Birth Control 101

Birth control is a doctor-prescribed medication that significantly affects the hormones in your body to prevent pregnancy.

Evaluate Your Birth Control

As your body changes with age, your hormones change as well. When experiencing side effects such as weight gain, headaches or nausea, it is essential to switch your birth control to coincide with your changing hormones.

Monophasic Pill: 

These are the traditional pills that provide three weeks of equal doses of estrogen and progestin and one week of placebo pills. This type is recommended for those who are prone to acne or mood swings.

Tri-Phasic Pill:

Women who use birth control often experience spotting. The tri-phasic pill combines changing levels of estrogen and progestin to mimic a dynamic cycle to prevent spotting. It also eases pain caused by endometriosis, a disorder of the female reproductive system where endometrial cells attach to tissues surrounding the uterus, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries or the large or small intestines. It can cause bleeding, intense cramping and pain, and can affect a woman's fertility.

Extended Cycle Pill:

For women who suffer from extreme PMS and painful periods, extended cycle pills decrease periods to three or four times a year to avoid these symptoms. OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson confirms that it is completely safe to do away with monthly periods. 


Women with chronic headaches and nausea should avoid estrogen, ruling out the above three birth-control pills. The Mini-Pill is a progesterone-only pill that is less effective than the varieties above, but is a good alternative to avoid painful side effects. Nursing mothers should also use the Mini-Pill, as estrogen can harm the baby. Always consult your doctor when starting birth control as a new mother.


Unlike pills, an IUD (Intrauterine Device) is not taken orally, which makes it a great alternative for women prone to nausea. An IUD is an excellent option for couples looking for a long-term birth control solution.

The IUD uses copper, rather than hormones, to create a hostile environment for sperm; and it has been deemed safe and effective for up to 10 years, and is easily placed and removed by a doctor. Dr. Lisa cautions that it is critical that a woman does not have a vaginal infection when the IUD is placed, as that can cause complications that lead to infertility.

Vaginal Ring: 

Vaginal rings are also known as intravaginal rings or V rings. Similar to the benefits of an IUD, vaginal rings are ideal for women who suffer from nausea when taking birth control in pill form. The ring is inserted into the vagina and will emit a controlled release of hormones, which thicken the cervical mucus and stop ovulation. The ring is held in place by the vaginal walls and each ring provides one month of birth control protection; however, the vaginal ring does not protect against STDs. In addition, certain rings containing estrogen can help prevent vaginal dryness.

Birth Control Breakthrough 

Dr. Lisa explains a device called Implanon, a new implantable birth control product that lasts up to three years. It is a matchstick-sized rod that is placed in the upper part of the non-dominant arm and releases the hormone progestin. Implanon works by keeping a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens the cervical mucus, which blocks sperm and keeps it from joining with an egg. The device needs to be implanted by a healthcare professional.

“It’s really effective for women who don’t want to remember a pill every day,” Dr. Lisa says. “It has very few side effects.”