Those who don’t wish to become pregnant have a wide variety of choices for birth control. Devices and pharmaceutical methods typically offer better reliability than barrier methods when it comes to pregnancy prevention.
Birth control prevents pregnancy in several ways, including thickening cervical mucus, changing the uterine lining, suppressing ovulation, and changing the way sperm behave.
Some birth control methods may be active right away, while others take several days to become fully effective. You should make sure that you know the specific details about your chosen method and follow precautions accordingly.
Choosing the right birth control method for your needs involves considering the convenience, reliability, permanence, and side effects of each available type.
The main types of birth control can be broken into three categories: devices, natural methods, and pharmaceutical methods. Of these, pharmaceuticals tend to be the most effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly.
A guide to different types of birth control
There are many contraceptive options for individuals who don’t wish to become pregnant. These birth control methods include condoms, an oral contraceptive pill, an intrauterine device (IUD), and more. Many of the contraceptive options on the market are safe, convenient, and effective at preventing pregnancy.
If you feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available, we’re here to help you make an informed decision.
This guide will walk you through different types of birth control on the market today. Learning more about each type of contraceptive and speaking with a healthcare professional will help you decide on the best choice for your reproductive health needs.
How does birth control work?
Before we explore the various types of birth control methods available, let’s quickly go over how birth control works.
Birth control is defined as a method used to prevent pregnancy. Contraceptives do this in several ways, including:
Thickening your cervical mucus so sperm cannot navigate through
Thinning the lining of your uterus so a fertilized egg cannot attach
Deterring or preventing sperm from reaching an egg
The type of birth control method you use will determine the specific manner in which it helps to prevent pregnancy. Additionally, the number one contraceptive use is usually for pregnancy prevention, but some can also protect against STDs.
Types of birth control
To help make our guide a little easier to navigate, we’ve broken down the different forms of birth control into three categories:
In each category, you’ll find some popular examples of each.
Devices typically refer to barrier methods of contraception. This means the birth control used provides a physical barrier between the eggs and sperm, blocking the two from joining.
While barrier methods of birth control are easily accessible (available for purchase at pharmacies without insurance), their reliability varies depending on the device and whether or not it’s used correctly.
If you're trying to decide between condoms vs. birth control alternatives, we have some helpful insights. Condoms are inexpensive, easy to use, and can help prevent both pregnancy and the spread of STDs. Both male and female condoms are available on the market:
MaleCondom – Male condoms are a thin, stretchy pouch that covers the penis during intercourse. They can be made of latex, plastic, or lambskin. Most condoms offer about 85% protection from pregnancy.
Female Condom – Female condoms are also known as internal condoms. They fit inside of your vagina to provide a barrier during intercourse. They’re typically made of soft, plastic material and are about 79% effective at preventing pregnancy. They can also help protect you from STDs.
A diaphragm is a small, silicone, cup-shaped device that can be inserted into the vagina where it covers the cervix. This prevents sperm from getting through and fertilizing an egg. To help enhance the effectiveness of a diaphragm, you should always use it in conjunction with spermicide.
With typical usage, a diaphragm can be 88 to 94% effective at preventing pregnancy.
The birth control sponge is a little harder to come by than some of the other barrier methods of contraception. In fact, there’s only one manufacturer in the U.S. today. This method of birth control involves inserting a small, plastic sponge-like device into your vagina. There, it covers your cervix.
The sponge contains spermicide and is between 80 to 91% effective with typical use.
The cervical cap is another barrier method of contraception. It’s a silicone cap-shaped device that covers the cervix. Like the diaphragm, the cervical cap is most effective when used in conjunction with spermicide.
With typical use, the cervical cap is between 71 to 86% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Pharmaceutical birth control options, including IUD vs. birth control pills, use hormones and devices to provide protection from unwanted pregnancy. Although these oral and hormonal contraception methods don’t provide protection against STDs, they’re among the most highly effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly.
Birth control pills
Birth control pills are an easy-to-use and accessible form of contraception, available for purchase with or without insurance.
This method relies on your ability to remember to take a birth control pill at the same time every day. When used correctly, birth control pills can thicken your cervical mucus to prevent sperm from passing through. They may also help suppress ovulation.
The two types of pills available include:
Combination pills – These pills use a combination of two hormones to prevent pregnancy—estrogen and progestin. They’re the most commonly used type of birth control pill. When used perfectly, combination pills are about 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Progestin-only pills – These are also called mini-pills. They only contain progestin and might be a better option for individuals who suffer from certain health conditions. Like the combination pill, the mini-pill is 99% effective when used perfectly.
