Types of Birth Control
There are many types of birth control on the market, but not all of them will be right for you. Here's what you need to know.
Birth control is now more readily available than ever before, and the truth is that there are new options coming up every single year. If you want to make sure that you've gotten the right birth control for yourself, you really can't rely on others to help educate you about your options.
In order to make the best choice for yourself, you have to educate yourself on the different types of birth control out there. If you aren't sure where to start learning, this guide — as well as some supplemental information from Planned Parenthood and other women's health groups — can be the right start for your journey.
Natural Family Planning
Natural Family Planning is any form of birth control which involves no hormones or condoms whatsoever. These types of birth control involve no condoms, no hormones, and no actual technology to make it happen. There are three different types of birth control that fall into this category.
- Pulling Out. Pulling out happens when the man pulls his penis out of the woman before he ejaculates. No semen inside means no chance of pregnancy. The only problems with this is that it's possible to have semen in "precum," and this method offers zero STD prevention as well. In theory, this can be anywhere from 72 percent to 96 percent effective when done correctly. However, of heterosexual couples who use withdrawal, around 1 out of every 5 will find themselves pregnant within a year of this choice.
- Abstinence. This is the only form of birth control that is 100 percent effective against pregnancy and STDs, and it requires that you don't have sex. However, for most of us, this isn't compatible with reality.
- The Rhythm Method. This form of birth control involves watching the woman's fertility cycles and periods — then only having sex on days where there should not be an egg released. It's also the most common method in this category, and is often synonymous with Natural Family Planning. If done correctly, it's 99 percent effective. However, if you have abnormal cycles or hormone disorders, this is not advisable.
Natural birth control does not protect against STDs, unless you're not having sex.
Condoms are the most strongly suggested types of birth control on the market. These work by having a latex or sheepskin barrier between the vagina and the penis that makes it impossible for sperm to reach an egg.
Assuming that the condom doesn't break or have a hole in it, they are highly effective. If used correctly, they are 98 percent effective in theory — and they also are the only types of birth control that can protect against STDs.
The issue with condoms is that they can irritate sensitive skin. Sheepskin lubricated condoms are best for people who have latex allergies and sensitive skin.
It's surprising how many people misuse condoms, which in turn can lower their effectiveness. Many people might put the condom on backward, turn it over, then put it on directly... which can cause sperm to end up on the other end of the barrier.
Other major mistakes include using oil-based personal lubricant, opening up a condom with a sharp knife, or taking the condom off too early. So, it's possible to make a mistake when it comes to using condoms.
There are two types of birth control that go under the condom category. Male condoms and female condoms are the two biggest categories. Male condoms are more effective at birth control prevention than female condoms are.
Few types of birth control are as famous as the Pill. The Pill category is actually composed of dozens of different kinds of pills that can all work to prevent pregnancy. All of the pills involve female hormones that either thicken cervical mucus or prevent ovulation. There are three different types of birth control pills currently on the market:
- The Combo Pill. These have hormones that mimic estrogen and progestin, and are generally seen as the safest pill form when it comes to preventing pregnancy. Combo pill brands include Aviane, Ortho Tri-cyclen, and Seasonale.
- The Mini Pill. Mini pills only have progestin, and skip estrogen. They're seen as less effective, but are also safer for women who have had strokes in the past. Mini pill brands include Errin, Jolivette, and Micronor.
- The Emergency Morning After Pill.Unlike the Combo Pill and the Mini Pill, which are taken daily, Emergency Contraception is only taken once or twice — and is a backup plan in case of a broken condom or unprotected sex. This delayed egg release and/or impedes fertilization.
Standard daily use pills have up to a 91 percent efficacy rate, while the emergency pill can work up to 90 percent of the time if it's taken as soon as possible. All pills, with an exception of Emergency Contraception, are prescription-only in the US.
