What Kind of Birth Control Is Right for You?

There are several types of birth control you can use while sexually active. It’s important to practice safe sex even if you are avoiding getting pregnant. Birth control such as condoms can also prevent STIs and STDs. When choosing contraceptives, there are several things to consider. Let’s dive into all the kinds of birth control. 

Different Types of Birth Control  

Depending on your medical history and current health, visit a doctor before going on any form of birth control. A trusted gynecologist can give you the best advice for your sexual and reproductive health. Here are the different kinds of birth control both available on the market and by prescription. 

5 Kinds of Hormonal Birth Control 


Intrauterine devices are long-acting reversible contraceptives that can prevent pregnancy. They are inserted into the uterus or as implants placed just under the skin. They are proven most effective due to their longevity and placement. The failure rate is less than one in one hundred. IUDS can stay inserted and be effective for up to eight years. Hormonal implants (usually placed under the skin of your upper arm) can last for three to five years.  

Birth Control Pills  

Birth control pills, also simply known as “the pill,” are a short-acting option taken orally, that can also prevent pregnancy. They have a success rate of 99% when taken correctly. These pills are only prescribed by a medical professional, with several brands offered in pharmacies. These must be taken daily around the same time each day. Once prescribed, you take the pill on the first day of your period. Consistently take it for one month while using another form of birth control such as condoms to prevent pregnancy. After one month, your body will have adjusted, and the pill will be effective on its own at this point.  

Stick-on patches  

If you struggle with swallowing pills or taking birth control daily, try the stick-on patch. It is an adhesive patch typically put on less exposed areas of skin, for example, your lower abdomen or back. The patch is applied on the first day of your period and is changed every seven days. You skip the patch on the fourth week to allow for your menstruation. It has similar side effects to the pill and is guaranteed effectiveness with correct use. You can increase your risk of pregnancy should the patch be removed or unchanged. Check the patch regularly and use backup contraception if it is no longer sticking and needs to be replaced.  

Vaginal rings 

A vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina and stays in place. You can insert the ring manually but will need to get a prescription before purchase of this kind of birth control. As a hormonal contraception, the ring lines the vagina with estrogen and progestin to prevent ovulation and to thicken the cervical mucus so sperm cannot reach the egg. Like the stick-on patch, it is inserted for 21 days (about 3 weeks) and removed for one week to allow menstruation. You then insert a new vaginal ring.  

There are also reusable vaginal rings which can be removed and washed then reinserted, and last for a year. Insertion is like inserting a tampon, sticking the ring in as far as you can, and leaving it there. It may dislodge if straining during a bowel movement or sexual intercourse. The ring does not cause discomfort, though, and has less side effects than other hormonal contraception.  

Birth control shot  

Known by its brand name, Depo-Provera, this is a contraceptive injection that works like the previous birth control options, suppressing ovulation and thickening the cervical mucus. A healthcare provider must administer the shot which you will need to get every three months. The main risk associated with the birth control shot is a delay in your return to fertility. It can take up to ten months for ovulation to start again.   

What Are the Side Effects of Hormonal Birth Control? 

Note that due to the hormonal changes in your body caused by these types of birth control, namely the increase in estrogen and progestin hormones, you may experience the following periodically:  

  • Sore or swollen breasts 
  • Spotting (light bleeding) between periods  
  • Lighter periods or missed periods 
  • Mood swings or depression  
  • Mild headaches 
  • Nausea 
  •  Bloating 
  • Decreased libido  
  • Weight gain 
  • Vaginal discharge 

5 Types of Barrier Birth Control  


Condoms are the most popular form of barrier birth control. They are over the counter, sold in all pharmacies and most convenient stores, and are affordable and easy to use. The male partner will wear the condom in this case to cover the penis, preventing sperm from going inside the vagina upon ejaculation. It is advised to wear the condom before any penetration occurs to ensure pre-ejaculatory fluid isn’t released into the vagina as this can cause pregnancy, although rare.  

Female condoms––thin, plastic pouches––are also available and like a vaginal ring, are inserted into the vagina but contain no hormonal lining. These condoms are to be removed after sex. They are proven 80% effective while the male condom is proven 98% effective with proper use and no breakage. If a condom is broken during penetration, then a pregnancy may occur. In this case, you may want to look into emergency contraception (below).  

Condoms are the only form of birth control that help against STDs and are the safest backup contraception should any hormonal birth control become irregular.  


