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. And talk to your doctor. Factors that are important to your decision include:

  • Your health
  • Frequency of sexual activity
  • Number of partners
  • Desire to have children in the future

Contraception Options

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

The pill—The pill, also known as the oral contraceptive pill or birth control pill, is a popular form of reversible contraception in the United States. It uses a combination of estrogen and progestin (female hormones) to suppress ovulation (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 recommended for women who smoke, have a history of blood clots, or have certain types of cancer.

The male condom—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. Keep in mind that if you use other forms of birth control but also want some protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, the man should also use a latex condom. Simultaneous use of a spermicide with condom will further reduce the chance of pregnancy.

The female condom—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.

DepoProvera—This is a shot taken every three months that uses progestin to prevent pregnancy. It is highly effective as birth control, but does not protect against STDs.

Minipills—Minipills are taken daily and prevent pregnancy using progestin without estrogen. They are a good option for women who can’t use estrogen, like breastfeeding women. They are effective at preventing pregnancy, though a little less effective than the regular birth control pill. This option does not protect against STDs.

Intrauterine device (IUD)—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 offers no protection against STDs.

Contraceptive patch—The patch (eg, Ortho Evra), worn on the skin, delivers the hormones estrogen and progestin to the bloodstream. The patche is changed weekly. It is as effective as the pill.

Vaginal ring—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.

Diaphragms or cervical caps—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.

Sponge—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.

Emergency contraception—Emergency contraception refers to a series of contraceptive pills taken within 72 hours of 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.

Surgical sterilization—Sterilization by surgery is a permanent contraception for people who don’t want children in the future. It does not protect against STDs.

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