Birth control options for women over 40 are the same as they are for younger women. However, age is a consideration in some forms of birth control. Some are more suitable for older women, and others work better for younger women.
Hormones and the Woman Over 40
Some of the birth control methods which use hormones, either progestin by itself or in combination with estrogen, have an increased serious health risks for women over 35 years of age than for younger women. These include increased risk for gallstones, liver tumors, high blood pressure, and jaundice. Birth control devices which are implanted below the skin, such as Implanon, a matchstick-like implant that releases the hormone progestin, are not available in the United States. However, Mirena is an IUD which releases progestin into the uterus in which it is implanted. Besides this, birth control pills are either combination or progestin only. There are also shots, patches, and rings which can be used to release progestin with or without estrogen into the woman’s body. These hormones prevent pregnancy by causing changes in the uterine lining and other parts of the woman’s reproductive system which provide an environment hostile to pregnancy. Of these, the pill is the most popular. However, in the older woman, a lower dose of the hormone or hormones would be safer.
Barrier Methods using Spermicide
Some methods use a physical barrier to prevent conception. These are usually enhanced by the use of spermicide to kill the sperm before they can fertilize the egg. Most of these methods are placed in the vagina before intercourse, and must be left in a few hours after the last act of intercourse to allow the spermacide to act, then removed. Several of these methods are the diaphragm, the cervical cap, the sponge, the female condom, and the latex condom. Most of these methods are more effective in women who are older and/or have had at least one pregnancy than in younger women or women who have never given birth. The latex condom is the most easily available and has the added benefit of protection from sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs.
Surgical Procedures for Birth Control
The most effective and most permanent methods are surgical. These are tubal ligation and implantation of metal coils in the tubes to create scar tissue to block the egg from reaching the uterus. For the male partner, vasectomy is a permanent, difficult to reverse surgical procedure that is essentially a tubal ligation for him. Essentially, the vasectomy and the female tubal ligation are a tying and cutting of the vas deferens in the male and the fallopian tubes in the female respectively. This blocks the sperm or egg from being fertilized. In the older woman, this method of birth control may be desirable if she feels she does not want to have any more children. Insertion of an IUD into the uterus can also make fertilization and implantation of the fertilized egg difficult and is very effective in preventing pregnancy, and is permanent as long as the IUD is positioned correctly.
“Birth Control Methods – Birth Control Options.” Planned Parenthood. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2010. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control-4211.htm.
“Birth Control Options — familydoctor.org.” Health information for the whole family — familydoctor.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2010. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/contraceptive/016.html.