contraceptive options With the advancement of science, there are many options for preventing pregnancy. Learning about each type can help you make an educated decision about which method to choose.

What Is the Best Birth Control Method for Me?

Take your time when it comes to determining which birth control method you'll use. Do your homework. Research what is available. Talk to your close friends and see what methods they use and how they like them. Talk to your doctor about which options might be right for you. Factors that are important to your decision include:

  • Your health
  • Frequency of sexual activity
  • Number of partners
  • Desire to have children in the future
  • Possible side effects
  • How comfortable you would be with the method

Note: Abstinence is the only 100% effective way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV infection. Abstinence is not having sexual intercourse.

Hormonal Contraception

The pill, also known as the oral contraceptive pill or birth control pill, is a popular form of reversible contraception. It uses a combination of estrogen and progestin (female hormones) to suppress the monthly release of an egg from the ovaries. Taken daily, the chance of becoming pregnant is very low. The pill does not protect against STDs, and is not advised for women who smoke, have a history of blood clots, or have certain types of cancer.

These are progesterone-only pills that are a popular choice for women right after giving birth. While these mini-pills are less effective than combination pills, they are often used after delivery because the combination pills can increase your risk of blood clots. If you are nursing, there is insufficient evidence to show that birth control pills will affect your milk supply.

The patch, worn on the skin, delivers the hormones estrogen and progestin to the bloodstream. The patch is changed weekly. It is as effective as the pill.

This type of device is surgically implanted in the arm. The small implant releases a progestin hormone and can provide birth control for three years before it needs to be replaced.

This is a thin, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina and worn for three-week periods. The ring delivers estrogen and progestin. It is also as effective as birth control pills.

Emergency contraception refers to a series of contraceptive pills taken soon after sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy. It does not prevent STDs. This method of birth control is not designed for long term use like the other birth control methods.

Condoms

Male condoms prevent pregnancy by blocking the passage of sperm to the woman. Except for abstinence, latex condoms are the only kind of birth control that also reduces your risk of getting HIV and other STDs. If you use other forms of birth control, and also want protection against STDs, the man should also use a latex condom. Using a spermicide with a condom will further reduce the chance of pregnancy.

Female condoms work in a similar way as the male condom in preventing the passage of sperm. It may help reduce your risk of getting STDs, but not as effectively as the male condom.

Barrier Devices

An IUD is a T-shaped device inserted through the vagina and into the uterus by a doctor. It prevents fertilization and is a convenient and highly effective form of contraceptive, but it does not protect against STDs. Depending on what type of IUD is used, it can be effective for up to 10 years. IUDs are a good option for women who are being treated for cancer, because they are effective and reversible.

These devices are available by prescription. They are used with spermicides and are inserted in the vagina against the cervix to block the passage of sperm.

Available over-the-counter, the sponge is made of plastic foam and has a spermicide. The device is inserted into the vagina before having sex, then removed after. The sponge does not protect against STDs. Compared to the diaphragm, the sponge may not be as effective in preventing pregnancy.

Surgery

Tubal ligation is surgery to block a woman's fallopian tubes so they do not release eggs. If eggs are not released, then pregnancy cannot occur. This surgery is permanent contraception for women who don’t want children in the future. It does not protect against STDs.

A vasectomy is surgery to block a man's vas deferens tubes so they do not release sperm. If sperm is not released, then pregnancy cannot occur. This surgery is permanent contraception for men who do not want children in the future. It does not protect against STDs.

Talk with your doctor to find out what options would work best for your individual situation.