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Birth Control Briefing

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How well does it work? It is assumed to be as effective or even more effective than the pill. It’s more than 99 percent effective with perfect use in adult women and 92 percent effective with typical use.


  • Safe (same low risks as the pill)
  • Convenient—you only have to think about it twice a month (once when you take it out, once when you put a new one in)


  • Hasn’t been formally studied in teens
  • Might cause vaginal discharge or discomfort
  • Doesn’t protect against STIs
  • Can slip out . . . but still works if replaced within three hours

The Patch
This is a skin-colored patch, worn on the stomach, back, arm, or buttocks, that releases estrogen and progestin.

How well does it work? It’s 99 percent effective with perfect use; 92 percent with typical use.


  • Safe
  • Convenient (change it once a week for three weeks, then leave it off for a week)
  • Discreet


  • No protection against STIs
  • Might have a higher failure rate for women weighing more than 198 pounds
  • In 2005 the FDA required the manufacturer to warn on the label that women are exposed to 60 percent more estrogen than with most forms of the pill—though it’s not clear that the extra estrogen poses extra risk. This has been the subject of much debate, and most doctors believe it to deliver a much lower dose of estrogen.
  • Carries a slightly higher risk of blood clots than the pill. But that risk is still very small: three or four out of ten thousand instead of one out of ten thousand.

The Shot
Depo-Provera injections, which contain progestin only, are given by a doctor every three months. This injection has been available since 1992 and is well studied in teens. However, I do not prescribe Depo-Provera for my patients and don’t recommend it for teens because it carries a risk of osteoporosis later in life.

How well does it work? It’s 97 percent effective. Because the shot is given by a doctor, there’s no risk of imperfect use unless you don’t show up for your shot.

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