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How to Use Birth Control Like Your Life Depends on It (Because It Might)

How to Use Birth Control Like Your Life Depends on It (Because It Might)

On a summer day in June, the Supreme Court arguably set back the women’s rights movement by nearly 50 years with a single ruling. The implications were felt immediately by people with uteruses across the country as access to healthcare is now a legally punishable offense in certain states.

Fortunately, the right to birth control is currently still protected under a separate Supreme Court ruling. However, easy, fast, and dependable access to birth control is more crucial than ever. The use of contraception must become impeccable since there may not be control or choice if contraception fails.

The world of birth control is vast and can feel overwhelming now that it has become absolutely indispensable. There are a dizzying array of options, each with its own strengths and detriments. This article will discuss how to use birth control like your life depends on it — because now it actually does.

Know Your Options

Birth control pills first became widely available in the 1960s. Since then, contraception options have expanded to include birth control shots, implants, rings, and more. The majority of methods will require a prescription from a medical professional, but there are some over-the-counter options to consider.


Several contraceptive methods can be obtained quickly and easily without needing a doctor’s prescription. Male condoms are the most common choice for over-the-counter birth control. In addition to preventing pregnancy, condoms are also the only contraceptive to prevent STIs. Other non-prescription options include female condoms, sponges, emergency contraceptives, and spermicides. Spermicides, gels or foams that kill sperm, are really only adequately effective when used along with other methods.

Prescription and Medical Procedure

All other forms of contraception will require consulting with a doctor or medical professional to obtain. You will need a prescription for oral birth control, patches, injections, and rings. Intrauterine devices (IUDs), implants, and tubal ligation (sterilization) are methods that require a medical or surgical procedure performed by a doctor. Currently, a Paris-based pharmaceutical company is seeking approval from the FDA for the first OTC birth control pill. Unfortunately, for the time being, you’ll have to continue to work through a doctor to receive your birth control.  

Choose What Works Best for Your Life

Choosing a method (or methods) is an extremely personal decision with multiple factors to take into account. There are hormonal vs. non-hormonal, longer and shorter acting methods, and various levels of ease and efficacy. If you have a negative experience with one form, you may find another form to be a better fit for you and your life.

Hormonal vs. Non-hormonal

Most forms of birth control contain hormones, either estrogen, progesterone, or a combination of both, to prevent ovulation. For most people, the risks associated with using hormonal birth control are minimal. However, it’s important to discuss your medical history with a professional before starting any hormonal birth control.

If you are over 35 and smoke or vape, hormonal birth control may increase the risks of blood clots. A history of migraines, high blood pressure, or certain types of cancers may also require different forms of birth control. If you need or would prefer to use non-hormonal birth control, condoms, the copper IUD, sponges, and tubal ligation may make more sense for you.

Short vs. Long Acting

The most common forms of birth control are of the short-acting variety. These methods are used monthly, weekly, or daily. Condoms, birth control pills, rings, and patches all fall into this category. They can be used or discontinued with minimal effort. This is especially convenient if you might like to get pregnant in the near future. It is worth keeping in mind that these forms are also only as effective as the impeccability of their use.

For some, taking a pill at the same time every day or keeping condoms on hand is not an issue. For anyone else, a long-acting form of birth control may be safer and more convenient. The birth control shot lasts up to three months, while the implant is good for up to three years. IUDs offer even longer coverage; hormonal IUDs will last 3-8 years and the copper IUD can prevent pregnancy for over a decade. Both an implant and IUD will require a procedure to be inserted and removed. 

Know Where to Get Access

Once you’ve decided on your preferred method of birth control, the next step will be figuring out where best to get it. Over-the-counter products like condoms are readily available at most drug stores and health clinics. For any prescription or medical contraception, you’ll need to work with a doctor or medical professional.

For implants and IUDs, a visit to your doctor’s office or health clinic will be the only option. You can also obtain prescriptions for pills, injections, patches, and rings from your primary care doctor or OBGYN. Unfortunately, these appointments can be costly and time-consuming. Additionally, you’ll still have to make trips to the pharmacy to ensure you fill your prescriptions on time. With the emergence of online health services like HERS and Nurx, this process is nearly hassle-free. They streamline the intake process, automate the refills, and deliver your prescriptions right to your front door. 

Have a Plan B

No form of birth control is 100% effective.  However, you may be in a state that allows for little to no margin of error. But let’s be honest, accidents happen. With the recent attacks on bodily autonomy, it’s essential to have a solid plan and a backup plan. Combining various forms of birth control can offer increased protection from unintended pregnancies. For example, one might use the patch and condoms or the ring and also track their fertility cycle.

In cases of failed contraceptives, concerns about failed birth control, or unprotected sex, emergency contraceptives can be a lifesaver. EC, also known as The Morning After Pill, is not the same as the abortion bill. These drugs can prevent most pregnancies if taken within a short time frame after unprotected sex.

Ella, the most effective EC, is prescription only and effective within five days after unprotected sex. Others, like Plan B, are readily available over-the-counter and are effective if taken within 72 hours. However, the sooner you can take emergency contraception the better. It’s also important to note that there are concerns about the effectiveness of emergency contraception if your BMI is 26 or greater.[1] 

Although the future of health care for people with uteruses is uncertain, for now, birth control is still protected. While the loss of Roe v. Wade is immeasurable, there are still ways for people who can get pregnant to own their reproductive autonomy. Staying educated, informed, and intentional in your birth control choices and usage can help prevent that possible worst-case scenario. Continue to be impeccable in your efforts; your life may very well depend on it.

can we make it more clear the ella is effective within 5 days and plan b is effective when taken in 72 hours?

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