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Which Method of Birth Control Should I Use? Part I

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So you're sexually active and having vaginal intercourse and you're interested in preventing pregnancy. It's 2009 and that means there are a lot of methods of birth control to choose from. Depending on a range of factors, it's important to find a birth control that fits for you. You wouldn't just throw on a sweater at the store without trying it on, right? Why would you blindly choose a birth control method without knowing all the facts? In a two-part series, I've compiled the basic pros and cons of many birth control options that are available in the United States.

Note that I have focused on common birth control methods that are meant to prevent pregnancy for a consistent period of time (not emergency contraception, for example) and are methods for people who are having vaginal intercourse (not abstinence, for example).


The Deal: Used correctly, these plastic or latex covers for a penis help prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The Pros: They prevent against STDs! They're widely available and some college campuses or health clinics have them available for free; It puts some of the physical duties and responsibility of preventing pregnancy on male partners; They're non-hormonal; When used correctly, condoms are 98% effective

The Cons: Some women are allergic to latex condoms (but there are plastic condoms and female condoms available); Maybe your partner refuses to wear condoms or has trouble maintaining an erection with them on - assuming your partner cares about your sexual health (and his!) female condoms are also available and effective in preventing pregnancy; Condoms are less effective if used incorrectly

The Diaphragm:

The Deal: It's a latex cup that is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. It blocks access to the uterus and, when used with spermicide, stops sperm from moving.

The Pros: It's non-hormonal; it lasts up to two years; it is relatively affordable given how long it lasts; it is 94% effective if used perfectly; it can be used during breast-feeding

The Cons: Intercourse can sometimes move your diaphragm around; when not used perfectly it is only 84% effective; it can't be used during your menstrual cycle; it can be difficult for some to insert; some women may develop urinary tract infections or may be allergic to latex or spermicide; Does not prevent against STDs

The Pill:

The Deal: Oral contraceptives are taken 21 of 28 days and stops ovulation, thicken your cervical mucus and help prevent fertilization. There are two types: the progestin-only pill and the estrogen and progestin pill ("the combination pill")

The Pros: When used correctly, the pill is over 99% effective in prevent pregnancy; the oral contraceptive can help you if you have heavy periods and bad cramps; studies have shown that taking the combination pill can help reduce your risk of ovarian cancer

The Cons: You have to take it every day at around the same time; it can get expensive (ranging from $20-$50 a month); it is a hormonal drug which can cause a range of side effects; it's available only with a prescription; unlike other methods, it can increase some people's risk of serious issues like strokes or heart attacks; Does not prevent against STDs

The Patch:

The Deal: A hormonal patch is placed on the skin and releases estrogen and progestin to prevent ovulation

The Pros: Ortho Evra can be worn all the time, it is easy to use, your periods are lighter and less painful, when used correctly it is 99% effective in preventing pregnancies

The Cons: it can get expensive (ranging from $20-$50 a month); it is a hormonal drug which can cause a range of side effects; it's available only with a prescription; unlike other methods, it can increase some people's risk of serious issues like liver tumors or high blood pressure; Does not prevent against STDs

Stay tuned for part two!

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

An additional resource for birth control that your readers might find helpful can be found here.

September 26, 2012 - 11:12am
EmpowHER Guest

great resources on choosing a birth control method here (from Association of Reproductive Health Professions/ARHP):

A Woman’s Guide to Understanding Today’s Birth Control Choices (Also available in Spanish) http://tinyurl.com/yasqgwv

October 6, 2009 - 8:42am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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