Your Contraceptive Options
Most popular method of birth controlPills contain estrogen and progestin and are taken once a day.Require a prescriptionWork by preventing ovar...

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Average Ratings

Oral Contraceptives (“The Pill”)

  • Most popular method of birth control
  • Pills contain estrogen and progestin and are taken once a day.
  • Require a prescription
  • Work by preventing ovaries from releasing eggs

Effectiveness: 99.7%, if used perfectly; with typical use, 92%.

Advantages

  • Effective and reversible
  • Make periods more regular and reduce cramping
  • Decrease risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer

Disadvantages

  • Must be taken everyday
  • Women over 35 who smoke can’t use them.
  • May increase risk of blood clots
  • Do not prevent sexually transmitted infections 

Transdermal Patch

  • A patch placed on the skin
  • Estrogen and progestin are released slowly and are absorbed through the skin.
  • Requires a prescription
  • Works by preventing ovaries from releasing eggs

Effectiveness: 99.7% if used perfectly; with typical use, 92%

Advantages

  • Effective and reversible
  • Makes periods more regular and reduces cramping
  • Applied once a week

Disadvantages

  • Must be taken everyday
  • Women over 35 who smoke can’t use them.
  • May increase risk of blood clots

Male Condom

  • A soft disposable sheath that fits over the erect penis
  • Physical barrier that prevents exchange of bodily fluids

Effectiveness: 98%, if used perfectly; with typical use, 85%.

Advantages

  • Available without a prescription
  • Protects against sexually transmitted infections  
  • May help prevent rapid ejaculation

Disadvantages

  • Must be available at time of intercourse
  • Must be stored and handled properly
  • May slip or break

Female Condom

  • A soft disposable sheath that is placed in the vagina before vaginal intercourse
  • Lines the vagina and prevents exchange of bodily fluids

Effectiveness: 95%, if used perfectly; with typical use, 79%.

Advantages

  • Available without a prescription
  • Protects against some sexually transmitted infections 

Disadvantages

  • Must be available at time of intercourse
  • Require proper insertion technique
  • May make noise during intercourse
  • May slip or break

Vaginal Contraceptive Ring

  • Flexible ring inserted into the vagina for three weeks and removed for one “ring-free” week 
  • Estrogen and progestin are absorbed through the vagina.
  • Requires a prescription

Effectiveness: 99.7% if used perfectly; with typical use, 92%

Advantages

  • Effective and reversible
  • Makes periods more regular
  • Applied once a month

Disadvantages

  • Possible side effects include irregular bleeding, breast tenderness, and headaches
  • Does not prevent sexually transmitted infections 

Injectable Contraceptive

  • Injection given in the buttocks four times a year
  • Prevents ovaries from releasing eggs
  • Contains progestin only
  • Requires a prescription and injection by a healthcare professional

Effectiveness: 99.7% if used perfectly; with typical use, 97%

Advantages

  • Effective and reversible
  • May be suitable for breastfeeding women
  • Does not contain estrogen
  • Decreases risk of endometrial cancer

Disadvantages

  • May cause irregular bleeding
  • May cause a decrease in bone mineral density
  • May cause weight gain
  • May cause a delay in getting pregnant when stopped
  • Does not prevent sexually transmitted infections
  • A healthcare professional must give injections

Intrauterine System (Mirena)

  • A T-shaped device that sits in the uterus and releases the hormone progestin
  • Prevents sperm from fertilizing the egg
  • Can be left in place for five years
  • Requires a prescription and insertion by a physician

Effectiveness: 99.9%

Advantages

  • Effective and long lasting, but still reversible
  • Does not contain estrogen
  • Decreases menstrual bleeding and cramping

Disadvantages

  • Possible side effects include irregular bleeding or spotting
  • Does not prevent sexually transmitted infections
  • A physician must insert and remove

Intrauterine Device or "IUD" (ParaGard)

