There are many birth control methods that provide effective pregnancy prevention. Essentially, they fall into two categories: those that rely on hormones to help prevent pregnancy and those that are non-hormonal and work as a barrier to prevent sperm from reaching an egg. Only barrier methods also help reduce the risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD).
The links on each page provide reliable information about the various forms of contraception and may help you (and your partner) decide what options are best for you.
CONDOMS & OTHER BARRIER METHODS
It has been reported that one of the earliest examples of use of a barrier contraceptive was illustrated on a cave painting in France, dating between 15,000BC-10,000BC. The painting is of a man shown in the act, wearing a sheath.
Male and female condoms provide protection by blocking the transfer of fluids and/or sperm. Made of latex, animal membrane or polyurethane, condoms are easy to use, inexpensive and widely available without prescription at pharmacies, grocery and convenience stores. They are most effective when used with a lubricant to prevent breakage and provide good protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Condoms are used close to the time or just before intercourse.
Male condoms are worn over the penis and can be used for vaginal or anal intercourse, or oral sex. They are most effective when applied before any sort of sexual activity begins. After intimacy, the condom should be removed and disposed of in the trash. Do not reuse condoms, or use more than one at a time, as this will increase the risk of tearing the condom. If engaging in more than one type of sexual behavior, such as vaginal and anal sex, a different condom should be used for each act.
Condom Information from Bedsider.org
A female condom is a thin, loose-fitting and flexible plastic tube worn inside the vagina. A soft ring at the closed end of the tube covers the cervix during intercourse and holds it inside the vagina. Another ring at the open end of the tube stays outside the vagina and partly covers the lip area. A female condom provides a barrier between partners to prevent sharing bodily fluids like semen, blood, or saliva. Female condoms can be inserted up to 8 hours before intercourse and are only effective when placed prior to intercourse. After sex, the female condom should be removed from the woman's vagina and discarded in the trash.
Female Condom Information from Bedsider.org
The diaphragm is a latex device in the shape of a shallow "cup" that covers the cervix and part of the vaginal wall, and is held in place by a flexible rim. It is most effective used with spermicidal foam or jelly inside the "cup" and around the rim for added protection. It provides a solid barrier to prevent sperm from traveling through the cervix to an egg. Diaphragms are available by prescription from a health care provider. It may help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
Diaphragm Information from Bedsider.org
Spermicides are used to kill sperm before it reaches the vaginal tract. They can be used alone as a preventative method but are best used with another barrier method such as condoms. Spermicides are widely available, come in a variety of textures (e.g. creams, foams, jellies) and can be purchased without prescription at most pharmacies and markets.
*Barrier birth control methods can also help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
Spermicide Information from Bedsider.org
If birth control methods fail or are not used, Emergency Contraception provides effective back up for pregnancy prevention if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse.
Emergency Contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. Emergency contraception is sometimes called the morning after pill, backup birth control, or by the brand name Plan B. It is a form of birth control, not abortion. It is available to individuals over 18 yrs. of age without a prescription at most pharmacies, and by prescription for individuals under 17 years of age.
Like other hormonal methods of birth control, EC offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
- Morning After Pill (Emergency Contraception) Information from Planned Parenthood
- Emergency Contraception Information from Bedsider.org
BIRTH CONTROL IMPLANT
The birth control implant (Implanon and Nexplanon) is a thin, flexible plastic, matchstick-sized implant that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm by a health care professional. It protects against pregnancy for up to three years. Like Depo-Provera, it uses the hormone progestin to suppress ovulation and thicken cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg.
*Like other forms of hormonal birth control, Implanon does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
INTRAUTERINE DEVICES (IUD)
There are stories of nomads in ancient days inserting peach pits into the uterus of their female camels in order to prevent them getting pregnant so they could manage the long hauls across dessert. It became known that something placed in the uterus was an effective birth control method.
The IUD is a small plastic or metal birth control device placed into a woman's uterus by a health care provider. It can remain there for several years. The IUD prevents pregnancy by changing the physical environment of the reproductive tract. These changes appear to prevent an egg from being fertilized. The non-hormonal Paraguard Copper T can stay in the uterus for up to 12 years and the progesterone-releasing Mirena can stay in place for 5 years.
*IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
- IUDs Information from Planned Parenthood
- Understanding IUDs (information from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals)
- IUDs Information from Bedsider.org
- Myths About Intrauterine Contraception (information from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals)
VAGINAL RING (NuvaRing)
The vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring a woman inserts into her vagina once a month to prevent pregnancy. By releasing hormones, it prevents pregnancy by suppressing ovulation. It is left in place for three weeks and taken out for the remaining week each month and is available by prescription. For most women, it is a safe, flexible and convenient option.
