice its fallen off, etc.
2. Vaginal Ring
The vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring that works similarly to the patch. You insert the ring into your vagina like you would a tampon and leave it there for three weeks, removing it for the fourth week while you are menstruating. The ring uses fewer hormones than many hormonal options and is 99 percent effective with perfect use, though general use makes it more like 91 percent effective. Another major bonus is you can use the ring to stop your periods completely if you want to, and you can remove the ring for sex if you or your partner don’t like the feel of it. Having said this, you should only remove the ring once a day for no more than three hours to maintain its effectiveness. You do need to visit a health care provider for a prescription and the cost of the ring without any insurance ranges from $0-75 a month so be sure to research your options.
3. Contraceptive Implant
The implant is a tiny rod that is inserted into the upper arm and then releases progestin, a hormone that prevents your ovaries from releasing eggs while thickening your cervical mucus. An implant is a great option because once inserted, it lasts for up to four whole years. The implant is more than 99 percent effective and the only common side effect is irregular periods (either heavier or lighter than usual) for up the six months.
4. IUD/The Coil
An IUD, which is also called the coil, is a T-shaped piece of plastic that is inserted into the uterus by a healthcare professional. The device prevents sperm from successfully fertilizing an egg and can last anywhere between five and twelve years depending on the brand, though all five U.S. brands can be removed at any time. Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena work hormonally by releasing progesterone and thickening the cervical mucus, while the fifth option, ParaGard, doesn’t use hormones at all. All of the different methods are 99 percent effective and a free or a low-cost option with insurance, though even if you have to pay the full price (sometimes upwards of $800), what you pay each month becomes extremely affordable if you leave you IUD in for five or ten years. This low maintenance option only requires you to check that little strings hang down from your cervix and that the device hasn’t shifted every once in a while and has been known to lighten monthly periods.
5. Contraceptive Injection
The contraceptive injection works by injecting the hormone progestogen into your bloodstream to prevent ovulation and pregnancy, though it obviously won’t work for anyone with any kind of needle phobia. The injection can last for either 8 or 12 weeks depending on the type and is 99 percent effective if used correctly. One downside to the injection is that it can take up to one year after stopping treatment for fertility to return to normal, so it might not be the best option if you want to get pregnant in the near future.