What's "best" among birth control methods differs from person to person. What's right for one person may not be right for others. And a person’s needs may also change over time.
- The only 100% assured method to avoid pregnancy is to not have penis-in-vagina sex or do any sexual stuff where sperm can get on the vulva or in a vagina; this is called abstinence.
- Condoms with any type of birth control are considered the most effective way to avoid pregnancy and this also guarantees extra protection. No birth control method is perfect. So, using condoms with another type of birth control (like the implant, IUD or pill) gives backup protection in case either method fails. In addition, condoms seriously lower the chances of getting all kinds of sexually transmitted infections, like HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes.
What are the different types of birth control?
Birth control or contraception is any method, medicine or device used to prevent pregnancy in a sexually active woman. Each method works differently, like preventing sperm to reach an egg or not allowing the body to release eggs. The primary goal of any birth control is to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Below are different types of birth control:
Short-acting hormonal contraception
- Common methods include everyday oral birth control pills, a skin patch that needs replacement every week, a vaginal ring that needs to be changed every month or a birth control injection given by the doctor every three months. All of these methods require a prescription.
- Short-acting hormonal contraception is about 91% to 95% effective in preventing pregnancy.
- Hormonal birth control side effects can vary. However, one beneficial side effect that many women notice is the reduction in period pain, frequency or flow.
Long-term contraception can be a good choice because of long-lasting birth control without much maintenance. Choices include an implant inserted into an arm or an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted into the uterus.
- These methods are 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
- They can work for 3 to 10 years, depending on the particular method you choose.
- The implant (Nexplanon) and hormonal IUDs (such as Skyla, Mirena and Kyleena) work by adjusting the body’s progestin levels over time. Copper IUDs (ParaGard) do not use hormones. Instead, the copper stops sperm from fertilizing your eggs.
- Side effects include discomfort when the device is put in place, and some people can experience a few temporary or (less commonly) ongoing side effects such as weight gain, headaches and soreness. However, many women find the benefits of low-maintenance, long-term birth control to be well worth it.
One-time barrier contraception
- Condoms, sponges, diaphragms, cervical caps and spermicide are all barrier birth control methods. Each of them works differently, but they all create a sperm “barrier” during sex to physically prevent sperm from reaching an egg. Barrier contraception methods don’t require a prescription and are available at many stores or online. Additionally, condoms help protect against sexually transmitted infections, the only birth control method to do so.
- They prevent pregnancy in 71% to 88% of the time depending on the method.
- Tubal ligation (for women) and vasectomies (for men) are surgical procedures intended to make pregnancy impossible.
- They’re almost 100% effective at preventing pregnancy. If you’re very sure you don’t want to have children in the future, they’re a great option to consider.
- Recovery time from these procedures usually takes only a few days. Sexual functions of patients and their partners are not affected.
- Permanent contraception is one of the most convenient birth control options only if a patient is confident that they don’t want children in the future.
- Reversing a tubal ligation or vasectomy is possible; however, there isn’t any guarantee that fertility will return.
- If a patient had sex without using birth control or birth control fails, emergency contraception can help prevent pregnancy.
- Pills and copper IUD are the two types of emergency birth control that are available.
- One type of pill often called “Plan B” is available from most pharmacies without a prescription; it can prevent pregnancy up to three days after sex. A more effective pill often called “Ella” does need a prescription but can prevent pregnancy up to five days after sex.
- Copper IUDs also require patients to see a doctor, but they’re almost 100% effective when inserted within five days of intercourse.