The goal of contraception is to prevent unintended pregnancy. The unintended pregnancy rate in the United States is nearly 50%. Fortunately, this number has decreased over recent years, in part due to increased access to contraception. Our goal is to decrease it even more. In fact, it is one of the goals of Healthy People 2020.
3 Common Myths Surrounding Contraception
Myth #1 – Birth control will affect my fertility.
Reversible contraceptives will not affect your fertility no matter the duration of use.
Some forms such as Depo Provera (the shot) or the Nexplanon (the implant) can delay return to ovulation by period of a few months, but this is not the case for every woman. You should consider yourself “fertile” as soon as you stop using any form of contraception.
Myth #2 – Birth control will protect me from STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
Abstinence is the only way to avoid STIs 100% of the time. Condoms are the only other form of contraception that provide protection against STIs, though not 100% of the time. All other types of contraception prevent pregnancy, but not transmission of STIs.
Myth #3 – I should not have an IUD if I have not had children.
This is not true. ACOG (American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology) and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) have endorsed the use of IUDs, both hormonal and non-hormonal types, in women who have not had children as well as teens. You should talk to your OB/GYN if you are considering an IUD and fit into either of these groups of women.
What are the most effective forms of contraception?
The most effective forms of contraception are called long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), and include all types of IUDs and the Nexplanon. They are all >99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
One reason for their success is that they are low maintenance—once they are placed no additional effort is needed on the patient’s part such as taking a pill daily, changing a patch weekly, getting a shot every 3 months. This increases compliance among patients.
How soon after having unprotected sex can you find out if you are pregnant? When should you take emergency contraception?
You can find out if you’re pregnant as early as 2-3 days prior to when your next period should start or as late as a few days after it was supposed to start.
If you have unprotected sex (no contraception) or inadequately protected sex (broken condom, missed birth control pill) and do not desire pregnancy, then it is recommended to use emergency contraception.
Emergency contraception is available in several different pill formulations as well as an IUD that can be used as emergency contraception and remain in place for long term contraception. Two of the pill formulations are available over the counter and two others require a prescription.
The IUD, called the Paragard, is non-hormonal, and available through your OB/GYN.
Emergency contraception should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex because efficacy decreases with time.
The pill formulations available over the counter are effective up to 3 days after unprotected sex whereas those available by prescription can be effective up to 5 days after. The Paragard IUD is effective up to 5 days after unprotected sex, though some studies found it can be effective for up to 10 days after unprotected sex.
How do you know which form of contraception is right for you?
Most women and girls can be on any form; however, not all types are safe for everyone. Deciding which form of contraception is right for you is a decision that should be made with your OB/GYN. You must consider your lifestyle, your medical history, your current medications, as well as your future fertility plans.
About Jessica Schloesser, DO
Dr. Jessica Schloesser is an Obstetrics & Gynecology physician with clinical interests in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, low and high-risk obstetrics, contraception management, and adolescent gynecology.