Contributed by Heather F.

Last week we talked about birth control throughout the ages and the ways our ancestors avoided pregnancy.  Now we have a huge selection of choices to choose from.

Hormone Treatments.  The pill has been around since the 1960s and is a well-trusted form of birth control.  But forgetting to take the pill is what makes it ineffective at times.  Luckily, there are other hormone options available.  There is the patch that is replaced weekly; the ring that is inserted vaginally once a month and worn for three weeks; the shot that is given every three months; an implant that lasts for three years which is inserted in the arm. However, there are risks associated with using hormone therapy.  It can cause nausea, a loss of sexual desire, heart palpitations and an increased risk of blood clots that can lead to stroke.

Condoms.  There are two types of condoms – male and female – that can be used for vaginal and anal sex. Both options are hormone free. The male condom is worn over the penis and is available in latex and plastic—two materials that block the spread of HIV and STIs.  Besides sterilization, this is the only method that is available for men to participate in family planning.  The female condom has flexible rings at both ends.  One ring lays on the outside against the vulva and the other ring is inserted inside the vagina.  Unlike latex condoms, the female condom can be used with both oil and water based lubricants.  It is possible for either style of condom to slip into the vagina or anus during intercourse.

Barrier methods.  These methods are inserted vaginally and block the cervix, preventing sperm from passing the cervix thereby preventing pregnancy.  All of these options are hormone free.  There are multiple barrier options as well.  The sponge is plastic foam treated with spermicide.  It can be left inside the body for 30 hours before it needs to be removed.  The cervical cap looks like a little sailor hat and can be put in 6 hours ahead of time.  The diaphragm is a larger dome shaped barrier that can be inserted ahead of time.  The disadvantages of these methods are that insertion and removal can be difficult and they do not minimize the risk of STDs. Also, the cap and the diaphragm may be pushed out of place by some penis sizes, heavy thrusting, and certain sexual positions.  Also, they all use spermicide that can be irritating and causes micro tears in the vagina.  These tears further increase the risk of getting STDs.

IUD.  The IUD is making a comeback as it has been redesigned to be safer.  It is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus by a healthcare professional to prevent pregnancy.  There are two types, one of which contains hormones while the other does not. An IUD interferes with the way sperm move so they cannot join with the egg.  They need to be changed every 12 years to help maintain effectiveness.  The disadvantages are the possibility of backaches and cramps for the first few days after insertion, irregular periods for the first 3-6 months or heavier periods and worse menstrual cramps.

Abstinence. There has been a resurgence of abstinence as a form of birth control. The advantages of this method are unquestionable—it is 100% effectiveness (except if you elieve the immaculate conception!) but there is the practical consideration that cannot be overlooked. Is this a method that can be depended on when raging hormones are at work and young adults have an insatiable desire to discover their sexuality?

Planned Parenthood has a quick quiz that can help you choose the method of birth control that works best for you.

What is the craziest birth control myth you have heard of? We invite you to participate in the conversation by filling in the box below.