What are my birth control options during deployment?
Many servicewomen prefer the convenience of a “set it and forget it” form of birth control.
Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), which includes intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the Nexplanon birth control implant, may be a good option for some women.
- Last between 3–12 years
- Are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy
- Can be removed at any time
- Are rapidly reversible
For women who don’t want to use LARC but also don’t want to have to take a pill every day, hormonal birth control options include:
- Depo-Provera shot (given every 3 months)
- Vaginal ring (changed every 3–4 weeks)
- Patch (changed weekly)
If you’re on the pill, ask your medical provider to prescribe a year’s supply (13 packs or more, depending on how you take it) so you’ll have enough to last through deployment.
What kind of birth control can help me stop or slow my period?
For deployed servicewomen, contraception that reduces or stops periods may be a major benefit.
Reducing or stopping your period is possible with several types of hormonal birth control:
Form: Depo-Provera shot
Effect on period: Many women stop getting regular periods after 6–12 months of use, but they may have unscheduled bleeding for the first 3-6 months
Form: birth control pills
Effect on period: Can make periods lighter and more predictable, or stop them entirely if you only take “active” pills (not placebo pills at the end of the pack).
Form: hormonal IUD
Effect on period: Lightens periods after several months of use, and about half of women will stop having periods altogether for some types of IUDs.
Form: vaginal ring
Effect on period: Can stop bleeding if worn for 4 weeks straight and then replaced (instead of removing after 3 weeks and going ring-free for a week).
How can I protect myself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
Latex and polyurethane condoms are the only method of birth control that protects against STIs.
How can birth control help with other health issues?
Some forms of hormonal birth control can be used for health issues, such as menstrual-associated headaches, painful menses, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and acne. 50% of all women on the pill use it for more than just birth control.
How can I pay for birth control?
TRICARE, the insurance used by servicemembers and their families, covers the following types of birth control if prescribed by a TRICARE-authorized provider:
- Prescription contraceptives such as the pill, patch and ring
- Contraceptive implants (for pregnancy prevention only)
- Permanent contraception (surgical sterilization)
TRICARE also covers prescription emergency contraceptives, such as IUDs and ella. It also covers Plan B One-Step, which is available to all beneficiaries for free without a prescription.
TRICARE doesn’t cover:
- Nonprescription spermicidal foams, jellies or sprays
- Nonhormonal vaginal gel (Phexxi)
NOTE: Just because a birth control method is covered by TRICARE doesn’t mean you can get it at every military treatment facility (MTF). The only two forms of birth control you can count on being available at all MTFs are the pill and emergency contraception.
If possible, check to see if your chosen form of contraception is available on your base or ship before you deploy.
Where can I go for guidance about my birth control options?
There’s a lot of misinformation about birth control out there. If you’re having difficulty getting your questions answered, check websites such as Planned Parenthood (planned parenthood.org) and Bedsider (bedsider.org) for accurate information and help with things like:
- What to do if you miss a pill
- How to stop your period with the pill
- Troubleshooting issues with your IUD or implant