Every year, 85 percent of women aged 15-44 who don't use birth control during vaginal intercourse become pregnant. Although the only guarantee against unintended pregnancy is to not have sex, using birth control can reduce your risk of pregnancy from vaginal intercourse. To decide which method to use at this point in your life, think about the answers to these questions:
How well will it fit into your lifestyle?
How convenient will it be?
- How effective will it be?
- How safe will it be?
- How affordable will it be?
- How reversible will it be?
- Will it protect against sexually transmitted infections?
A Few Options
Abstinence - There are two types of abstinence. Both prevent pregnancy. Both keep sperm out of the vagina. Periodic abstinence is a way that sexually active women prevent pregnancy. They become familiar with their fertility patterns. Then they abstain from vaginal intercourse on the days they think they could become pregnant. Continuous abstinence is not having sex play with a partner at all. It is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. It also prevents sexually transmitted infection.
Male condoms are sheaths of thin latex or plastic worn on the penis during intercourse. And they
are available dry or lubricated. Sometimes they are called rubbers, safes, or jimmies.
They reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infection. They are also effective over-the-counter,
barrier methods of reversible birth control.
The female condom is a reversible barrier method of birth control. It is a polyurethane (plastic) pouch with flexible rings at each end. It is inserted deep
into the vagina like a diaphragm. The ring at the closed end holds the pouch in the
vagina. The ring at the open end stays outside the vaginal opening.
"The pill" is the common name for oral contraception. There are two basic types - combination
pills and progestin-only pills. Both are made of hormones like those made by a woman's
ovaries. Combination pills contain estrogen and progestin. Both types require a medical
evaluation and prescription. Both can prevent pregnancy.
The patch - Ortho Evra - is a reversible prescription method of birth control. It is a thin, beige, plastic patch that sticks to the skin. A new patch is placed on the skin of the buttocks, stomach, upper outer arm, or upper torso once a week for three weeks in a row. No patch is used in the fourth week. The patch releases synthetic estrogen and progestin to protect against pregnancy for one month.
The Ring - NuvaRing - is a reversible prescription method of birth control. It is a small, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina once a month. It is left in place for three weeks and taken out for the remaining week. The ring releases synthetic estrogen and progestin to protect against pregnancy for one month.
The sponge is a non-prescription barrier method of reversible birth control. It is inserted deep into the vagina before intercourse. The sponge is made of solid polyurethane foam and contains spermicide. It is soft, round, and about two inches in diameter. It has a nylon loop attached to the bottom for removal.
Spermicide is a non-prescription barrier method of reversible birth control. It is available in a variety of contraceptive preparations, including creams, film, foams, jellies, and suppositories which are liquids or solids that melt after they are inserted. These products are inserted deep into the vagina shortly before intercourse. The chemical spermicide that they contain immobilizes sperm - preventing it from joining with an egg.
"The shot" is an injectable progestin-only prescription method of reversible birth control. It contains a hormone that is similar to the progesterone made by a woman's ovaries to regulate the menstrual cycle. The shot is also known as DMPA. The D stands for "depot," the solution in which the hormone is suspended. The hormone is medroxyprogesterone acetate. The common brand name for the DMPA shot is Depo-Provera.
Implanon® is a thin, flexible plastic implant about the size of a cardboard matchstick. It is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. The implant contains progestin. Progestin is a synthetic hormone similar to the progesterone made by a woman's ovaries. It works in two ways. It keeps the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation). It also thickens the cervical mucus, preventing sperm from joining with an egg. In theory, it c
Diaphragms, Caps, and Shields - The diaphragm is a shallow, dome shaped cup with a flexible rim. It fits securely in the vagina to cover the cervix. FemCap is a silicone cup shaped like a sailor's hat. It fits securely in the vagina to cover the cervix. Lea's Shield is a silicone cup with an air valve and a loop to aid in removal. It fits snugly over the cervix. Each method must be used with spermicide cream or jelly. Diaphragms, caps, and shields keep sperm from joining the egg. They block the opening to the uterus.The contraceptive cream or jelly stops sperm from moving.ould prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, but it has not been proven that it does.
Intrauterine Device - IUDs are small, "T-shaped" contraceptive devices made of flexible plastic. IUDs are available by prescription only. A woman and her clinician decide which is the right type for her, and the clinician inserts it in her uterus to prevent pregnancy. Two types are now available in the U.S.: ParaGard and Mirena.
Tubal sterilization is intended to be a permanent method of birth control. More and more women today
choose sterilization. They know that this single procedure can provide highly effective
protection against pregnancy for the remainder of their reproductive years. They also
know that there is an increased chance of failure with many temporary methods, that
some temporary methods have bothersome side effects, and that some may be inconvenient.
Vasectomy is permanent birth control for men. It is a medical procedure that is intended to cause sterility. About 500,000 men in the U.S. choose vasectomy every year. It is chosen by men who have completed their families or by men who do not want children. These men want birth control that is intended to be permanent. They prefer vasectomy because most reversible methods are less reliable, sometimes inconvenient, and may have unpleasant side effects for the women in their lives. Vasectomy is nearly 100 percent effective. It is intended to be permanent. It is safe. It doesn't limit sexual pleasure.
** For more information about specific birth control options, information can be found
on the Planned Parenthood website. **
Planned Parenthood is America's leading sexual and reproductive health care advocate
and provider. Founded by Margaret Sanger in 1916 as America's first birth control
clinic, Planned Parenthood believes that everyone has the right to choose when or
whether to have a child, that every child should be wanted and loved, and that women
should be in charge of their destinies.
Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide provide sexual and reproductive health care, education, and information to millions of women, men, and teens in the United States each year. Three and a half million Planned Parenthood activists and supporters also serve as advocates for sexual and reproductive rights.