What are Your Options for Birth Control?
by Adrian Martinez
Latinx people have plenty of contraception options available to them. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the most popular choices are condoms and birth control pills. Also common is sterilization, or getting your “tubes tied.” Methods less often used include longer acting options, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), implants, and the shot. Not all of the options are made equal; some are much more effective at preventing pregnancy than others.
The most effective methods are sterilization, the implant, and IUDs. Less than 1 in 100 women per year will get pregnant using one of these options, but they require a medical provider to perform or insert. None of these options prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sterilization can be performed on both males (vasectomy) and females (tubal ligation) and is considered a permanent method of birth control. The implant is a small tube with hormones that is inserted into your arm. It can last up to five years before it must be removed or replaced. The IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted directly into your uterus. The copper IUD can last up to 12 years and the hormonal IUDs can last up to 3 to 7 years depending on the brand.
Slightly less effective methods that all use hormones are the shot, pill, patch, and ring. When used correctly, less than 1 in 10 women per year will get pregnant using only these options. They require a prescription from your medical provider. None of them prevent STIs. The shot should be injected every 3 months to prevent pregnancy. The oral pill must be taken daily to be effective. The patch goes directly on your skin and must be replaced weekly; you must have one on your skin three out of every four weeks. The ring is inserted directly into the vagina and must be replaced every month.
The methods most likely to result in pregnancy are internal and external condoms and the diaphragm. When used correctly, a little less than 1 in 5 women per year will get pregnant using only these options. They must be used every time you have sex to be effective. Internal condoms and diaphragms require a prescription. External condoms are available over-the-counter and are the most easily accessible option. Even if you are using one of the more effective birth control options, condoms are still recommended due to their ability to prevent transmission of STIs.
Each of the methods has its own benefits and side effects, so what works well for one person does not necessarily work well for another person. Talk to your doctors to find out more about each option and discuss what might work best for you.
Adrian Martinez is a Puerto Rican born in California and raised in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Florida. He graduated in 2014 from the University of Florida with a degree in biology and is currently a fourth-year medical student attending the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is on the executive board of the school’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and is pursuing a career in psychiatry.