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Types of Birth Control


When considering birth control, it’s important to understand your options and the side effects of certain contraceptive products. From the basics to safety and effectiveness, we share all you need to know about birth control.

The Basics: Understanding the Different Types of Birth Control Methods

Although birth control options all exist for the purpose of preventing pregnancy, there are many methods to prevent pregnancy, whether medical or lifestyle-wise. It is important to note that not all types of contraceptives or birth control methods will prevent STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).


Refraining from engaging in sexual activity with another person prevents you from contracting STDs and prevents pregnancy with 100% effectiveness.

Barrier Methods

Several types of barrier methods of birth control work to prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from traveling to the uterus. Barrier methods should not be re-used and are usually considered single-use methods to prevent pregnancy. The more common side effects of barrier methods are irritation or allergic reactions.

The cervical cap is a small plastic, rubber or latex cup. It is placed over the cervix after being filled with spermicidal jelly or cream, and it is said to be 79% effective.1 Cervical caps are sized for your cervix by your doctor. There is a risk of severe infection, known as toxic shock syndrome, if the cervical cap is left in for longer than 48 hours.

Male and female condoms prevent sperm from entering the uterus, albeit in different ways. The male condom is worn over the penis, while the female condom is inserted into the vagina to prevent sperm from entering the vaginal canal and cervix and cover the area around the vulva. Male and female condoms also help prevent HIV and other STDs. Condoms must stay on for the entire duration of penetrative intercourse in order to be effective. Male condoms are 87% effective, while female condoms are said to be 79% effective.2

A contraceptive sponge is made of polyurethane foam and inserted to cover the cervix and block the entrance of sperm. In addition, the device contains spermicide and absorbs and traps sperm. This must be left in for at least six hours after your last instance of intercourse and be taken out no later than 30 hours after insertion. The contraceptive sponge is said to be 86% effective for women who have never given birth and 78% effective for women who have given birth.3

Diaphragms are devices filled with spermicidal jelly or cream that rest over the cervix. A diaphragm must be inserted three hours or less before engaging in intercourse. If used in addition to spermicide, the spermicide must be applied every time you engage in intercourse. Diaphragms are 83% effective.4

Spermicides are available as vaginal suppositories, foaming tablets, jelly, and foam products. Spermicide must be reapplied every time you engage in intercourse, does not protect against STDs or HIV, and is said to be 70% effective.5

Hormonal Birth Control Methods

Oral contraceptive pills blister on yellow pink background.

Hormonal birth control aims to prevent pregnancy by either preventing eggs from being released from the ovaries, making it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg, or thinning the uterine lining to lessen the chances of a fertilized egg attaching to the wall of the uterus.

 Breastfeeding is a natural hormonal birth control method. By nursing every four hours or more daily and every six hours nightly, and feeding breast milk exclusively, ovulation stops, preventing pregnancy. This method can be used with 98% effectiveness in the first six months following birth, or until your first period, which signals that your menstrual cycle has begun again.6

Implants can be 99% effective.7 They contain progesterone and are placed under the skin of the upper arm by a doctor using a needle. Implants must be replaced every three years.

Injections prevent pregnancy for one to three months and must be administered on a regular basis by a healthcare provider to retain their 94% effectiveness.8

Hormonal IUDs or copper IUDs are inserted into the uterus by a doctor and are said to be 99% effective.9 As some people experience discomfort and cramping during and after the procedure, you can talk to your doctor about pain-relieving methods if receiving an IUD insertion.

Patches deliver estrogen and progestin and are said to be 99% effective.10 They are placed on the upper arm, buttocks or hip for three weeks, and then removed for the fourth week so that menstruation can begin. If the patch becomes loose or falls off, you will need to use another form of birth control until your next patch.

Hormonal Pills are available in several forms:

  • The minipill contains progestin and is taken continually.
  • Emergency contraceptive pills are taken within five days of having unprotected sex.
  • Combination pills contain estrogen and progestin and include inactive pills for monthly menstruation.
  • Extended cycle pills reduce menstrual cycles to four per year and are taken daily.

Vaginal rings release progesterone and estrogen into the body. They are inserted and left in the vagina for three weeks, removed for one week, and replaced with a new ring following menstruation.

Other Methods of Birth Control

Sterilization prevents pregnancy with surgery. Tubal ligation, also called trans-abdominal surgical sterilization, closes, cuts or seals the fallopian tubes. This prevents the egg and sperm from meeting.

Male sterilization is called vasectomy, which closes the tubes through which sperm travel, known as the vas deferens. Approximately three months after male sterilization, the semen will no longer contain any sperm, which will prevent future pregnancy. Neither method prevents the transmission of STDs.

Because sterilization is permanent, it can sometimes be difficult to find a provider who is willing to perform it.

Hormonal vs. Non-Hormonal Options: Benefits and Considerations

Both hormonal and non-hormonal birth control options have benefits and considerations.

All forms of hormonal birth control are incredibly effective at preventing pregnancy. They can also help stabilize menstrual cycles, reduce symptoms, and lighten periods. Hormonal options don’t prevent STDs but may reduce the chance of developing certain cancers. They can take up to a week before they’re effective.

Hormonal options have a range of potential side effects like weight gain, depression and ovarian cysts, and they may also increase the risk of liver tumors, stroke, blood clots, and breast and cervical cancers.

Non-hormonal options can be immediately effective, with none of the side effects associated with hormonal methods. They also can be used as needed; when you decide to become pregnant, you can stop using non-hormonal methods and try to become pregnant immediately. Some non-hormonal methods also prevent STDs.

Some non-hormonal methods may be less effective than others or may require abstinence during parts of your cycle. They must also be used consistently to be effective and may increase the risk of allergy, toxic shock syndrome, UTIs and HIV.

Long-Term vs. Short-Term Solutions

Happy doctor and patient shaking hands.

Short-term options like condoms are non-invasive and are an easy form of birth control to start and stop. Long-term options may require appointments and may be invasive or even permanent.

It can be difficult to know which option is best. Past experiences, current needs and future plans can help you decide. For example, you may have had a negative experience with a method before, need something to help with period management or be unsure about having children right now. You may or may not have health insurance, which can impact your decision on the right birth control method for you.

Safety, Effectiveness and Side Effects: Making an Informed Choice

Regardless of the product or method you’re considering, it’s important you be provided with all of the information that’s available so that you can make an informed choice.
Your OB/GYN should work with you to ensure you are aware of all safety risks, ethical considerations, and side effects associated with any birth control option prior to implementing it. Always ensure that your OB/GYN is willing and able to provide this information before choosing any method of birth control.

Crystal Run’s Approach

Obstetrics and gynecology at Crystal Run Healthcare meets you where you are in your reproductive journey. To learn more about our full range of obstetrics and gynecology services—including prenatal and preventive care, emergency and office-based procedures, and minimally invasive surgeries,visit or call 845-703-6999.