Birth Control

What are the different birth control options?
Pregnancy results when sperm from a man combines with an unfertilized egg in a woman. Abstinence (not having sex at all) is the only guaranteed way not to get pregnant. (Complete abstinence from vaginal, oral, or anal sex is the only way to completely avoid sexually transmitted diseases.) However, you still have control over when and if you become a parent. 
Birth control, or contraception, can keep you from getting pregnant when used correctly, but there is no single best birth control method. Rather, there are lots of birth control options because different women (and their sexual partners) have different needs. The effectiveness and side effects of these different methods vary, so you should discuss your own situation with your doctor when choosing the birth control method that's right for you.

What are the different birth control options?

The general types of temporary birth control are:
  • Rhythm method - this is free, but only works if you understand your menstrual cycle and know exactly on what days you are fertile (because an egg is traveling through the fallopian tube from an ovary), and thus should abstain from sex. Because cycles can be variable, this is less reliable than most other methods.
  • Barriers include the contraceptive sponge, diaphragm, cervical cap, cervical shield, and male and female condoms. All of these methods physically block the path between sperm and the egg, and most use spermicide to kill sperm as well. The sponge, spermicide and condoms are available over the counter, but other barriers require a prescription because a doctor must fit them to your cervix.
  • Hormones include oral contraceptives (the "pill"), the patch (Ortho Evra) which delivers hormones slowly through the skin, shots (Depo-Provera), and the vaginal ring (NuvaRing) which delivers hormones slowly into the vagina. These hormones keep you from producing eggs, and/or create cervical mucus which helps block sperm. You need a prescription from a doctor to use all hormonal birth control methods.
  • Devices include intrauterine devices (IUDs) which work both by preventing fertilization or by preventing development of a fertilized egg; and rods which are placed under the skin on your upper arm and slowly release a hormone that helps block sperm.   Devices need to be put in by a doctor.
  • An Emergency Contraceptive (Morning after pill, or Plan B) is taken after birth control was not used or failed during vaginal sex. You have to take two hormone pills 12 hours apart. The hormones stop egg production and/or help block sperm. This is available over the counter if you are 17 or older. If you are younger than 17, it is available by prescription.
You can also achieve permanent birth control through surgery or an implant called Essure.
Read more about these birth control methods at
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