Women's Health: Resources, Birth Control Options, and More

Women's Health: Resources, Birth Control Options, and More

[Image description: An illustration shows a woman holding birth control pills.]

For the purposes of this article, we use “male” to refer to those with male sex organs, and “female” or “woman” for those with female sex organs. If you don’t identify in either of these ways, please feel free to use the information however it is most useful for you. 

Women's health encompasses a broad spectrum of care — focused on the treatment and diagnosis of conditions that affect a woman's physical and mental well-being throughout life. This can include preventive care and screenings, breast care services, sexual health, gynecology and reproductive health, pregnancy and childbirth, as well as dermatology, nutrition, sleep, mental health, and more. This article will primarily focus on birth control, pregnancy, and mental health care. 


Resources for women


Birth control options

If pregnancy isn’t in your plans  for now, for the foreseeable future, or forever  there are many birth control options you can choose from. However, they all work in different ways and for different periods of time. Some are more effective than others and some require more diligent use than others. It can be confusing to sort out your options and decide which one is right for you. We’re here to help!  

Types of birth control 

One place to start is by understanding the primary types of birth control and how they compare. Here’s an overview, in order from least to most effective: 


 


Type 


Natural rhythm – when you avoid sex or use birth control only on the days the woman is most likely to get pregnant. You may want to use an ovulation test kit or fertility monitor to find out when you’re most fertile. 
When to Use It 

Ovulation test kit or fertility monitor: Follow the package instructions. 

How to Get It 

Back-up birth control is available over the counter or by prescription, depending on the method. 

Ovulation test kits and fertility monitor are available at pharmacies or online. 

Type 

Barrier and topical methods – keep the sperm from reaching the egg. Examples include: 

Female condom  

Male condom 

Sponge 

Vaginal Gel  

Cervical cap  

Diaphragm 

Every time you have sex. 

Condoms, sponges, and the vaginal gel are available over the counter or online. 

You’ll need to visit a doctor to be fitted and get a prescription for a diaphragm or cervical cap. 

Emergency contraception (not for routine use as a regular birth control) 

 

Take within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. 

Available over the counter and by prescription depending on brand. You may need to ask the pharmacist for the over-the-counter options if you don’t see them. 

Short-acting daily and weekly hormonal methods – keep the woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs and/or keep sperm from reaching the egg. These include: 

Oral contraceptives (“the pill”) 

Skin patch  

Vaginal ring 

Birth control pills: Take at the same time every day, even when you’re not having sex. 

Patch: Apply a new patch every week for 3 weeks. Skip the patch the fourth week to allow your cycle to reset. 

Vaginal ring: Leave ring in vagina for 3 weeks; remove for the fourth week, then start with a new ring. 

Each of these requires a prescription. 

Some may not be appropriate for every woman so be sure to speak with your doctor about whether these are right for you. 

Long-acting reversible methods – last from months to years, but you can stop them if you decide you want to get pregnant. Examples: 

Injection 

Copper intrauterine device (IUD) 

Hormonal IUD 

Implant 

Injection: Lasts 3 months 

Implant: Works for up to 3 years 

Hormonal IUD: Can be left in place 3–7 years 

Copper IUD: Can be used for up to 10 years  

These require a doctor visit and in-office procedure. 

Most effective 

Sterilization – a surgical procedure intended to prevent pregnancy permanently.  

Females: Tubal ligation (“having your tubes tied”) 

Males: Vasectomy 

This one-time procedure is for when you’re certain you won’t want to have a(nother) child. Sterilization can sometimes be reversed but it’s not always possible. 

Requires a surgical procedure.


Choosing the birth control that’s best for 
you
 

Choosing a birth control method is a highly personal decision. Amwell Women’s Health clinicians can answer your questions and help you determine which may be best for you. When weighing birth control methods, you may want to consider factors such as: 

  • Whether or when you might want to have a child 
  • Your health 
  • How often you have sex 
  • The effectiveness of each method 
  • Possible side effects and risks with each type 
  • Whether you’ll need a prescription, doctor visit, or procedure 
  • How easy or difficult it will be for you to use your chosen method as recommended 

Keep in mind that your needs and plans may change over time, and you may want to switch birth control methods as your situation changes.  

Other important considerations when choosing birth control 

Most birth control methods are considered safe, but they can raise health risks in some cases. For example, hormonal methods such as birth control pills can raise a woman’s risk for blood clots and high blood pressure. These side effects are rare, but serious as they could cause heart attack or stroke. In particular, women who are 35 or older and smoke tobacco are strongly warned not to use estrogen-containing hormonal birth control because of their higher risks for heart attack or stroke. 

IUDs slightly raise the risk that a fertilized egg will implant somewhere outside the womb, called an ectopic pregnancy. While rare, it’s serious and requires immediate medical treatment. Other rare but serious risks from IUDs are infection and puncture of the uterus. 

It’s also important to be aware that most forms of birth control won’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV. The only types that can protect you against STIs are male or female condoms.  Unfortunately, condoms aren’t the most effective at preventing pregnancy though, so you may want to use them in addition to a more effective form of birth control. 

Some methods (diaphragm, cervical cap, sponge) involve a spermicide  a substance that kills sperm. Spermicides containing the chemical N9 (nonoxynol 9) can cause irritation of the vagina and rectum, and may increase your risk of getting HIV if your partner is infected. 

There may also be added benefits to birth control. Some hormonal methods have been shown to help with health concerns such as: 

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) 
  • Endometriosis 
  • Irregular periods 
  • Menstrual cramps 
  • Premenstrual syndrome 
  • Acne 

If you have one of these conditions, talk with a women’s health provider about whether a birth control option might make a difference in your health. 


Using Amwell for family planning and pregnancy

If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, here's how Amwell providers can help: 

  • If you are newly pregnant and haven't seen an ob-gyn physician yet, doctors can help with urgent care conditions, including colds, eye infections, upset stomach, nausea, and general questions. If you do have an ob-gyn, you should see them for medical care. 
  • Women's health providers can provide advice and answer questions about family planning.


Women's health and mental health

Mental health impacts your well-being and overall health. Therapists and psychiatrists with Amwell are available to provide support and care. You can have a telehealth visit from anywhere and appointment times are flexible, including weekends and nights. 

Get support for:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Grief
  • Life changes
  • And more


Looking for care? Schedule an appointment with Amwell today. 

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