The sponge is another non-prescription birth control option. It is a small round piece of soft foam coated with spermicide that can be inserted up to 24 hours before sexual intercourse. You must run the sponge first under water to activate the spermicide before insertion. It is proven to be 88% effective and you are encouraged to leave it in after sex for at least six hours but not more than 30 hours to avoid infection. To remove the sponge, you simply pull on the loop attached to it.  


A dome-shaped device made of latex or silicone, the diaphragm needs to be individually fitted by a healthcare professional. It is prescription-based. Unlike the sponge, it does not come with spermicide. You will need to apply spermicidal gel onto the rim and in the dome before inserting into the vagina. The diaphragm is reuseable but should be washed well and dried before putting it back in its case. It should also be checked regularly for wear or holes. Replace it after two years or have it refitted should you gain or lose ten pounds, have a baby, or have surgery around your abdomen or pelvis. One-sized diaphragms that fit most women are also available by prescription.  

Cervical Cap  

Like the diaphragm, a cervical cap is a small, dome-shaped device made of plastic that stays in place via suction. The cervical cap comes in three sizes. Your size will be determined by your healthcare professional. Spermicidal gel should be applied to the rim and dome. The cap should be checked (by pressing on the dome) before and after sex to ensure it is fully covering the cervix. It should be replaced every year or before that should any damage be seen, similar again to the diaphragm.  


Except for the sponge, which already comes with spermicide, this contraceptive can be used with all types of birth control. It is a chemical that inactivates sperm before entering the uterus. It comes in four forms: foam, gels or creams, suppositories, or films (thin sheets inserted close to the cervix). Insert it into the vagina with the help of an applicator. Apply the spermicide 10 to 15 minutes before sex. It is only effective for one hour, meaning reinsertion will be necessary for every act of sex.  

Emergency Birth Control  

The “Morning After” Pill 

Should unprotected sex occur, emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy. The “morning after” pill can be bought over the counter. Popular brand, Plan B, is a hormonal pill. For non-hormonal pills like Ella, a prescription from a doctor is required. The longer you wait from the time you had sex to the time you take either pill will directly affect your chance of getting pregnancy. It is suggested to take it right away as its effectiveness decreases as days go by. It is only effective for three to five days, when sperm is alive. 

Birth control pills 

If you have not been regularly taking the pill and have unprotected sex, these can still be effective in preventing pregnancy. Catch up to the number of pills you failed to take beforehand. For every pill missed, you should add another pill to your daily dosage. Only take up to two per day until you’ve caught up to your regular schedule. This approach is less effective, though, and does not guarantee prevention of pregnancy. It can also increase the side effects, like nausea.  

Copper-T IUD  

Not to be confused with the hormonal IUD discussed above, the copper-T IUD works as an emergency contraception. It is inserted into your body by a medical professional within five days of when you last had sex. The IUD can also prevent pregnancy for as long as you have it in place. It is a non-hormonal type of birth control and is 99% effective when used properly.  

Permanent Birth Control 

Tubal ligation  

Before deciding on any permanent birth control, it’s important to understand that any reversal procedure is not guaranteed and can be more costly. Pregnancy success rates drop after a reversal, so you should be 100% sure that you won’t want to get pregnant later before proceeding with this kind of birth control. Tubal ligation happens by closing off the fallopian tubes or is also known as “having your tubes tied.” It is a surgical procedure where the doctor will cut through your abdomen and requires anesthesia. In most cases, though, you can go home the same day.  


This is the same procedure but is done on the male partner, where the tubes that provide sperm through semen are cut and tied. Reversal surgery is available but again, it is not guaranteed and can be more difficult while also causing longer recovery time and potential risks. It is also not guaranteed that your partner will become pregnant after the reversal, or it may take a longer time, with pregnancy success rates declining to 60% after the reversal 

Should You Be on Birth Control?

There are many different birth control options, with pros and cons for each. Again, choose the type of birth control that is best for you with the guidance and recommendation of your doctor.  

Birth control can aid with period cramps and even acne, but on the other hand, can pose health risks, such as blood clots, heart attack, infertility, and even cervical cancer. These risks are low but should be kept in mind for prolonged use. If any birth control becomes detrimental, stop use immediately. 

Your sexual and reproductive health are important and should be treated with the utmost care and caution. Additionally, it is best to practice safe sex and get regular STI testing.  

Should birth control not be effective, and you miss a period, know the different signs and symptoms of pregnancy and when you should take a pregnancy test.  

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