What Is The Most Effective Birth Control Method: Pill, Patch or Ring?

Sexual Health

What Is The Most Effective Birth Control Method: Pill, Patch or Ring?

Editorial Team
2021
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Given the wide variety of different hormonal contraceptives available that range from pills, to patches and even rings, you might be stumped at deciding which birth control method is the most effective and most suitable for you.

Birth control pills, patches and rings all prevent pregnancies by using a combination of progestin and estrogen hormones. Each method of contraception has slightly different effective rates and has its own advantages and disadvantages. 


Birth Control Pills


Birth control pills can come in various different forms, such as combination pills like Yaz and Estrostep or progestin-only pills like Cerelle and Cerazette.

Combination pills work by using progestin and estrogen hormones to prevent you from ovulating, and by thickening the mucus found in your cervix to make it more difficult for the sperm to reach and come into contact with the egg. 

As the name implies, progestin-only pills contain only progestin and do not contain estrogen. 


Pros and Cons of Birth Control Pills


Pros: 

The most significant upside of taking birth control pills is the convenience it provides. So long as you consume it at the same time everyday, it will be effective at preventing pregnancies. Birth control pills often come with a usage calendar, which makes it easy to keep track on which pill to take on what day of your cycle. 

Similar to other forms of birth control, birth control patches can also cause lighter periods and minimise the severity of menstrual cramps. 

Should you choose to take combination birth control pills, you might even experience improvements in your skin. In a study done by the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, these improvements were credited to the hormones present in combination birth control pills as they are able to suppress the production of androgen, which prevent acne breakouts and controls the oil production of your skin. 


Cons:

The biggest downside about taking birth control pills is the side effects that you might experience. These side effects include weight gain, breast tenderness, increased nausea, and increased frequencies of headaches. While most of the stated side effects are minor and tend to subside over time, there is a very small possibility that birth control pills could cause you to develop cardiovascular health issues such as blood clot and strokes. 

If you are over the age of 35 and smoke regularly, it is vital that you discuss with your doctor whether this method of birth control is suitable and safe for you. 

Combination birth control pills like Yaz and Estrostep can also affect your sex drive, causing either a noticeable increase or decrease.

Besides side effects, being on birth control pills can be slightly inconvenient as it requires you to take it daily and at roughly the same time. Should your job require you to wake up at different times, this method of birth control might not be the most convenient for you and you should look into other forms of birth control like birth control patches or rings. 

Similar to birth control rings, birth control pills will not prevent you from getting STIs, so using condoms and getting tested regularly for STIs will still be required for safe sex.  


Birth Control Patches


Birth control patches are a small patch that can be stuck to either your upper arm, waist, buttocks or torso. It prevents pregnancies by slowly releasing the hormones progestin and estrogen into your body and looks very similar to a plaster or a bandage.

Similar to both birth control pills and rings, it works by preventing you from ovulating and the hormones thicken the mucus found in your cervix, making it difficult for the sperm to reach and come into contact with the egg. 

 

Pros and Cons of Birth Control Patches


Pros:

The biggest upside to using a birth control patch is the convenience it provides. As the patch lasts for about a week, this means that you will only need to replace it every 7 days. You will then have to replace and wear 3 patches over the course of 3 weeks, before taking 1 week off at the end of the 4-week cycle. 

Wearing a birth control patch will not require you to make changes to your lifestyle as you will be able to wear the patch while you shower, exercise and even swim. 

Similar to both birth control pills and rings, birth control patches can cause lighter periods and minimise the severity of menstrual cramps. When the birth control patch is in use, it can also help lower the risks of developing ovarian cancer, and cancer of the uterus and bowels. 


Cons:

The most obvious downside to using a birth control patch is the fact that it is attached to your skin. Depending on where you’ve stuck the patch on, the patch might be visible through your clothing. 

While it is unlikely, there is a possibility that the patch may fall off before the week is done. Should it come off, you will need to apply a new one as soon as you can. If your birth control patch has been off for more than 24 hours, it is vital that you use another form of contraception (such as using a condom) to avoid getting pregnant. 

