Short-Acting Vs. Long-Acting Birth Control: Which Is Right for You?

Becoming a mommy or daddy can be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do in your life. But like most pivotal special moments, it’s all about timing. Fortunately, when it comes to birth control options there’s a plethora of safe and effective options – almost too many. And sifting through the many birth control options can be confusing. 

Our expert OB/GYN, Dr. Brandon M. Lingenfelter, helps break down this topic by looking at short-acting vs. long-acting birth control so that you can figure out how to make the best choice for you. 

Short-acting birth control options

Some of the more traditional birth control options fall in the category of short-acting birth control, which is defined as daily, weekly or monthly. Although these methods are effective if used correctly, they are only as reliable as you are. 

Short-acting birth control options fall into two general categories: barrier methods and hormonal methods.

Barrier methods

Like its name suggests, the goal of this contraceptive is to block the sperm from fertilizing an egg. Popular barrier method options include condoms, diaphragms, and cervical caps. These methods are only used during intercourse.

Hormonal methods

The most popular short-acting hormonal method is birth control pills. If taken as prescribed, the pill is very effective in protecting against pregnancy. Contraceptive vaginal rings and patches are also considered short-acting. Hormonal short-acting birth control options work by disrupting ovulation, thereby preventing an egg from being available for fertilization. 

Long-acting birth control choices

Many of the 72.2 million women in the United States who use contraception are turning to longer-acting birth control methods for a more convenient, hassle-free approach that doesn’t rely on things like remembering to take a pill every day. 

These long-acting options include injections, implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Injections

A progestin injection called Depo-Provera® is a hassle-free option for women who don’t want to be tied to a daily responsibility for birth control. Injections work by suppressing ovulation and by thickening cervical mucus, which keeps the sperm from reaching the egg. Every 12 weeks you go to your doctor for an injection, and you’re good to go for another 3 months.

Implants

Nexplanon is an implant that contains progestin, and it measures about 1.6 inches in size. Dr. Lingenfelter inserts Nexplanon under the skin of the inside of your non-dominant arm. Over the next three to four years, progestin is released. It works by suppressing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus like Depo-Provera®, plus it creates changes in the uterine lining. 

Implants are effective for 3-4 years. If after that time you’d like to continue with this method, simply make an appointment with us to have a new one inserted. 

IUDs

The longest-lasting, no-hassle birth control options are IUDs. They’ve been for about 70 years, but the next generation IUDS hit the market in the late 1980s. Containing either copper or a low dose of progestin, an IUD is a small T-shaped device about the size of a quarter. Your doctor inserts an IUD during an in-office procedure. 

The copper IUD lasts for up to 12 years, while the hormonal IUDs last 3-7 years. 

IUDs and implants together are the third most popular birth control methods in the United States today.

To explore what birth control option is right for you, book a consultation with Dr. Lingenfelter at our practice in Princeton, West Virginia. Make your appointment online or call our office.

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