Finding the Right Contraception for You

Take charge of your own fertility and know your choices of contraception to decide which method is best for you at this moment in your life.

Whether or not to have a child at any given time of our lives is a deeply personal choice — and preventing pregnancy is an individual responsibility. With so many different contraception options available, it makes sense to learn as much as you can and make the right choice for your own body.

But where do you start?

Two physicians from the University of Chicago MedicineNeha Bhardwaj, MD, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as family planning and contraception and Omer Raheem, MD, a urologist specializing in men’s sexual health and male infertility — share facts to help make your best decisions regarding contraception. 

Choosing a birth control method

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says when choosing the right contraception for yourself, you should consider “how well it prevents pregnancy, how easy it is to use, how easy it is to get, whether it protects against STIs and whether you have any health problems.” 

Hormonal birth control methods include the birth control pill, the birth control shot, the skin patch, the vaginal ring and the implant. The hormones in these methods keep a woman’s body from releasing an egg each month, says ACOG. 

Neha R. Bhardwaj, MD, Obstetrician/Gynecologist, with a primary focus on family planning and contraception. UChicago Medicine. Photo credit: UChicago Medicine

For individuals who do not want to take birth control daily, another choice is an intrauterine device (IUD). 

“Both the copper and hormonal IUDs are more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy,” says Dr. Bhardwaj. “Copper IUDs are effective immediately after insertion and last for 12 years (depending on the brand).” 

Women can also try a contraceptive implant, which can be placed under the skin and slowly releases the hormone into your body. 

“It works by thickening your cervical discharge as well as preventing an egg from being released,” say the physicians. 

Using a barrier method or emergency contraception

Barrier methods block sperm from entering the vagina. If you’re looking for this, try a male condom, female condom, diaphragm or cervical cap, sponge or spermicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If your barrier method failed or wasn’t used during sex, you can try an emergency contraception explains the CDC. 

“Woman can have the copper T IUD inserted within five days of unprotected sex,” says the CDC. “Women can take emergency contraception pills up to five days after unprotected sex, but the sooner the pills are taken, the better they will work.”

The emergency contraception pills are available over-the-counter so they are normally the quickest way to prevent pregnancy. 

Permanent methods of birth control

If you do not want to have any children (or any more children), your options include permanent methods of birth control such as a vasectomy (male) or tubal ligation (female). 

Omer Raheem, MD, Board Certified Urologist specializing in men’s sexual health, UChicago Medicine. Photo credit: UChicago Medicine

A vasectomy is “a safe, long-lasting procedure for sterilization where the two tubes that carry sperm from your testicles to your penis are cut and sealed,” explain the physicians. “After a vasectomy, the semen you ejaculate will no longer contain sperm capable of fertilizing an egg.” 

“Tubal ligation, commonly known as having your tubes tied, is a procedure involving cutting, sealing and/or removing parts of the fallopian tubes where an egg can be fertilized by sperm,” the experts say. “If you have your tubes tied, any eggs released by your ovaries will not be able to make their way past the fallopian tubes.”

Choosing what best fits you

Both women and men deserve to have control over their fertility. It’s important to know all of your options of contraception before making your decision. With this information, you will be able to make a more informed choice for what best fits you at this particular time in your life. 

If you’re still not sure, check out Planned Parenthood to learn which options provide the features that are most important to you. Then talk with your own physician so you can get answers to any questions you might have.

You’ll need to consider which methods are best at preventing pregnancy, are easiest to use, help most with your periods, have hormones or not, help prevent STDs or require the assistance of a doctor or nurse to be used. These factors will help you decide what method or methods of contraception are most suitable for you.

Content brought to you by UChicago Medicine. Learn about UChicago Medicine and Comer Children’s unique approach to the care of women and children. Discover UchicagoMedicine.org.


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Kari Zaffarano
Kari Zaffarano
Kari Zaffarano is a mom of one and Chicago Parent's Audience Development Coordinator. She tracks down the best events every week and shares the inside scoop with families in print and online. She enjoys reading, traveling and exploring new places with her son.

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