From the February 2017 issue

Birth Control Basics

A DMC Medical Group OB-GYN discusses the common types and the pros and cons of each.

When it comes to birth control, misunderstandings abound.

Between assumptions, anecdotes from friends and confusing ads, women are often left unsure about their options.

“A lot of people have misconceptions of birth control,” says Samara Gibson, M.D., an OB-GYN at the Detroit Medical Center’s Grand River Health Center. “Whether it’s the side effects that they believe birth control causes or it’s because they think, ‘I can’t take something every day.'”

But today’s wide range of birth control choices makes it more possible than ever to find a good fit.

“There are so many different options for birth control no matter what the situation may be,” she says. “There’s birth control for everybody.”

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Here’s a look at the most common types, though Dr. Gibson points out that the best birth control option is condoms since they also prevent against sexually transmitted diseases.

The pill: It’s the most popular form of birth control and also the easiest to obtain. “All you would need is a simple prescription,” she says. “The downfall of birth control pills, though, is that’s a lot of responsibility on somebody to remember to take something every day. People are busy – that’s fair. That’s why I want to make sure people are aware of the other options.”

NuvaRing: This small, flexible ring is inserted into the vagina and prevents pregnancy for three to four weeks. “You can’t feel it, he can’t feel it,” Dr. Gibson assures her patients. “You do not have to remember taking a pill every day and you don’t have to come into the office for a procedure to get it placed,” since the woman can insert it herself. But on the downside, “a lot of people actually don’t feel comfortable inserting something into their vagina.”

The shot: Depo-Provera is an injection of the hormone progesterone given once every 12 weeks. It’s a convenient long-term option despite the needle poke. “One of the biggest side effects is the increase in weight gain,” Dr. Gibson says, though she monitors her patients carefully to ensure it doesn’t become a problem.

Nexplanon: This long-acting birth control choice is a device inserted into a woman’s arm under the skin. “This might be one of my favorites,” she says. “It’s very small. We insert it in the office ¬no surgery required – and it sits in your arm for three years.” It’s popular among young women who don’t tolerate pelvic exams well, Dr. Gibson says. One of the potential side effects is mid-cycle “breakthrough” bleeding.

IUDs: Intrauterine devices are inserted into the uterus and prevent pregnancy for five to 10 years, depending on the type. One option releases a hormone while the other doesn’t. A quick procedure is required to insert the device, which is off-putting to some patients. Breakthrough bleeding and rotating of the device are possible side effects. “It’s very, very low risk but there definitely is a risk,” Dr. Gibson explains. And contrary to popular belief, “we can take the IUDs out whenever we want.”

Tubal ligation: This is a permanent birth control option that involves a surgery to sever and tie the woman’s fallopian tubes. It is completed in an outpatient setting, meaning women can usually go home the same day. “Tubal ligation is a perfect option for a woman that has completed childbearing,” Dr. Gibson says. “It is a permanent option, so I wouldn’t recommend it to somebody unless they are absolutely sure.”

Not sure how to choose the right type of birth control? Start with your OB-GYN.

“No matter what your circumstance, your lifestyle or your desire for hormones or no hormones – there’s birth control for absolutely everybody,” Dr. Gibson emphasizes.

And if you’ve had a bad experience with one type in the past, “there’s way too many options for you to give up just after one,” she says. “It’s awesome how many birth control options that we have, even amongst the pills.”

Talking to your doctor is “the best way to figure out what’s best for you,” Dr. Gibson says. That includes discussing your family history, talking through the available options and asking plenty of questions.

“I want you to come to me with what your concerns are,” she tells her patients.

Looking for a doctor who puts the “care” in health care? Find one at DMC Medical Group where you can book appointments online in minutes.

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