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Q&A:
Contraception

Answers and insights from Amy Mulcaster, DO, Gynecologist

In healthcare, things are always evolving. That’s why we put together these helpful questions and answers about contraception. If you have other questions, we’d love to hear from you or see you in person, so give us a call.

Q: CAN OREGON WOMEN NOW GET BIRTH CONTROL PILLS AT A PHARMACY WITHOUT A DOCTOR’S PRESCRIPTION?

A: Yes. In January, Oregon became the first state to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills and patches to women 18 and older. Minors still need a prescription from a doctor. Pharmacists must complete a training program to participate, so not all may offer this service.

The new law simplifies access to birth control, but it’s still important to keep seeing your doctor for routine preventive care while using birth control pills or patches.

Q: CAN I GET MORE THAN A MONTH’S SUPPLY AT A TIME?

A: Yes. Oregon insurers now must cover up to a 12-month supply of birth control pills at a time. Studies show that having a supply of pills lowers the rate of accidental pregnancies caused by missed pills. It’s also just a lot more convenient.

Q: HOW EFFECTIVE ARE BIRTH CONTROL PILLS COMPARED TO OTHER OPTIONS?

A: Of the many options, birth control pills fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to effectiveness. Long-acting reversible methods, such as hormone-based intrauterine devices (IUDs) and arm implants, are more effective than pills and even female sterilization (tubal ligation). Barrier methods, such as condoms, fail more often.

Here are the top birth control methods, listed from the most to the least effective based on their percentage of unintended pregnancies annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Arm implant (Nexplanon): 0.05%
  • Vasectomy: 0.15%
  • IUD (hormone-based Mirena): 0.2%
  • Female sterilization: 0.5%
  • IUD (copper): 0.8%
  • Depo-Provera injection: 6%
  • Birth control pill: 9%
  • Contraceptive patch: 9%
  • Vaginal ring: 9%
  • Condom (male): 18%
  • Condom (female): 21%
  • Withdrawal: 22%
  • Natural family planning: 24%

Q: WHICH OPTIONS ARE THE MOST POPULAR?

A: In the United States, birth control pills are still used most often—about 15 percent of contraceptive users choose them. But IUDs are gaining in popularity, accounting for 7 percent of users (in a 2014 study).

Q: HOW DO I DECIDE WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR ME?

A: Talking with your healthcare provider is a good way to start. Each method has its own benefits, as well as potential side effects and rare complication risks. Your provider can discuss these with you and help you select the safest, most effective method to fit your specific health needs and preferences.

Watch my chat on Facebook to learn more about IUDs and other birth control methods.

Dr. Mulcaster sees patients in our Beaverton and Downtown offices.