Choosing a birth control method can be intimidating. There are many different approaches, each with its own effectiveness, potential side effects, and level of involvement. The truth is, there is no one best birth control method for everyone. But with the help of a good gynecologist, you can determine the right method or combination of methods for you.
What do we mean by combination birth control? This phrase is often used to refer to two different things: a) combination birth control pills, and b) combining two different methods of contraception. At OB/GYN Associates of Alabama, we’re here to answer all of your questions about contraceptives. Let’s dive into some of the details here.
What Are Combination Birth Control Pills?
Usually, when we hear the term “birth control,” we think about “The Pill.” There are two types of oral contraceptives: combination and progestin-only. Combined hormonal birth control refers to methods that use both estrogen and progestin, two hormones that work together to prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation and thickening cervical mucus. Together, these changes prevent sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg.
Progestin-only pills, sometimes called minipills, don’t contain any estrogen. These are sometimes better for those with a history of blood clots, heavy periods, or tobacco use.
The birth control patch and vaginal ring are also considered combination birth control, because they use both hormones. We’ll discuss these in more detail below.
Other Birth Control Options
Birth Control Used on a Schedule
The pill is just one hormonal contraceptive option. Other hormonal methods you use on a regular schedule include:
- Patches: once a week, you’ll place a hormone-releasing patch on your skin (belly, buttocks, or back).
- Vaginal rings: once every three to six weeks, you’ll insert a small, soft, plastic ring into your vagina.
- Depo Shot: once every three months, you’ll receive a progestin-only injection.
Used properly, these methods are 91–99% effective. Remember to take your pill every day, take pills at the same time every day, or replace patches and rings as directed. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or ask your doctor what to do if you forget to take a pill or replace a ring or patch on schedule.
Low-Maintenance, Long-Term Options
There are two main long-term options that work to prevent pregnancy: implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs).
- Implant (NEXPLANON): a tiny rod placed in your arm that releases pregnancy-preventing hormones for up to 5 years.
- IUD: a small, T-shaped device that is implanted in your uterus. Some IUDs prevent pregnancy with hormones, while Paraguard uses copper. Depending on the type of IUD you choose, you can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 12 years.
IUDs and implants are 99% effective. You may have less frequent periods or stop having them altogether, which is a plus for many. On the down side, most people find insertion and replacement to be painful.
Methods You Use Every Time
Barrier methods are contraceptives that you use every time you have sex. These include condoms and other physical barriers, including:
- Spermicides & gels
- Cervical caps
These methods range from 71–88% effectiveness when used properly.
Lifestyle & Behavioral Methods
Lifestyle options include fertility awareness (monitoring your menstrual cycle to determine when you’re least likely to get pregnant) and withdrawal (withdrawing the penis before ejaculation). These methods aren’t recommended as your sole method of birth control if preventing pregnancy is very important to you. While they can be 76–78% effective, they are not as reliable as other methods.
Can You Combine Birth Control Methods?
Many women choose to combine hormonal contraceptives with barrier or lifestyle methods to increase their protection against pregnancy. Another important consideration is that condoms are the only method that provide protection against STDs. We encourage sexually active women to use condoms in addition to hormonal or lifestyle methods to safeguard themselves from these diseases.
However, combining two different hormonal methods is not generally recommended. For instance, taking birth control pills while you have a hormonal IUD inserted could result in negative side effects. Combining hormonal methods does not increase their effectiveness.
Which Combination Birth Control is Best for Me?
There is a lot to know about birth control! The best type for you will depend on your body, your lifestyle, your future fertility goals, and personal preferences.
The most important thing is to consult with your OB/GYN. A good OB/GYN will listen, answer all of your questions, and be there for you as you navigate your options. If you’re ready to start birth control, are interested in trying a new option, or simply have more questions, visit the expert team at OB/GYN Associates of Alabama!
Trusted Gynecologists in Birmingham, AL
At OB/GYN Associates of Alabama, we’re here to help you determine the best birth control options for your unique lifestyle, goals, and medical history. We are dedicated to providing compassionate care and listening to each of our patients without judgment. If you’re looking for a gynecologist in Birmingham, Hoover, or Gardendale, call OB/GYN Associates of Alabama at (205) 774-6994 or make an appointment online today!