That being said, birth control pills aren't reliable if you forget them twice in a month, if your hormones are extremely dysfunctional, or if you're taking antibiotics. Even being overweight can make them less effective. Birth control pills also do not prevent STD transmission.
All pill methods have the risk of side effects, including nausea, cramping, mood swings, and a higher risk of blood clots. However, not everyone will experience side effects, and some may actually experience an overall improvement in their health.
The Depo Provera shot is a shot that delivers a high concentration of progestin into your body. This in turn provides birth control that is anywhere from 94 to 99 percent effective for three months to six months in time.
It's a hormone-based shot, which means that side effects can happen. However, most doctors would advise others to try other types of birth control before they try the Depo shot.
This is a "Black Box" shot that has been cited for having extreme side effects in many people. Black Box prescriptions are the strongest warning the FDA can have against a medicine without it being banned.
Massive weight gain, bone density loss, mood swings, being unable to have children for up to 9 months after the last shot, and also having cripplingly painful cramps during periods have all been reported.
On a similar note, it's also used as a form of chemical castration in male inmates and sex offenders because of its tendency to lower libido and sexual performance in men.
Intra-uterine devices, or IUDs, are types of birth control that are meant for long term use. They are either hormonal (Mirena, Skyla), or use copper (ParaGuard) to help prevent pregnancy. This form of birth control is up to 99 percent effective, and can be used from 5 to 12 years, depending on the IUD you have.
Copper IUDs also can double as Emergency Contraception.
That being said, mood swings can happen with hormonal IUDs. Copper IUDs have been linked to heavier bleeding. And, IUDs also can perforate through your uterus in very rare cases.
Overall, though, IUDs are considered to be one of the safest types of birth control for people who are looking for long term but reversible contraception. IUDs are prescription only and must be inserted by a professional.
If you're like me and are certified childfree by choice, then surgical sterilization is your best bet. It's 99 percent effective and can be an option for both women and men.
The problem with surgical sterilization is that doctors just don't want to do the surgery, and if you're young, you may actually have to go overseas or out of state in order to find a doctor who will actually listen to your lifestyle preferences.
Many, many women and men are outright rejected by doctors and told that they don't know what they want when they ask for this surgery. I know this because it's happened to me.
I personally had 12 different doctors refuse to sterilize me, and it was only because my mom enlisted a family friend's help that I even was able to get the surgery I need. I know I'm not alone, and yes, it's criminal that I had to even get to this point to have a doctor listen to me.
This is one of the smartest types of birth control out there — and sadly, doctors just don't want to give their patients the bodily autonomy they want.
The Patch and the Ring
The Patch and the Ring are both types of birth control that involve slow release of hormones over the course of one to three months. This is a highly effective, slow-release, less tedious way to get birth control.
Instead of taking a pill daily, the Patch allows you to stick a patch on your skin for around one to three months to get your hormones in. The ring, on the other hand, is a monthly contraceptive that is inserted into the vagina and releases hormones inside.
Both the patch and the ring have efficacy rates over 92 percent when used normally. In theory, they have a 99 percent effectiveness rate. Like any other hormone contraceptive, they do have a risk of side effects with them — and they won't prevent STD transmission solo.
Alternative Birth Control
These types of birth control are often seen as backup plans, or choices to use alongside condoms and IUDs. These birth control types have less than 75 percent effectiveness when used realistically, and are generally not considered to be smart birth control options unless used with a condom. They include:
- The Sponge. This is a sponge that is put into the vagina, and is meant to soak up semen. When used typically by someone who has had kids, it's around 68 percent effective — which is only slightly more effective than not having any birth control at all.
- Spermicide. Spermicide is often used on condoms, or in a gel form. In theory, spermicide alone is 81 percent effective when used as birth control. In practice, it's 71 percent effective.
- The Diaphragm. Diaphragms are cups that are placed in the vagina to cover up the cervix entry, therefore avoiding implantation. These can easily slip and fall, and are only 84 percent effective if you have not had a child, and around 68 percent effective if you have had kids.