Birth control is crucial to preventing pregnancy, and you'll find the right option no matter your lifestyle, price range or preferences. But there are so many options, how do you choose the best fit? Keep reading to determine which birth control is for you.
Barrier MethodsA barrier method blocks sperm from moving into your uterus where it would fertilize the egg. Most barrier methods can be paired with spermicide to further increase efficacy. It is worth noting that Nonoxynol-9, which is the active ingredient in spermicide, is quite abrasive and can cause micro-tears to sensitive tissue. Studies have shown that using spermicide can actually increase the rate of STI transmission.
Barrier methods of birth control typically don't have the same sort of side effects as hormonal methods. You might have a reaction to latex in your condoms, but you can simply choose to use condoms made from a different material.
How it works: A thin sheath of latex (or polyurethane, lambskin or polyisoprene for those with a latex allergy) prevents ejaculate from leaving the vagina. Use a condom once and toss it.
You can buy condoms in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They even come in various flavors. Some include lube and spermicide for extra protection. Unique textures can add to the experience.
Condoms are available from a variety of retailers at an affordable price, and you may be able to get them for free from your family planning provider.
Who it's for: Everyone who wants to prevent pregnancy and transmission of certain STIs, anyone who does not have birth control coverage, and people who do not like hormonal birth control.
How it works: The female condom doesn't look like the male condom. It's a much larger bag-like tube with a reinforced lip that you pinch to insert. Part of the condom remains outside of the vagina,
Who it's for: People who want extra skin-to-skin STI protection, well-endowed partners, and women who want to take control of their sex lives.
How it works: You place the small rubber cap over your cervix before sex to create a barrier that prevents sperm from inseminating an egg. You can add spermicide.
You can insert a cervical cap six hours before sex, and you should leave it in for an additional six hours. It can remain in place for 48 hours if you're unsure when you'll be having sex.
Who it's for: Women who aren't afraid to apply spermicide and insert a cap over their cervix as well as women who are unsure when they'll have sex.
How it works: A diaphragm is similar to a cervical cap but larger. It can be worn for up to 24 hours at a time.
Who it's for: Users who prefer a barrier method and the flexibility to have sex within a 24-hour period.
How it works: A small sponge that is coated with spermicide and inserted near your cervix to block sperm from moving into your uterus. You can wear the sponge for up to 30 hours at a time.
Who it's for: Users who won't forget to remove the sponge when it's time.
How it works: The copper IUD is inserted into your uterus through your cervix just like hormonal IUDs. A copper coil causes cervical inflammation to block sperm.
There are several styles available in the UK, but the FDA has only approved Paragard in the United States. This IUD is inserted for up to 12 years.
IUDs can also be inserted as emergency contraception.
Who it's for: People seeking long-term, non-hormonal birth control and women seeking emergency contraception.
Hormonal Birth ControlHormonal methods of birth control have various side effects, including weight loss or weight gain, longer, more frequent or heavier periods, bloating, acne, moodiness, migraines, lowered sex drive, sore breasts and nausea.
However, they can also help regulate your period, reduce cramps, shorten your periods and flow and even out your mood.
The amount of hormones in your birth control can exacerbate side effects, and you might have better luck with the IUD, for example, than the birth control pill because hormones are released locally with the IUD.
How it works: A T-shaped device is inserted into your uterus where it remains until it expires or you decide to have children. The device secretes progestin, a hormone that prevents ovulation. Typically, your periods will become shorter and lighter – up to stopping altogether.
Two versions are available in the United States, Mirena and the newer and smaller Skyla. Mirena lasts up to five years while Skyla is good for three.
Who it's for: Women who want long-term birth control who do not face a risk of STI transmission.
How it works: You take a daily dose of birth control pills that containing a combination of female sex hormones – Estrogen and progestin – which prevent ovulation.
You take active pills three weeks out of the month while the other week you take no pill, a placebo, or an iron supplement.
Birth control pills are popular and available from family planning clinics.
Who it's for: Women seeking reliable birth control or regulation of their cycles who don't have issues with estrogen and progestin.
Progestin-only Birth Control Pills
How it works: POPs or mini-pills don't contain estrogen, which makes them slightly less effective than combination hormone pills. You'll need to be on the ball when taking your birth control because the window is much shorter (3 hours as compared to 12).
Who it's for: Breastfeeding mothers, users who do not need STI protection, people with estrogen sensitivities, and users who can absolutely take their pill on time.
Seasonal Birth Control Pills
How it works: Seasonale is a birth control pill you that take for 84 days in a row. The last seven pills in the pack are inactive, and you will get your period only during that week. Seasonale is similar to combination birth control pills and contains the same hormones, but the dosage is different.
Who it's for: Women who only want their periods four times per year.
How it works: A quarterly injection to prevent ovulation. Depo-Provera is a common brand; although, it's not the only one.
Who it's for: Users who do not to use condoms but have an irregular schedule that makes taking the pill difficult.
How it works: Ortho Evra is a patch that you wear on your skin. Every week you change the patch, which deposits hormones into your system through your skin, before taking it off for the last week in the month to have your period.
The patch is less effective for women who are overweight, and it can fall off.
Who it's for: Thinner women who will be able to make sure the patch stays on.
How it works: Nuvaring is a small, rubbery ring that you insert and wear near your cervix. The ring stays in place for three weeks at a time to provide hormones that block ovulation, and you remove it for the fourth week to get your period during the fourth week. You can have sex while the ring is in placed.
Who it's for: Women who aren't afraid of inserting things into their vagina and users who react to general hormones but not localized hormones.
How it works: Implanon or Nexplanon are tiny hormone-containing devices that your doctor injects under your skin. Implants remain in place for up to three years.
Who it's for: Patients who are okay with receiving injections and people who want a longer-term birth control option
Finding the right birth control is like finding the right therapist. Sometimes you need to shop around before you find the perfect fit. And your needs may change as your lifestyle changes, which is why you should know what else is available.
By: Adriana Ravenlust
Follow on Twitter @adriana_r