There is a wide range of birth control options out there. Two common choices are birth control pills and IUDs.
Birth control is an important tool for preventing pregnancy. However, it can also help lessen symptoms of certain health problems in some individuals.
Birth control pills are the most commonly used method of hormonal birth control in women between the ages of 15 to 44. There are different types of pills available, depending on your personal preference and health condition.
Some key advantages of birth control pills include their convenience and ease of use. However, not all individuals should use birth control pills, as the pill may increase health risks in those over the age of 35, smokers, and individuals with certain health conditions.
IUDs are a convenient birth control option that doesn’t require you to remember to take a daily pill. These small T-shaped devices are inserted into your uterus and prevent pregnancy by releasing hormones or deterring sperm with copper.
The best option for you: IUD or birth control pill depends on your health, preference, and lifestyle. A healthcare professional from The Pill Club can answer your questions and help you make an informed decision.
IUD vs. birth control pill: which one is better?
Women and those who menstruate face a wide landscape of choices when it comes to the different types of birth control options today. You can select from oral contraceptives, shots, IUDs, and more. Some birth control options contain hormones while others do not, meaning there’s something for just about every individual body and preference.
Two common choices among birth control users are IUDs and oral contraceptives. Although both of these options have advantages and disadvantages, when used correctly, they’re both highly effective at preventing pregnancy.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through what you need to know about IUDs vs. birth control pills so that you can better determine which is the best choice for you.
Importance of using birth control
Aside from helping to prevent unwanted pregnancies, birth control may also offer additional benefits for some individuals. For instance:
Oral contraceptives may help lessen the risk of some reproductive cancers
Some birth control methods may help lessen severe menstrual disorder symptoms
Contraceptives might allow individuals to have lighter and fewer periods safely
To that end, access to safe, effective birth control methods is important for both pregnancy prevention and some health concerns.
Let’s take a look at birth control pills and IUDs to gain a better understanding of the benefits each of these methods may provide, as well as their potential risks.
The birth control pill
The birth control pill has been in use since 1960. The first pills contained high levels of hormones and were more likely to result in some unwanted side effects. Today's pills, however, typically contain much lower levels of hormones, making them less likely to cause serious health problems, while still being highly effective.
Even with the inclusion of more options in today’s market, birth control pills remain the most commonly used form of contraception.
There are two main types of birth control pills available today—combination and progestin-only. Some individuals may also opt for an extended-cycle style of pill which allows them to have fewer periods safely. Let’s look at each of these pill types:
Combination pills – Combination pills use two different hormones: estrogen and progestin. Combined, these hormones help prevent pregnancy by suppressing ovulation and thickening the cervical mucus. When ovulation is suppressed, eggs don’t fully develop and aren’t viable for fertilization. Plus, thickened cervical mucus is more difficult for sperm to swim through to reach an egg.
Progestin-only pills – Progestin-only pills are also known as mini-pills. These pills only contain progestin. They work similarly to combination pills in that they thicken the cervical mucus. Progestin-only pills may also thin the uterine lining, making it more difficult for an egg to attach.
Extended-cycle pills – Some pills come in extended-cycle wallets. These are intended for a more continuous use than the typical pill. For example, many oral contraceptives come in packs of 28 total pills. Twenty-one of the pills contain hormones, while 7 are placebo. Packs of extended-cycle pills may contain as many as 84 active pills before the 7 placebo pills. This allows users to have less frequent periods.
Advantages of using the pill
One reason birth control pills are so popular is that they are relatively simple to use and are highly effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly. Some other advantages include:
Potential to make your periods less painful
Potential to make your periods more predictable
Can help make your periods lighter
If you can remember to take a pill at approximately the same time every day, the pill might be a good option for your reproductive health needs.
