The wide variety of birth control options available not only serve to aid in family planning, but can help women looking to regulate their menstrual cycles and ease menstrual symptoms.
Shawn Brooking, certified nurse midwife for Trinity Health, explained that the many options available ensures that women can choose the best options for them.
"There are some twists on the old options," Brooking said. "I think a lot of women remember birth control pills as being 21 days of hormones with seven days off, and you take them every day. Now, many of the pills offer 24 days of hormones with four days off, and that can result in shorter, lighter periods."
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Shawn Brooking, certified nurse midwife for Trinity Health, explains how a NuvaRing, a form of birth control, would be used.
"The new options offer more independence and freedom for women," she added. "You can have your menstrual cycle work around you, rather than you working around it."
For young teens who aren't yet sexually active, using forms of birth control is more about minimizing menstrual symptoms than family planning.
"Some may be seeking solutions for cramps or periods that disrupt their life," Brooking said. "Birth control can also help with regulating periods. It's no fun being a teen and not knowing when your period is coming, especially if the symptoms are troubling."
Teens may be prescribed birth control without a pelvic exam, which in turn can make the process easier.
"There's a fear of going to a provider, and a fear of getting that pelvic exam," Brooking said. "They don't have to have that exam to have birth control, especially if they are not sexually active. They just need to provide a detailed family history."
The wide variety of birth control options available today include progestin-only pills for women who are breastfeeding, combined oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices, NuvaRing, the OrthoEvra patch, Implanon and the Depo-Provera injection.
"Patients have a lot of options," Brooking said. "They should be looking at what they want and how long they plan to be on it.
"For example, if you want birth control for seven years, and you're not a good pill-taker, then the pill isn't a good option for you. In that case, an IUD might be a better choice. If you only want birth control for a year, a pill might be the better choice. I encourage patients to look at all of their options."
In addition, if the first option a patient tries doesn't work for them, there are others to try. For birth control pills, different combinations of hormones make different types of pills more effective for some groups of women than others.
"Sometimes, at the basic level, their body doesn't respond well to that specific combination of hormones," Brooking said. "You could take two sisters, even, and the same pill would affect them both differently. Your weight and your metabolism effects the medication, just like with other medications."
"Prescribing birth control pills is really more of an art than a science, to find one that works for what the woman wants, and one that makes them feel good," she said.
Some barriers women may face in obtaining birth control that works for them can be financial. Some pharmaceutical companies have tried to offer solutions for methods that aren't covered by health insurance.
"The companies are trying to make it more accessible and more affordable," Brooking said. "The Mirena and ParaGard IUD's can be expensive if your insurance doesn't cover it. Both have marketed payment plans, so it's more accessible to women financially. Some companies offer a card that never expires, ensuring your birth control will never cost more than $25 a month."
For those who don't respond well to birth control hormones or who don't like the idea of them, natural family planning is another option some women use. Brookings said women can plot their temperature and check cervical tissue to know when they are ovulating.
"More women in this area are using that method, and they are very effective with it," Brookings said.
Visiting with a healthcare provider and knowing all the options can empower women to make the decision that's right for them, she said.
"Women being educated about any part of their health is extremely important," Brooking said. "We now have the tools to plan and control our reproduction, and regulate menstruation. Women should be aware of what's available to them."