As most of us who have ever tried a hormonal birth control know, it can often take a while to find the method that works best for you. For many, oral contraceptives are best, but for some, it’s better to not have to take a pill every day. To follow up my previous post about the birth control pill, I will take this space to discuss some non-oral forms of hormonal contraceptive: The Shot (Depo-Provera), The Patch (Ortho-Evra), and The Ring (NuvaRing).
- The shot is a tri-monthly injection containing DMPA (depot medroxyprogesterone acetate), more commonly known as Depo-Provera. As you can tell from the long name, this is a form of progesterone. The shot keeps the ovaries from releasing eggs, and also thickens the cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to get through.
- There are two types of Depo shots available: a high dose which is injected into the muscle, and a lower dose injected into the skin tissue.
- Depo-Provera is extremely effective with perfect use- it has a 99.7% success rate. However, it’s vital that the shots are administered on time. You should set up an appointment to get your shot exactly once every three months.
- Depo-Provera is also fairly cost effective. Depending on the location of your healthcare services and your insurance, it can cost anywhere between $0 and $60 per shot. Compared to the pill, which can range in cost from $0-$40 per month, it’s a great option financially.
- Of course, it’s not all good. Some disadvantages of the shot are that it may cause bone thinning, the injection site tends to be sore and bruised after each injection, and it can cause a serious change in menstruation patterns during the first year of use. When side effects are experienced, there’s no way to “turn off” the shot, so you pretty much have to wait it out. Additionally, if you stop Depo in order to get pregnant, it can take longer than usual (up to 1 year, though some people get pregnant right away).
- Side effects include weight gain, headaches, breast soreness, depression, skin rash, hair lose, or a change in sex drive. You shouldn’t take Depo-Provera if you have breast cancer, a history of fractures, or are pregnant.
- The Patch is also known as Ortho-Evra, which contains hormones that work in the same way as the birth control pill. The only difference is the form of transmission- these are absorbed through the bloodstream.
- It’s as effective as the shot and the oral contraceptive. With perfect use it has a 99.7% success rate, and a 92% success rate with typical use.
- It’s similar in cost to the pill, running between $0 and $40 per 3/pack (one month’s supply).
- It’s very easy to use. The patch is worn on clean, dry skin on the belly, arm, buttocks, or upper torso. Each patch is worn for 1 week, then changed. For the last week of your cycle, no patch is worn. Make sure to fold up your patch and seal it in a plastic bag in the trash after use. The used patches may still have some active hormones which can be dangerous. Do not flush your patch down the toilet!
- What if it falls off? If the patch falls off within 24 hours of placement, you can put it back on. If it’s been more than 24 hours, you should start a new 4-week cycle (this means buying a new box). If you forget to change your patch, your chances of pregnancy increase!
- The NuvaRing is a vinyl acetate ring that you insert into your vagina. It sits at the base of the cervix (same as the Diva Cup) and contains the same hormones as the pill (estrogen and progestin) that are then released into your bloodstream. This is a nice alternative to the pill, patch, and shot as you insert it yourself, and only once a month!
- The NuvaRing has an estimated 99.9% success rate, which is higher than any other form of birth control.
- The NuvaRing can range in cost from $0-$27 per month, making it extremely cost effective. Don’t forget that the initial medical exam can cost up to $60, however!
- It somewhat common side effects, such as headaches, increased vaginal discharge, vaginal irritation, and nausea. However, weight gain/loss is not a side effect of the NuvaRing, making it more desirable for some.
- It comes with some (low chance) of risks, however. Look out for blood clots, heart attack, liver tumors, and stroke. If you experience any chest pain, leg soreness, severe headaches, breathing troubles, severe belly pain, yellowing of the skin or eyes, breast lumps, or no periods, call your doctor immediately.
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