Disadvantages of using the pill
Birth control pills have come a long way from the hormone-heavy early designs. However, there are still some potential risks associated with using oral contraceptives. Some of the disadvantages to this birth control method include:
If you forget to take a pill, you might become pregnant
Those who are over the age of 35 may face more serious health risks
Smokers who use birth control pills are at higher risk of health problems
Some side effects can cause discomfort
Birth control pills don’t protect you from STDs
Certain individuals may face a higher risk of blood clots and high blood pressure
It’s important to discuss your overall health and your potential for more serious side effects with your healthcare professional before beginning to take oral contraceptives.
An intrauterine device, or IUD, is a tiny t-shaped device that your healthcare professional puts into your uterus. Once there, the device can help prevent pregnancy by preventing sperm from reaching an egg.
Similar to birth control pills, there are different types of IUDs you can choose:
Hormonal IUDs – Hormonal IUD contains the hormone progestin. Once the device is implanted in your uterus, the hormone is released slowly. The release of progestin thickens the cervical mucus and suppresses ovulation to help prevent pregnancy.
Copper IUDs – A copper IUD doesn’t contain any hormones. Instead, the base of the non hormonal IUD is wrapped in copper. Sperm movement is inhibited by the copper on the IUD—and when sperm don’t move toward an egg, they can’t fertilize it.
Whether you choose a hormonal or non hormonal IUD, each contraceptive method can be effective in preventing pregnancy. But just like any contraceptive, it’s important to look at the IUD pros and cons before deciding.
Advantages of using an IUD
The IUD contraceptive comes with several advantages. For one, you don’t have to remember to take a pill every day. If you’re a busy person, not having this additional task on your to-do list can be beneficial.
Other benefits of IUDs include:
IUDs are long-lasting—they can remain in place for between 3 to 12 years
IUDs are highly effective at preventing pregnancy
You can get pregnant once the IUD is removed if you decide to do so
Hormonal IUDs may help make your period less painful, or disappear altogether while the IUD is in place
Furthermore, if you prefer not to use hormonal birth control for personal or health reasons, a copper IUD might be a good choice, as it doesn’t contain any hormones.
Disadvantages of using an IUD
There are also some potential disadvantages to choosing an IUD as your birth control option. Some of these include:
Insertion can be quite painful, but it doesn’t last for long
Initially, your periods may be heavier for a few months
The IUD can fall out in some cases
IUDs don’t protect you from STDs
There is a slight risk of infection from bacteria when the IUD is inserted
Birth control pill or IUD?
So which birth control method is better? The true answer of which is better for you—birth control pills or an IUD—depends on your lifestyle, health, and preference. Three things to consider when comparing these two options include:
Convenience – Birth control pills require you to take a pill every day at roughly the same time. In contrast, IUDs work without requiring you to do anything for between 3 to 12 years, depending on the type of IUD you use.
Risk – Both birth control pills and IUDs come with some risks. Both can cause some uncomfortable side effects, especially when you first begin to use them, and may include irregular menstrual bleeding. Individuals who have certain health conditions, smoke, or are over the age of 35 may be at higher risk for complications from using birth control pills.
Cost – IUDs may be more expensive initially, but they last for a very long time. Birth control pills are readily available at affordable prices and are often covered by health insurance plans.
In short, there isn’t a true winner between birth control pills and IUDs. Whichever contraceptive method you choose depends on your preference and how your body may receive it. The common questions you’ll want to look into, to help you decide are, “how effective is the method?” and “how long does it take birth control to work?”.
At the end of the day, both are highly effective methods of birth control.
IUD vs. birth control pill: The Pill Club can help you decide
We’re fortunate to live in a time where plentiful birth control options exist and are readily available. Two popular choices are birth control pills and IUDs. Birth control pills are convenient and easy to use, while IUDs provide a longer-lasting option that is available in both hormonal and non-hormonal forms.
If you still aren’t sure which option is right for you, The Pill Club is here to help.
We can answer your reproductive health questions so that you can find the right contraceptive for your needs. We also offer prescription services, telemedicine consultations, and more. Visit us today to learn more and sign up.
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