On May 9, 1960, the birth control pill was approved by the FDA and was available by prescription, changing the way we looked at pregnancy prevention forever. The medication quickly became known as ‘the pill’ and not a lot has changed over the last 54 years. It is still one of the most practical and effective methods of contraception available.
While we appreciate the greater reproductive freedom that came with the original release of ‘the pill,’ we’re looking at eight relatively new methods of pregnancy prevention today, none of them as extreme as Roseanne Barr’s: “Birth control that really works—every night before we go to bed we spend an hour with our kids.”
1. NuvaRing: The NuvaRing has been around for a while but is increasing in popularity as women enjoy the freedom of not having to take a pill every day. It’s a flexible ring that is inserted and left inside the vagina for three weeks during the month. When removed, the woman has her period and then puts in a new ring upon the completion of those seven days. It’s 98% effective too!
2. The Patch (Ortho Evra): Like NuvaRing, the patch is an alternative to taking a daily pill. The patch lasts for one week at a time, with the woman wearing a new one each week for three weeks before taking a week off for her period. There are reportedly increased side effects from using the patch simply due to the higher exposure to estrogen absorbed through the skin. Those who are sensitive to higher levels of estrogen should not use the patch.
3. Birth Control Injection (Depo-Provera): The birth control shot is even less life-interrupting than the NuvaRing with users only needing one injection every 12 weeks. It is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy but comes with increased side effects and the need for doctor’s office visits every 12 weeks to maintain effectiveness, of course.
4. Birth Control Implant: These implants are about the size of a match and are inserted under the skin by a doctor. The progesterone like hormones in the implants work for three years, at which time the old implants are removed and new ones are put under the skin. They can be felt but are not visible. This method is highly effective and easily reversed (you can become pregnant right away after removal) but is usually hundreds of dollars per procedure.
5. PlanB: PlanB is not to be used as a routine form of birth control as it’s less effective than other methods. That said, after having unprotected sex, it can prevent pregnancy (it is not “the abortion pill”) up to three days after intercourse. It’s just one pill and is available without a prescription.
6. Ovulation Prediction Kits: Knowing when you’re fertile and then avoiding sex or using condoms on those days can be a very effective method of avoiding unwanted pregnancy. With this method, a woman must become increasingly aware of her body and her monthly cycle using an ovulation prediction kit or natural family planning methods to know when she’s ovulating.
7. New Intravaginal Ring: This new intravaginal ring lasts for three months and prevents pregnancy as well as protecting against HIV and herpes. The ring not only dispenses the hormones that prevent pregnancy but also an antiretroviral drug to kill off the viruses that are transmitted through sexual activity. Testing in women is scheduled to start this year.
8. Male ‘Pill’: It would appear as though this herbal, non-hormonal pill for men may be as effective as its counterpart for women as testing continues in Indonesia. The enzyme in this supplement weakens the sperm head making it unable to penetrate and fertilize an ovum. It looks to be at least a decade out for this one but we say, it can’t happen soon enough!