While pregnancy prevention remains the top reason for contraceptive use, an increasing number of options are helping women take better control of their medical health. This includes better regulation of menstrual cycles and menstrual migraines, elimination of heavy or uncontrolled bleeding, prevention of ovarian cysts or decreasing the likelihood of seizures in women with epilepsy. Since the development of “the pill” in the 1950s, more advanced birth control options have given women the flexibility to navigate their busy lives and strategically plan their families.
Patricia Seal, MD, Palmetto Health‑USC Obstetrics and Gynecology
, knows all women are not candidates for every type of birth control. She wants to educate them fully on the various methods to help them make the most informed choices.
“There are lots of options,” Dr. Seal explained. “We try to help women develop the families they want to have.”
New formulations of the pill, which have lower amounts of hormones and fewer side effects, are among several options available for women. Some shorter‑term contraceptive methods include:
- Transdermal patch – this allows absorption of contraceptive medicine through the skin. It is changed weekly, which eliminates the need for specific dosing times.
- Contraceptive vaginal ring – this is replaced once a month and is particularly convenient for women who are constantly on the go.
- Depo shot – this is taken every three months and can make regular periods very light or eliminate them.
Longer‑term contraceptives include:
- An arm implant – this small device can be inserted during a routine office visit and lasts for three years. “It’s kind of those ‘set it and forget it’ options,” Seal explained.
- Copper IUDs – this method is hormone‑free, which is ideal for women with breast cancer or other hormone sensitivities, and it can be used for up to 10 years.
- Progesterone IUDs – these can provide pregnancy protection from three to seven years and can make periods lighter or eliminate them.
Seal said when considering the various options, a woman’s overall medical health and receptiveness to certain drugs are used to determine what is best for each patient.
“In some cases, women may not be safe candidates for some of these medications,” Seal said. “We talk about every option – even the ones they are not a candidate for – because I want them to know everything that is out there.”
Seal noted some contraceptive options can present challenges including unpredictable bleeding, in which case the physician may recommend a new contraceptive method. But she said the general risks associated with birth control are far lower even than those normally associated with a pregnancy. And in the event of a change in family planning, most birth control methods can be reversed relatively quickly – from instantly to up to a couple of months, Seal explained.
“Even the long‑acting devices are easy to place or remove in the office,” she said.
Seal said women considering contraceptive options should speak with their OB/GYN, but she stressed they are ultimately in control of their health decisions.
“We are trying to work toward something that will work for her,” Seal said. “I want it to be a discussion.”
For more information about contraceptive options or to schedule an appointment with a Palmetto Health-USC Obstetrics and Gynecology provider, call 803-907-0350.