Similar to both birth control rings and pills, birth control patches can still cause minor side effects like increased frequencies of headaches, weight gain, spotting, nausea and breast tenderness. 

While the likelihood is very low, there is a possibility that birth control patches can increase your risk of experiencing blood clots, strokes and various other cardiovascular health issues. If you are over the age of 35 and regularly smoke, it is vital that you discuss with your doctor whether this method of birth control is suitable and safe for you. 

One of the most significant disadvantages of the birth control patch is that it might not be fully effective if you happen to weigh more than 90kg (or 198 pounds). Should you be above this weight, it is important that you consult your doctor and discuss which birth control method is the most suitable for you. 


Birth Control Ring


Birth control rings, also most commonly known by the brand name NuvaRing, work by continuously releasing both progestin and estrogen hormones in your vagina. These hormones prevent you from ovulating and thickens the mucus found in your cervix, which makes it more difficult for the sperm to reach and come into contact with the egg. 


Pros and Cons of Birth Control Rings


Pros:

The biggest upside to using birth control rings is that it is the most convenient of all the stated methods. While birth control pills require you to take them daily (and at the same time), birth control rings only need to be inserted once a month to be effective.

Once the ring has been inserted, it can be left there for up to 3 weeks and then removed for a “ring-free week”. It also does not need to be removed for sexual activities or intensive exercises. 

Similar to birth control bills, birth control rings can cause lighter periods and minimise the severity of menstrual cramps. When the birth control ring is in use, it can also help lower the risks of developing iron deficiencies, cysts, ovarian and endometrial cancers and various other infections in your uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. 


Cons:

The downside of using a birth control ring is that you will still be required to have it changed and reinserted every month, in order for it to be effective. 

Similar to other methods of birth control, birth control rings can still cause minor side effects like increased frequencies of headaches, spotting, nausea and breast tenderness. In a study done by the University of California, researchers found that these side effects to be most prominent during the first few months that you begin using the birth control ring, and will usually subside over time. 

As the birth control ring contains both progestin and estrogen hormones, it could potentially increase your risk of experiencing blood clots, strokes and various other cardiovascular health issues. If you are over the age of 35, it is vital that you discuss with your doctor whether this method of birth control is suitable and safe for you. 

Similar to birth control pills, birth control rings will not prevent you from getting STIs, so using condoms and getting tested regularly for STIs will still be required for safe sex.  


So Which Birth Control Method Is The Most Effective?


Birth control pills, patches and rings all have similarly effective rates when it comes to preventing unwanted pregnancies. When used perfectly, these 3 methods of birth control have an impressive 99% effectiveness rate. When used typically, three 3 methods of birth control still have an effectiveness rate of 91%.

As all the birth control methods use similar hormones to prevent pregnancies, the side effects you experience with either one of them will roughly the same. As the main design of all three methods of birth control is to prevent pregnancies, they will not be able to prevent STIs.  

Ultimately, the deciding factor on which of the three is the most effective form of birth control, is the one that you find to be most convenient and easiest to use on a daily basis. Should you prefer the ease of using either the patch or ring, go ahead and make it your choice of birth control. Should you prefer the predictability that birth control pills have to offer, go for this option. 

So long as you follow the instructions provided, any of the stated forms of birth control will provide you with an effective and convenient form of contraception. 

Should you require further guidance on the various birth control methods available, you can talk to one of our doctors here at Zoey. Our doctors are best equipped with the knowledge to determine which form of birth control is most suitable and safe for you. 


References


Barr, Nancy Grossman. "Managing adverse effects of hormonal contraceptives." American Family Physician 82.12 (2010): 1499-1506.

Trivedi, M K et al. “A Review of hormone-based therapies to treat adult acne vulgaris in women.” International journal of women's dermatology vol. 3,1 44-52. 30 Mar. 2017, doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2017.02.018