With birth control, it’s easy to fall into a tried-and-true method – often the pill – without giving a lot of thought to the multitude of other options out there. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – why fix what’s working, right?
I thought so until I was forced to switch from my beloved pill, which I had used for two years, to an estrogen-free option after I started having aura migraine headaches. (Long story short, using estrogen birth control methods when you have migraines that affect your vision is a big no-no because it increases your stroke risk.)
What’s a girl to do? It turns out being forced to switch from my go-to pill was a blessing in disguise. It’s easy to forget that there’s plenty of options out there that don’t require you to remember to take a pill every day, and once you realize there’s a way to only think about birth control every few months or even years, going beyond the pill is totally a game-changer. Read on for four methods that might make you want to break up with the pill too.
For those of us who simply have too much going on in our lives to worry about birth control (and between classes, work, getting involved on campus, and spending time with our besties, who doesn’t?), the IUD is kind of a magical thing. An IUD, or an intrauterine device, is a small, T-shaped piece of plastic that is inserted into the uterus by your doctor – and once it’s there, you won’t have to worry about it for up to 12 years. If you’re freaked out by the idea of hormonal birth control, the copper IUD, which doesn’t contain any hormones, just might become your new best friend. Oh, and at a 99.9% effectiveness rate, it’s the most worry-free method if you’re having sex. Enough said.
Like any method, there’s some downsides to the IUD to consider. While you’ll probably have lighter or no periods at all (YAS!) after using the IUD for several months, the first three to six months may mean having to deal with some wacky, irregular periods while your body gets adjusted. Many women also report some pain when having it inserted. Even though many of them say it’s totally 110% worth it, if you’re squeamish, it’s definitely something to consider before rushing to the phone to make an appointment with your gyno.
The shot was ultimately my godsend when it came to finding an alternative to the pill – and even without having to make the switch because of my migraines, I’d still pick it over the pill every single time. Why? For starters, there’s no denying taking a pill every night is obnoxious – especially when you have the option of getting a shot once every three months instead. (When campus health is literally across the street from your dorm, you have no excuses!) There’s no need to even get it on the exact same day every three months either – as long as you get it within a 2 week window, you’re protected.
Now for the bad news: The shot is one of the only methods that researchers have seen cause weight gain in some women. Yes, this freaked me out when I first heard it – but TBH, I personally haven’t gained a pound, and research studies show only 1 in 4 women do. Also, like a lot of non-pill methods, there can be some struggle with irregular bleeding – but like with the IUD, after continuous use, a lot of women stop having periods altogether.
The ring is a great option for women who are in a serious love affair with their pills, except for having to remember to take them every single night. It uses the same hormones – estrogen and progestin – as the pill, but it is instead inserted into the vagina every three weeks. Much like when you take the placebo pills every three weeks in order to get your period when using a pack of birth control pills, you leave the ring out for a week every three weeks. Simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, the ring is similar to the pill in more ways in one, meaning they have a lot of similar negative side effects – mainly breast tenderness and nausea. As you can probably imagine, if you’re looking to avoid a method without estrogen (like I was), the ring won’t be a good alternative to the pill.
When it comes to the implant, the story is pretty similar to the IUD except that the implant is inserted on the inside of your arm instead of in the uterus, making it a great option if you’re freaked out by the potential pain of having an IUD inserted. Unlike with the IUD, your doc will use a painkiller to numb the are where the matchstick-size device is inserted – and it can stay there for up to three years! Like the IUD, it’s incredibly effective, with less than 1 out of 100 women getting pregnant during use.
On the not-so-fun side, the implant involves similar side effects to that of the IUD – your periods could get pretty irregular at first, and some women end up having even longer, heavier periods than they did before they used the implant. Nobody wants that.
While switching from the pill isn’t for everyone, it’s worth taking a look at what else there is – you just might find something even better!