  • A T-shaped copper device sits in the uterus
  • Prevents sperm from fertilizing the egg
  • Can be left in place for five years
  • Requires a prescription and insertion by a physician

Effectiveness: 99.2%

Advantages

  • Effective and long-lasting, but still reversible
  • Does not contain hormones
  • May decrease the risk of endometrial cancer

Disadvantages

  • Possible side effects include irregular bleeding or spotting
  • Does not prevent sexually transmitted infections
  • A physician must insert and remove

Female Sterilization

  • A surgical procedure to permanently close or block the fallopian tubes
  • Tubes are blocked by applying a clip or a ring or by burning them

Effectiveness: 99.5%

Advantages

  • Permanent
  • Very effective

Disadvantages

  • Permanent and difficult to reverse
  • Possible risks of surgery include risk of bleeding, infection, or damage to organs in the pelvis (bowels, bladder, blood vessels, etc.)
  • Does not prevent sexually transmitted infections 

Male Sterilization (Vasectomy)

  • Minor surgical procedure to close or block the tubes that carry sperm to the penis
  • No sperm is released in the man’s ejaculate and the egg cannot be fertilized

Effectiveness: 99%

Advantages

  • No significant long term side effects
  • Less invasive and more cost effective than female sterilization

Disadvantages

  • Difficult to have reversed
  • Does not prevent sexually transmitted infections
  • Not effective immediately; need to have follow-up test to show that no sperm are present

Sponge 

  • A soft foam sponge that contains a spermicide to disable sperm
  • Placed inside the vagina over the cervix; effective for 12 hours

Effectiveness: For women who have not given birth: 91%, if used perfectly; with typical use, 84%. For women who have given birth: 80%, if used perfectly; with typical use, 68%.

Advantages

  • Does not contain hormones
  • Can be used by women who smoke or are breastfeeding
  • Available in stores and pharmacies

Disadvantages

  • Must be available at time of intercourse
  • Some users may experience vaginal irritation
  • Does not prevent sexually transmitted infections

Spermicide

  • Creams, jellies, suppositories, or foam inserted into the vagina
  • Contains ingredients that disable sperm

Effectiveness: 82%, if used perfectly; with typical use, 71% (however, very effective, when used in combination with a condom).

Advantages

  • Does not contain hormones
  • Can be used by women who smoke or are breastfeeding
  • Available in stores and pharmacies

Disadvantages

  • Must be available at time of intercourse
  • Some people may be allergic.
  • Does not prevent sexually transmitted infections
  • Should be used with other forms of contraception

Diaphragm 

  • Latex dome that is positioned in the vagina over the cervix 
  • Blocks entry to the uterus so sperm cannot fertilize egg 
  • Must be left in vagina for six to eight hours after intercourse 
  • Requires a prescription and sizing performed by a healthcare professional 

Effectiveness: 94%, if used perfectly; with typical use, 84%.

Advantages

  • Does not contain hormones
  • Can be used by women who are breastfeeding
  • Available in pharmacies

Disadvantages

  • Must be available at time of intercourse
  • May increase risk of recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Requires proper insertion technique
  • Does not prevent sexually transmitted infections

Cervical Cap

  • Thimble-shaped silicone cap that fits over the cervix
  • Blocks entry to the uterus so sperm cannot fertilize egg 
  • Must be left in vagina for six to eight hours after intercourse 
  • Requires a prescription and sizing by a healthcare professional 

Effectiveness: For women who have not given birth: 91%, if used perfectly; with typical use, 84. For women who have given birth: 74%, if used perfectly; with typical use, 68%.

Advantages

  • Available without a prescription
  • Protects against some sexually transmitted infections 

Disadvantages

  • Must be available at time of intercourse
  • Require proper insertion technique
  • May make noise during intercourse
  • May slip or break
Written by: Pamela Rogers, MS, PhD
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by:
Published: Dec 5, 2010
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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