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DISCLAIMER: This article is not a doctor. When deciding on the right birth control for you, it is important to talk to a trusted medical professional. While some side-effects are listed for each option, this is an overview article and only the most common potential side effects are included.

 

In November 2017, after over two years of deliberations, the FDA released a list of 51 contraceptives deemed acceptable for recertification in the Philippines. But 51 is a lot of options to look through! How do you decide which one is the best fit for you?

Below is a breakdown of the available options, how they work, how effective they are, their known common side-effects, how to get a hold of them, and how much they’ll cost you.

 

THE PILL

What it Does

Hormonal birth control pills come in two types: Combined Oral Contraceptives (COCs) aka combination pills, which use a combination of progestin and estrogen hormones; and mini-pills, which only contain progestin. Mini-pills are a good option for women who want to use the pill but are sensitive to estrogen.

 

The ratio of progestin and estrogen may vary between COC brands. Regardless of the type of pill taken, this contraceptive works by stopping ovulation, meaning the egg is kept from leaving your ovaries and is thus not available to be fertilized. Another effect of the pill is the thickening of the cervical mucus and uterus lining, which makes it more difficult for sperm to travel.

 

How to Use It

To use the pill, simply take one pill a day at the same time every day. The most common pack size is the 21-day pack. Here, there are 3 weeks’ worth of hormone pills and 1 week’s worth of reminder/placebo pills. Your period will occur during the 4th week.

 

Effectiveness

It can take up to 7 days of taking the pill before you are protected from pregnancy. When used perfectly, the pill is 99% effective. However, not taking the pill at the same time every day and/or taking certain medications while on the pill can lower its efficacy to about 91%.

 

When starting a new medication or supplement, make sure to check with a medical professional for any effects it may have on your birth control. Until you know for sure, it’s safest to use an additional birth control method.

 

Possible Side Effects

 

      • The Not-So-Good: Though not everyone experiences side effects and they often subside after the first few months, those considering the pill should expect the possibility of weight gain/loss, lowered sex drive, sore breasts, hair loss, moodiness, depression, anxiety, headaches, and spotting.

 

Brands Available in the Philippines

      • Combination Pill: Althea, Charlize, Chloe, Cybelle, Denise, Estrella Plus, Famila 28F, Femme, Gracial, Gynera, Julianne, Lady, Liza, Lizelle, Lizonya, Logynon 21, Marvelon 28, Meliane, Mercilon, Micropil, Micropil Plus, Minipil, Nordette, Protec, Qlaira, Ruby, Seif, Sophia, Trust Pill, Yasmin, Yaz, Zoely

 

      • Mini-pill: Cerazette, Estrelle, Exluton, Daphne, Leila

 

SUBDERMAL IMPLANT

What It Does

The implant is a small cylindrical rod 4cm long and 2mm across. It works by releasing the hormone progestin into your body. Progestin works by thickening your cervical mucus, which makes it difficult for sperm to get anywhere close to the egg, and by stopping ovulation.

 

How to Use It

It is implanted by a doctor/healthcare practitioner just under the skin of your upper arm. After the implant is inserted, you just leave it alone until it’s time to replace it in 4-5 years. Easy! Local anesthesia is used during insertion to keep the pain at a minimum, though you may experience some aching, bruising, and/or swelling for the first few days after insertion.

 

Effectiveness

Once the implant is working, it is over 99% effective. If you get your implant in the first 5 days of your period, you are immediately protected from pregnancy. If you get the implant during any other time in your cycle, it will take effect in about 7 days. Until then, make sure to use an additional birth control method.

 

Possible Side Effects

      • The Good: The implant can help with cramps and can lighten or even completely stop your period.

 

      • The Not-So-Good: Spotting may occur during the first 6-12 months or longer, and some people experience heavier and/or longer periods during this time. It’s also possible to experience weight gain, headaches, dizziness, nausea, decreased sex drive, moodiness, depression, and tender breasts.

 

Brands Available in the Philippines

Implanon, Implanon NXT

 

 

INJECTION

What It Does

The shot administers the hormone progestin, which prevents pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus, which makes it very difficult for sperm to reach the egg, and by preventing ovulation.

 

How to Use It

The shot must be administered every 12-13 weeks, or 4 times a year, in order to be properly effective. Unless you’re given permission to self-administer the shot, an appointment with a healthcare practitioner is necessary.

 

Effectiveness

When used perfectly, the shot is over 99% effective. However, because people don’t always get their shots on time, their average effectiveness in practice is 94%.

 

If you get the shot within the first 7 days of your period, you are protected right away. If you get it any other time during your cycle, you will have to wait a week before it takes effect. Until then, make sure to use an additional birth control option.

 

Possible Side Effects

      • The Good: Your period may get lighter or even completely stop over time.

 

      • The Not-So-Good: Some women experience longer periods and spotting in the first 12 months of using this method. There is also the rare possibility of bone thinning occurring after taking the shot long-term. You may also experience weight gain, nausea, depression, headaches, and breast tenderness.

 

Brands Available in the Philippines

Depofem, Depo-gestin (available in dosages of 50 mg/mL and 150 mg/mL), Depotrust, Lyndavel, Norifam, Protec

 

IUD

What It Does

There are 2 main types of Intrauterine Devices (IUDs): hormonal and non-hormonal.

 

Hormonal IUDs work by releasing a small dose of progestin into your body. The progestin thickens your cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to travel up to the egg. Further, it can also stop ovulation, which means no egg leaves the ovaries to become available for sperm to get to.

 

Non-hormonal IUDs have copper wrapped around the device. The copper ions emitted by the IUD create a hostile environment for sperm (without affecting your reproductive system). Specifically, they cause a sharp decrease in motility, so sperm can’t travel to the egg, and also act as a spermicide. The IUD also causes the cervical mucus to thicken, making it even harder for sperm to move through it.

 

How to Use It

IUDs can be inserted at any time during your cycle. A healthcare practitioner will use a speculum and special insertion tool to insert the IUD directly into your uterus through the opening of your cervix. The whole process only lasts about 5 minutes. After that, it stays in place until you decide to remove it or it’s time for it to be replaced. IUDs last from 3-12 years, depending on the type. Be prepared: insertion is often painful and you may experience cramping and spotting for a few days afterward. It’s a good idea to take an ibuprofen 30-45 minutes before your appointment, as well as right after. You’ll also want to pack a pad for post-insertion bleeding.

 

Bonus: If implanted up to 5 days after unprotected sex, the IUD can also act as an emergency contraceptive.

 

Effectiveness

Because the IUD is a set-it-and-forget-it contraceptive, it is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. When used correctly as an emergency contraceptive, it is also over 99% effective.

 

If you choose a hormonal IUD, it can take up to 7 days before it takes effect, so make sure to use a second birth control option until then. Non-hormonal IUDs are effective immediately after insertion.

 

Possible Side Effects

      • The Good: Hormonal IUDs can lessen cramping, and lighten or even stop period after a few months of use.
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      • Because the copper IUD doesn’t use hormones, the good side effect is that there are no hormone-related side effects, making it a good option for women who want to avoid hormonal contraceptives.
    •  
      • The Not-So-Good: During the first 3-6 months of having an IUD, you may experience spotting and irregular periods. Additionally, periods may become heavier and last longer, and cramping may worsen (especially with copper IUDs). You may also get backaches and cramps in the first few days after insertion. Once your body adjusts to having a new pal in your uterus, these side effects are very likely to subside. In the meantime, pain relievers are your friend. 

 

Brands Available in the Philippines

      • Hormonal: Mirena 
      • Non-Hormonal: Securit-T
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