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Birth Control Options

Birth control keeps you from getting pregnant during sex. There are many types of birth control. Some are more effective than others. New types are being tested all the time. Your health care provider can help you decide which type of birth control is best for you. But no matter which type you choose, you and your partner must use it the right way each time you have sex. Some of the most common types are described below. 

Image of condom

Condom

A condom is a thin covering that fits over the penis. (The female condom fits inside the vagina.) A condom catches sperm that come out of the penis during sex.

 

Image of using spermicide

Spermicide

Spermicide is a gel, foam, cream, tablet, or sponge (although the sponge has barrier properties in addition to spermicidal properties). It is put in the vagina before sex to kill sperm.

 

Image of cervical cap

Diaphragm and cervical cap

Diaphragms and cervical caps are round rubber cups that keep sperm out of the uterus. They also hold spermicide in place.

Image of IUD

Intrauterine device (IUD)

An IUD is a small device that is placed in the uterus by a health care provider to prevent pregnancy.

 

Image of pill

The pill

The birth control pill is taken daily. It contains hormones that stop a woman’s body from releasing an egg each month.

 

Image of syringe

Other hormones

Hormones that stop a woman’s egg from being released each month can be delivered in other ways. These include injection, implant, patch, or vaginal ring.

Other options

Here are additional birth control methods:

  • Male sterilization (vasectomy) is surgery that ties off or cuts the tubes called the vas deferens in the testes. This is done so sperm cannot come out when the man ejaculates.

  • Female sterilization is surgery to block or cut the woman's fallopian tubes. It can be done by placing an instrument into the uterus (hysteroscopy) to insert small coils into the fallopian tubes (Essure). It can also be done through the abdomen (laparoscopy) to block the tubes or remove part or all of the tubes.

  • Withdrawal method is when the male doesn't ejaculate into the vagina, but rather withdraws his penis just before he ejaculates.

  • Fertility awareness method is when a woman keeps track of her fertile days. She only has intercourse at times when she is not likely to get pregnant.

Emergency contraception (EC)

Emergency contraception can help prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Hormone pills (“morning after pills”) are available over the counter to anyone. A second type of EC, a copper IUD, needs to be inserted by a trained health care provider. Either type of EC can be used up to 5 days after sex, but it should be taken as soon as possible. The sooner it is used after unprotected sex, the more likely it is to be effective. EC will not work if you’re already pregnant.

Things to consider

  • Choose a type of birth control that is easy for you to use.

  • Read the package and follow your health care provider's instructions to learn to use your birth control the right way.

  • Most forms of birth control do not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To protect against STIs, always use a latex condom. If you are allergic to latex, a non-latex condom may provide some protection.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bowers, Nancy, RN, BSN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Sacks, Daniel, MD, FACOG
Date Last Reviewed: 5/10/2015
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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