*Like all forms of hormonal birth control, the vaginal ring does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
BIRTH CONTROL PILLS
In the 1930s, researchers determined that hormones can prevent ovulation in rabbits. Based on that concept, futher research led to the development of the human birth control pill, first made available to women in the 1960s. A commercially available birth control pill for men may soon be on the market.
Birth control pills, sometimes called "the pill" or oral contraception, are a prescription medication that women can take daily to prevent pregnancy. The hormones in the pill suppress ovulation. The hormones in the pill also prevent pregnancy by thickening a woman's cervical mucus, blocking sperm from joining with an egg. Most women can use birth control pills safely. For most women, pills are a safe, effective means of preventing unplanned pregnancy. Birth control pills are available by prescription from a healthcare provider.
*Like other forms of hormonal birth control, birth control pills do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Using Birth Control Pills Regularly For Successful Contraception (information from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals)
- The Pill Information from Bedsider.org
- Birth Control Pill Information (information from Planned Parenthood)
Depo-Provera is an injection of the hormone, progestin, which prevents pregnancy. Each shot prevents pregnancy for three months. It is one of the most effective methods of birth control available and works best when you get the birth control shot regularly, every 12 weeks. It is available by prescription from a health care provider.
*Like all forms of hormonal birth control, Depo-Provera does not protect against sexually transmissible infections.
- Depo-Provera Information from FamilyDoctor.org
- Birth Control Shot (Depo Provera) (information from Planned Parenthood)
- The Shot Information from Bedsider.org
BIRTH CONTROL PATCH (ORTHO EVRA)
The birth control patch is a thin, plastic patch that sticks to the skin. It releases hormones into the body through the skin. . The hormones in the patch are the same as those in the birth control pills. The patch prevents pregnancy by suppressing ovulation and thickening a woman's cervical mucus. The mucus blocks sperm and keeps it from joining with an egg. A new patch is placed on the skin once a week for three weeks in a row, followed by a patch-free week. For most women, it is a safe, flexible and convenient option. The Patch is available by prescription from a healthcare provider.
*Like other forms of hormonal birth control, the patch does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
- Birth Control Patch (Ortho Evra) Information from Planned Parenthood
- About Ortho Evra (by the maker of the Patch) (information from Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals)
- FDA labeling of Ortho Evra and risks (information from the Food and Drug Administration)
FERTILITY AWARENESS-BASED METHODS
Fertility Awareness increases a woman's understanding of her body and her menstrual cycle. In ancient days, fertility awareness was paired with plants as an effective birth control method. One of the oldest know effective plants for birth control was silphium, used before 370 B.C. By the fourth century, A.D., Silphium was extinct.
Fertility-awareness methods, also known as natural family planning, "the rhythm method" or charting fertility, are used by women who are opposed to, or don't want to use, other contraceptive options. Natural family planning requires commitment, education, and practice.
*Fertility Awareness methods offer no protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
- Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (information from Planned Parenthood)
- Fertility Awareness Methods (information from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals)
- Natural Family Planning (fact sheet from FamilyDoctor.org)
Mini-pills are progestin-only birth control pills and are an alternative for women who experience significant side-effects with other birth control pills or have medical conditions that prevent them from taking medication that contains estrogen. A pill must be taken every day at the same time.
*Like other forms of hormonal birth control, they do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
- Progestin-Only Pills (information from FamilyDoctor.org)
Sterilization for men and women is a permanent surgical procedure and most often, cannot be reversed.
Female sterilization, also called tubal occlusion or ligation, is a permanent contraceptive method for women who do not want more children. The method requires a simple surgical procedure. The two most common female sterilization approaches are minilaparotomy, which is usually performed under local anesthesia with light sedation, and laparoscopy, which requires general anesthesia. Female sterilization does not affect breastfeeding or interfere with intercourse and it is free from the side effects associated with some temporary methods.
- Tubal Sterilization Information from Family Doctor.org
- Sterilization for Women Information from Planned Parenthood
- Sterilization Information from Bedsider.org
Male sterilization, also called vasectomy, is a permanent contraceptive method for men who do not want more children. The method requires a simple surgical procedure and is performed under local anesthesia. Male sterilization is not castration; it does not affect the testes. The method does not interfere with intercourse or affect a man's sexual ability. No medical condition absolutely restricts a man's eligibility for the method. Male sterilization is generally safer and less expensive than female sterilization and it is a good way for men to share in the responsibility of family planning.
- Vasectomy Information from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
- Vasectomy Information from Planned Parenthood
* Sterilization is an effective method of preventing pregnancy, but offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).