The risks that you will encounter with birth control will depend upon the type of method you use. Some women rarely experience side effects while using cervical caps and diaphragms, for example. Other women experience allergic reactions or vaginal irritation; infection, breast tenderness or weight gain. Check with your doctor to evaluate potential risks as you are choosing birth control.
Birth Control Pills - Birth control pills must be prescribed by a health care professional. They may decrease the risk of some health conditions, like menstrual cramps, acne, ectopic pregnancy, anemia and cancer of the ovaries. Birth control pills do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Side effects may include nausea, weight gain (with higher dose pills), bleeding between periods, and headaches. Some women with certain medical conditions should not take birth control pills at all but can try other methods of birth control.
Cervical Cap - The cervical cap does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If a cervical cap is left in too long, it may cause irritation or odor in the vagina. It may also increase the risk of getting a urinary tract infection.
Contraceptive Sponge - There is a low risk of Toxic Shock syndrome, or TSS associated with the use of the sponge. Be sure to remove the sponge no later than 30 hours after intercourse.
Diaphragm - The diaphragm offers little or no protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A diaphragm can cause irritation if one is allergic to spermicide or latex. The diaphragm may also increase the risk of getting a urinary tract infection.
Emergency Contraception - Emergency contraception is not recommended as a regular way of preventing pregnancy. Emergency contraception like Plan B does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, irregular bleeding, bloating, and headaches.
Family Planning or Calendar Method - Natural Family Planning does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Hormone Injection - A health care professional must administer this type of injection every 1-3 months. A hormone injection does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Side effects of injections like Depo Provera may include irregular bleeding between periods, or no periods at all, weight gain, and headaches. A side effect that may occur especially in teenagers is the loss of calcium stored in the bones, and this may not completely return once the injection is stopped. A rare side effect is depression.
Hormone Implant - A hormone injection that is implanted under the skin of the upper arm does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and must be inserted by your doctor. Side effects of the implant include irregular bleeding, weight changes, mood changes and headaches.
Intraueterine Device (IUD) - The IUD does not reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The most common side effects of IUDs include heavier, longer periods and spotting between periods, cramping and vaginal discharge. Most of these side effects will decrease after a few months. Less common side effects include infection and, possibly, infertility which is why it is not used regularly for teens. Rarely, some IUDs may come out on their own, and some may pierce the wall of the uterus when being put in by a health care professional.
Male Condom - Condoms only protect against STDs and pregnancy if they are used every time and are used the right way. Condoms cannot prevent STDs 100% and other risks for using this form of birth control include bacterial and viral infections that live on the skin. Some condoms have a lubricant or spermicide that can irritate the vagina. Sometimes, but rarely, a person can be allergic to the latex in condoms.
Patch - Side effects and risks of the patch may include headaches, menstrual cramps, nausea, abdominal pain and skin irritation. The contraceptive patch may not work as well in females who weigh more than 198 pounds. The contraceptive patch does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Spermicide - Spermicides do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If too much spermicide is used the vagina may become irritated. Some may increase the risk of getting some STDs or urinary tract problems.
Sterilization - Sterilization is surgery that permanently blocks the path for eggs or sperm. In women, the fallopian tubes are closed or cut. In males, the tubes (vas deferens) that carry sperm to the penis are closed or cut. Sterilization is meant to be a permanent way of preventing pregnancy. It does not change hormones in the body or the ability to enjoy sex. Sterilization does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Vaginal Ring - Side effects of vaginal rings may include headaches, nausea, vaginal infections and irritation, and irregular vaginal bleeding. The vaginal contraceptive ring does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Withdrawal - The withdrawal method does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
In sum, numerous contraceptive options are available for women today. Your choice of birth control will depend on several factors including your health, the frequency of your sexual activity, the number of sexual partners you have and your desire to have children in the future. Please work with your doctor to select the best form of birth control for you.
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