Birth control methods - an overview

Before you click out thinking this topic is irrelevant for you - it won’t be: Vietnam has one of the highest rate of abortion in the world, with 40% of pregnancies terminated every year. The lack of useful sex education in schools and open, informative conversations around this topic leave many teens in the dark when it comes to taking safe measures during sex. There is nothing shameful in educating yourself and becoming prepared.

Source: Everyday Health

Here is an overview of the most common birth control methods:

1. Condom

a) Male (External)

The most common and accessible birth control method out there!

  • Pros: Accessible, cheap, prevent STDs, low risk of allergy. Doesn’t affect female hormones

  • Cons: Only effective if correctly used, have to be used every time.

  • Effectiveness (in preventing pregnancy): 87% - 95% when used perfectly

b) Female (Internal)

Similar to their male counterpart, except for being latex-free and is worn inside the vagina.

  • Pros: prevent STDs, non-hormonal, give women the control

  • Cons: Harder to wear, more expensive, less effective

  • Effectiveness: 79% - 95% when used perfectly

2. Fertility awareness methods

Keeping track of your menstrual cycle to avoid intercourse on your most fertile days.

  • Pros: easy and available to everyone, improve other methods when used together

  • Cons: not very effective (shouldn’t be used alone), no STD protection

  • Effectiveness: 76%-88%

3. Spermicide

A chemical that kills sperm. Can be used on its own or on a sponge, diaphragm, or cervical caps - disks that are inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix.

  • Pros: Accessible and cheap, doesn’t affect female hormones

  • Cons: Needs to be applied 15-20 minutes before intercourse and reapplied after 1 hour, low effectiveness, doesn't prevent STDs

  • Effectiveness: Only 72% when used alone, from 80%-96% when used with the disks

4. Pills

Pills taken regularly to prevent ovulation. You need to be prescribed to take them.

  • Pros: widely available, safe and effective as prescribed by doctors. Can regulate periods and lessen cramps

  • Cons: hormonal side effects include weight gain, acne, etc. Have to stick to a regular schedule to be effective

  • Effectiveness: 91% - 99%

5. Patch

A patch is worn on the body and replaced every week for 3 weeks, then not worn for a week to allow for the period. It releases hormones to prevent ovulation.

  • Pros: a better choice for those who forget to take pills

  • Cons: some hormonal side effects, hard to clean, no STD protection

  • Effectiveness: 91% - 99%

6. Ring

A ring is inserted for 3 weeks, stopping ovulation, then removed for 1 week to allow for the period. Afterwards, a new ring is installed.

  • Pros: only have to be swapped out after 3 weeks; can regulate periods, help with acne.

  • Cons: side effects include headaches, vaginal irritation, no STD protection

  • Effectiveness: 91%-99%

7. Shot

A shot that is effective for 3 months.

  • Pros: Very effective for a long time. Can reduce menstrual flow and cramps

  • Cons: Side effects can include depression, weight gain, headaches, nausea

  • Effectiveness: 94% - 99%

8. Implant

A plastic rod implanted under the skin to release progestin and block ovulation

  • Pros: effective for 3 years and can be removed at any time, easier to install than IUDs

  • Cons: can disrupt period and have side effects such as acne, weight gain

9. IUD

IUD (Intrauterine device) is a T-shaped device placed inside your uterus during a doctor’s visit. There are 2 types:

a) Copper

  • Pros: Effective for up to 12 years, can be removed when you want to get pregnant

  • Cons: Side effects can include heavier flows and more intense cramps

  • Effectiveness: >99.9%

b) Hormonal

  • Pros: Effective for 3-7 years, lower progestin level than found in pills, can lighten your period or stop them altogether

  • Cons: can be painful to put in, minor risk of slipping out

  • Effectiveness: 99%

I hope this overview was helpful in giving you a general idea of the wide range of birth control options available out there. Do your own research so that you can make informed choices for yourself!