Hormonal Methods           Effectiveness                     How it Works                            Advantages                        Disadvantages

 
Birth control pill

91–99%

A daily pill containing hormones that stop you from ovulating. There are combination estrogen/progestin and progestin-only (“the mini-pill”) options.

Easy to use and gives you control. Can reduce cramps or result in lighter, more regular periods. Many types available for different needs.

Must remember to take every day. The mini-pill must be taken at the same time every day.

Birth control patch

91–99%

A thin hormone-releasing patch that you stick onto your skin once a week for 3 weeks in a row.

Easy to use and gives you control. You don’t have to remember it daily.

May result in skin irritation. May increase risk of blood clots.

Birth control shot

94–99%

An injection given every 3 months that stops you from ovulating.

You don’t have to remember it daily. Can be used by those who can’t take estrogen.

May cause irregular bleeding, bone density loss, and weight gain. Must visit provider every 3 months.

Birth control ring

91–99%

A small, flexible, low-dose hormone-releasing ring that you insert into your vagina for 3 weeks at a time.

You don’t have to remember it daily. May result in lighter periods. May be taken out during sex for up to 3 hours.

Must insert yourself. Can become displaced if not inserted properly. Vaginal discharge or irritation.

Long-Acting Methods         Effectiveness                     How it Works                            Advantages                        Disadvantages

 
 
 
 
IUD

Over 99%

IUD stands for “intrauterine device.” There are hormonal IUDs and copper, non-hormonal IUDs. They are a small T-shaped device inserted in the uterus. Both copper and hormonal IUDs work primarily by preventing sperm from joining with an egg.

Some of the most effective, longest lasting birth control methods available. You don’t have to remember to take it. Hormonal varieties work 3–5 years. A copper IUD lasts 10 years and is a good option for people who don’t want to use any hormonal method.

Periods may be irregular, especially at first. Copper IUDs may cause heavier periods, especially at first. Cramping when inserted. In rare cases, can be expelled from the uterus or become displaced.

Implant

Over 99%

One of the most effective, longest lasting birth control methods available. A small rod inserted under the skin of the upper arm. Gradually releases a low dose of hormone. Works for 3 years.

Works continuously. You don’t have to remember to take it. Privacy: only you know it’s there. You may have lighter periods.

May cause irregular bleeding. Requires a small incision in the arm; you may have a small scar or discoloration.

 
Tubal ligation 

Over 99%

Surgical procedure that permanently blocks or closes the fallopian tubes.

Permanent. You don’t have to worry about remembering to use it.

Requires a surgery. Not reversible. Only use if you know your family size is complete.

Vasectomy 

Over 99%

Surgical procedure that permanently blocks the vas deferens (the tubes that carry sperm through the penis).

Permanent. You don’t have to worry about remembering to use it.

Requires a surgery. Not reversible. Only use if you know your family size is complete.

 
 

Barrier Methods                Effectiveness                     How it Works                            Advantages                        Disadvantages

 
Condoms

82–98%

A sheath that covers the penis (external, or male, condom) or sits inside the vagina (internal, or female, condom). Serves as a barrier for sperm.

Also protects against STDs. Inexpensive and you don’t need a prescription. Non-hormonal.

Must use every time you have sex. May result in irritation. Not comfortable for everyone.

Diaphragm

88–94%

A silicone dome worn inside the vagina and used with spermicide. Serves as a barrier to sperm.

You can insert it hours in advance. Non-hormonal.

Must use every time you have sex. Spermicide may cause irritation. Must keep in for 6 hours after sex.

Cervical Cap

71–86%

Small round “cap” inserted before sex. Serves as a barrier to sperm. Use with spermicide.

You can insert it hours in advance. Non-hormonal.

Must use every time you have sex. Spermicide may cause irritation. Must keep in for 6 hours after sex.

Sponge

76–88%

Small round piece of foam inserted into the vagina before sex. Use with spermicide.

You can insert it hours in advance. Non-hormonal. No prescription.

Must use every time you have sex. Spermicide may cause irritation. Must keep in for 6 hours after sex.

 
 
 

Other Methods                   Effectiveness                     How it Works                            Advantages                        Disadvantages

 
Fertility awareness

76–88%

Track your menstrual cycle and fertility using various methods. Abstain from sex or use another method when fertile.

No side effects or hormones. Free, doesn’t require a prescription. Helps you learn more about how your body works; can be empowering.

Requires daily planning and self-control; may be time-consuming.

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