Birth Control Options-Facts and Statistics

How Many Pregnancies are Unwanted or Unplanned?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, there are approximately 6 million pregnancies each year throughout the United States. Of those six million pregnancies, 4,058,000 result in live births, and 1,995,840 in pregnancy loss. Of the pregnancy losses, 1,200 are the result of termination, 600,000 are miscarriages, 70,000 are ectopic or molar pregnancies, and 26,000 losses occur through stillbirth. Most startling, however, is the fact that at least half of the six million pregnancies are considered to be unwanted-a figure which gives great insight into the wide variety of contraceptives available!

Reliability of Various Contraceptives

Of the women in the United States who currently use some form of contraception, 40% of those are using permanent sterilization, 27% are using an oral contraceptive, 20% are using condoms, 3% are using the progestin injection (Depo-Provera) and less than 1% currently use the IUD. The remaining ten percent use a variety of contraceptives, including the rhythm method, diaphragm, or spermicidal foam. The failure rate of the rhythm and withdrawal methods of contraception range from 5%-27%, while oral contraceptives, the IUD and the Depo shot have a failure rate of .1% to 3%.

Health Risks and Benefits

The estrogen in birth control pills will, happily, increase your HDL (good) cholesterol, as well as lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Unfortunately, the progestin in the birth control pill does the exact opposite. If you choose the pill, ask your doctor about one with the lowest amount of progestin possible. While there is some evidence to link breast cancer to the pill, it is not substantial, except in those who have a family history of breast cancer. All birth control pills can up your risk of having a blood clot as much as four times. If you are older than 35--or smoke-- the risk of stroke is even greater, as is the risk of a heart attack. Using birth control pills decreases your risk of developing both ovarian cancer and uterine cancer by as much as 50%. Most women who are on the pill have a decrease in pain associated with their periods, and suffer from typical PMS symptoms from 39-50% less.

Future Fertility

There may be a slight delay once you stop taking the pill before your body returns to full fertility and you are able to get pregnant. The pregnancy rate while using an IUD is 1.6% after 7 years and 1.7% after 12 years, however if you want to become pregnant following the removal of your IUD, your fertility should not be delayed in any way. Pregnancy rates after a vasectomy reversal are about 45-60% while pregnancy rates after having a tubal ligation reversed is from 50-80%. Nearly 7000 women each year request a tubal ligation reversal. If you've had a tubal ligation, and don't want it reversed, your chances of becoming pregnant after one year is .55 per 100 women; after five years it increases to 1.31 women per 100, and after 10 years the rate is approximately 1.85 per each 100 women.

Side Effects

The estrogen in the pill can cause mood swings, tenderness in the breasts, nausea, blood pressure increase and thrombosis, while the progestin in the pill can cause acne, tiredness, mild to severe depression, weight gain and anxiety. The amount of blood you typically lose during your period will decrease nearly a third. Iron deficiency is much less likely in women who are on the pill, possibly because of the lighter periods and lower levels of blood loss.

Risks of Fetal Abnormalities

Overall, after stopping the birth control pill, you have no greater incidence of having a baby with birth defects than women who have never been on the pill. There appears to be no increase in incidence of congenital anomalies in those infants born to women with an IUD. If you become pregnant while your IUD is in place, your chance of miscarriage is about 55%; if the IUD is removed while you are pregnant, the chance of miscarriage drops to about 20%.

When making the decision on which contraceptive is right for you, you must consider your age, your lifestyle, your relationship status at the time, then talk to your physician about the best contraceptive.

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