Birth control, also commonly called contraception, is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy. Many birth control methods are available. Learning about all your options will help you find a method that fits your specific needs and lifestyle. Birth control methods and questions to consider when making your decision are listed below.
Ask yourself the following questions before you decide:
- Does it work well?
- Are there side effects?
- Can I afford it?
- Is it easy to get?
Other questions that may help you decide:
- How long do I plan to use it?
- Will I be comfortable using it?
- Do I want my partner to be aware that I’m using it?
- Will my partner like this method and help me use it?
- Can I follow the schedule for using it?
- Will I be able to use it correctly every time?
Birth control methods
- Birth control pills
- Condoms for men and women
- Depo-Provera - The Shot
- Emergency contraceptives
- Fertility awareness/natural family planning
- The Patch
- Sterilization for men (vasectomy) and women (tubal litigation)
- Vaginal rings
Abstinence (PDF) Not having sex.
Birth control pills (PDF) - Pills that contain hormones like the sex hormones produced by your own body—estrogen and progesterone. Pills stop the release of eggs from your ovaries. Requires a prescription from your doctor.
Condoms for men (PDF) and condoms for women (PDF)- Thin, one-time use only barriers, that you can buy at drug or grocery stores and family planning clinics.
Depo-Provera (PDF) - An injection of the hormone progesterone that stops eggs from leaving your ovaries. Each injection works for 12 weeks. You can get the shot at a medical or family planning clinic.
Diaphragms (PDF) - A small rubber cup that you fill with spermicidal jelly or cream and place in your vagina to prevent sperm from entering your uterus. Requires a prescription from your doctor.
Emergency contraceptives (PDF) - (Also known as Plan B®) A set of two pills that contain the hormone progesterone. This method is to be used only as a backup plan when other methods have failed or if you had unplanned intercourse. For more information talk to your doctor, or call 1-888-not-2-late.
Fertility awareness/natural family planning (PDF) - Tracking changes in your body to determine when you are fertile and likely to get pregnant. After a birth, if you are breastfeeding, you may be less likely to become pregnant. A fertility awareness instructor or medical provider can teach you how to use the fertility cycle and/or breastfeeding only (PDF) methods.
Implants - A single, soft plastic rod, about the size of a matchstick, placed just under the skin of your inner arm. Implants contain progesterone which is absorbed in tiny amounts by your body over the course of three years. You will not get pregnant because no eggs will be released from your ovaries. Your health care provider can insert these.
IUD/IUS (PDF) - Intrauterine Devices (IUD) - Small pieces of plastic wrapped with copper and put into your uterus. Copper kills sperm and can keep you from getting pregnant for up to ten years. Inrauterine System(IUS) is a T-shaped plastic device that contain the hormone progesterone and is place in your uterus. The IUS affects your ovaries and the lining of your uterus. Most of the hormone stays in your uterus. This method can keep you from getting pregnant for up to five years. Your medical provider can help you decide if this is the right choice for you.
Patch (PDF) - A patch about half the size of a credit card that you wear on your bottom, belly, thigh, upper arm, but not your breast. It contains hormones like the sex hormones produced by your own body. Requires a prescription from your medical provider.
Spermicides (PDF) - Chemicals that kill sperm. They come in several forms such as spermicidal jelly, cream, film or foam. Available without a prescription at drug or grocery stores and family planning clinics.
Sponge (PDF) - A small foam pillow soaked in spermicide that you place deep in your vagina, over your cervix. The foam and spermicide traps and absorbs sperm before the sperm have a chance to enter your cervix. Available without a prescription at local drug or grocery stores and family planning clinics.
Sterilization for men (vasectomy) and sterilization for women (tubal litigation) is accomplished by having an operation that permanently blocks part of the reproductive system. This is a permanent, non-reversable operation that can be done at a clinic for men and a hospital for women.
Vaginal ring (PDF) - A soft, plastic ring that you put in your vagina. It contains low doses of sex hormones that you leave in your body for three weeks. Requires a prescription from your medical provider.