Taking Control of Birth Control


November 1, 2018 | View PDF

The reasons women choose to use birth control are as unique and individual as the women themselves. Many women use birth control methods to regulate their irregular menstrual cycle, help with PMS or to control heavy bleeding. Some want to make sure the time is right before they add a child to their family. Others want to delay or avoid pregnancy all together while they focus on school or their career. And of course there are women who have completed their families and are certain they do not want to become pregnant again.

Combination oral contraceptives, or "the pill," are what women seem to be most familiar with as far as contraceptive options go. When used correctly the pill can greatly decrease the chances of pregnancy and also make menstrual cycles shorter, lighter and less painful. Some women find it difficult to remember to take the pill every single day which could decrease its efficacy. There are options similar to the pill that use the same hormones but are taken weekly (a patch) and monthly (a vaginal ring) rather than daily. These are great options that are easier than a daily pill but still require trips to the pharmacy and keeping track of when the next dose is due. When used correctly the pill, patch or ring provide birth control that is from 91-99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

The next generation of birth control is called Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs). LARCs provide safe effective contraception with the added benefit being easy to use largely because you do not have to take them daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly. LARCs are all placed by a provider and then stay in place for several years providing long lasting pregnancy prevention. Because they are greater than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy LARCs are as effective as surgical methods like tubal ligation and vasectomy but are reversible. Both intrauterine devices (IUDs) and inserts are considered LARCs

Intrauterine devices (IUDs), also called intrauterine contraceptives, have been on the market for many years. The IUDs used more than 40 years ago were associated with problems and are not the same as the IUDs that are available now. So don't let your mother or your grandmother scare you from considering these great methods as they may be thinking about devices that are no longer in use. Today's IUDs can be a good option for many women including those who have never had children. IUDs are small T-shaped plastic devices that are inserted through the cervix and up into the uterus. It is placed during an office visit and the entire process only takes a few minutes. Once placed the IUD can be used for 3-10 years depending on which type you choose. One type of IUD is completely hormone free and is effective for up to 10 years. It is a great choice for women who have had issues with hormones in the past, who have medical issues that make use of hormones unsafe, or for women who just prefer to not add hormones to their system. The second type of IUD available has progesterone hormone embedded in the device. This progesterone is time released into the lining of the uterus. It causes the lining to build up much slower than normal resulting in a decrease in the amount of bleeding a woman has with her menses. Many woman many will actually have no menses at all making hormonal IUDs not only great birth control but also a very effective treatment for heavy periods. Some women experience mild cramping or irregular bleeding after the insertion of an IUD but for most this resolves quickly. If a woman decides she is ready to conceive the either IUD can be removed at an office visit.

The implant is another type of LARC. This device is a short slender plastic rod, about the size of a matchstick. It is placed just under the skin on the inside of the upper arm. The area on the arm is numbed before insertion so there is little to no discomfort. It is very small so it is not noticeable to others at all. Afterwards there may be some arm soreness for a few days, much like when you get any injection. The rod is embedded with progesterone and is good for up to three years. Once inserted the progesterone in the rod is time released into the body and keeps the ovaries from releasing eggs. Many women have shorter or lighter periods or don't notice any change in their cycles. Some women will experience irregular bleeding after placement but this might resolve over time. The rod is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

While there is no single form of birth control that is right for everyone, there is a method that will work for you. Make an appointment with your women's health care provider to discuss your options and take control of your birth control.

Elizabeth Meadows, ARNP, CNM

Elizabeth grew up and lived her entire life in the Atlanta area. She attended the University of Georgia for undergrad and will be a Dawg 'til she dies! In nursing school at the Medical College of Georgia one of her first rotations was in labor and delivery. She was hooked and went straight into obstetrical nursing after graduation. After a few years she decided to continue her education and returned to school at Frontier Nursing University. In 2003 she graduated with a Masters in Nursing and became a Certified Nurse Midwife. She knew she was going to love "catching" babies, but she was pleasantly surprised at how much she also enjoyed the office and gynecological care aspect of midwifery. Both offer great opportunities for education. Teaching women how to obtain their best possible health is very rewarding. Elizabeth has a special interest in adolescent gynecology and loves the chance to help young women embark on the healthiest path possible.

She and her family moved to St. Augustine in 2010 when CSX Railroad transferred her husband a position to their corporate office. They jumped at the chance to move to move to the beach! Once here they realized how lucky they were to live in such a great family friendly community. She has 3 children. She has been very involved with the Nease Football and Nease NJROTC programs but is looking forward to an empty nest soon and expanding her interests further into the community.


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