The Intrauterine device (IUD) is another method of contraception. These small devices are implanted into your uterus and can last for anywhere between 3 to 12 years, depending on the type of IUD you use.
While you don’t need insurance to get an IUD, without insurance, you can expect to pay anywhere between $500–$1300 for your IUD.
The two main types include:
Copper – Copper IUDs don’t use hormones to prevent pregnancy. Instead, copper is wrapped around a small, t-shaped piece of plastic. Because copper is a sperm deterrent, once the IUD is implanted, it prevents sperm from reaching your eggs. These devices are up to 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Hormonal – Hormonal IUDs are similar to birth control pills in that they release tiny amounts of hormones into your body. The hormones can change the consistency of your cervical mucus, thin the uterine lining, and suppress ovulation. Hormonal IUDs are up to 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
As with all types of birth control, understanding the IUD pros and cons, how it works, etc., can be a deciding factor on whether this is the right method for you.
The birth control shot is an injectable that contains progestin to help suppress ovulation. Depending on whether or not you have insurance (and the specifics of your plan), you can expect to pay anywhere between $0–$150 for your birth control shot.
But how effective is birth control if you opt for the shot? If you use this method of contraception, you must get a shot every three months for it to be effective. When you get your shot on time every time, the birth control injection is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Sometimes, we make mistakes or our regular birth control option fails. In these situations, you might be able to use emergency contraception methods to prevent pregnancy. If you act within five days of unprotected sex, you can use one of the following options to avoid becoming pregnant:
Take the morning-after pill (Plan B, available at pharmacies for between $40–$50; or ella, which is prescription only)
Both of these methods can help you avoid an unwanted pregnancy.
Some people don’t want to (or perhaps can’t) use devices or pharmaceutical forms of birth control. Instead, they rely on natural methods to prevent pregnancy.
These methods can include:
Withdrawal (where your partner withdraws their penis before ejaculation)
Abstaining from vaginal sex
Tracking your menstrual cycle to avoid sex on your fertile days
Using the basal temperature method, which involves tracking changes in your body temperature to predict when you’re most fertile
Monitoring the consistency of your cervical mucus throughout your cycle so that you can predict your fertile window
When you track several bodily changes, including temperature, mucus, and your cycle, you use what’s known as the symptothermal method of birth control. However, it’s important to note that many modern types of birth control are highly effective and more likely to be successful than natural methods.
How long does it take for birth control to become effective?
Once you begin taking a new contraception method, you’ll need to know how long it will take before that method will prevent pregnancy. This is highly dependent on the type of birth control you use. For example:
Oral contraceptives like birth control pills take between 2 to 7 days to become effective
Condoms, cervical caps, diaphragms, and other devices are effective immediately
Other methods, such as a shot or an IUD, may take 7 days or more to become effective
You should ask your healthcare professional about the specifics of your chosen birth control method to ensure that you’re protected from unwanted pregnancy.
Factors to consider when choosing birth control
There are several factors to consider when making your decision about the best contraceptive method for your needs. These include:
Convenience – The first thing to consider is whether or not the contraceptive method will fit your lifestyle. If you have an unreliable schedule and have trouble remembering to do something at the same time every day, then birth control pills may not work for you.
Reliability – Next, you want your contraceptive method to be reliable. Many oral contraceptives and IUDs are up to 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly. In contrast, condoms and other barrier methods are affordable and work instantly but have lower levels of reliability.
Side effects – Birth control methods can come with side effects. Some individuals with certain medical conditions or other health-related problems might not be able to use certain types of birth control. You should speak with a healthcare professional about the potential side effects of the contraceptive options you’re considering.
Reversibility – Even if you don’t want to have children in the present, you may want to be able to become pregnant in the future. If so, you’ll want to choose an option that won’t impact your future ability to get pregnant.
Other benefits – Preventing unwanted pregnancies is just one reason people may choose to use contraceptives. Some types of birth control can offer additional benefits, such as relief from painful menstrual symptoms and disorders such as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Let The Pill Club help you choose the right contraception for your needs
There are many options you can choose from to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Barrier methods are an easy option, but they aren’t always as effective as the pharmaceutical options on the market. Using a natural method may offer some protection from pregnancy, but is typically less reliable.
Fortunately, if you need help determining the best option for your reproductive health needs, you can always rely on The Pill Club. Sign up for our services today to learn more.
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