Contraception: What Are Your Options?
With the advancement of science, there are many new options for preventing pregnancy. Learning about each type can help you make an educated decision about which method to choose.
What Is the Best Birth Control Method for Me?
Take your time when it comes to determining which birth control method you'll use. Do your homework. Research what is available. Talk to your close friends and see what methods they use and how they like them. And, talk to your doctor. Factors that are important to your decision include:
- Your health
- Frequency of sexual activity
- Number of partners
- Desire to have children in the future
Abstinence—Abstinence is not having sexual intercourse. It is the only 100% effective way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including AIDS.
The pill—The pill, also known as the oral contraceptive pill or birth control pill, is the most popular form of reversible contraception in the US. It uses a combination of estrogen and progestin (female hormones) to suppress ovulation (the monthly release of an egg from the ovaries). Taken daily, the chance of becoming pregnant is very low. The pill does not protect against STDs, and is not recommended in women who smoke, or have a history of blood clots, breast cancer, or endometrial cancer.
The male condom—Male condoms prevent pregnancy by blocking the passage of sperm to the woman. The chance of becoming pregnant using a condom is about 14%. Except for abstinence, latex condoms are the only kind of birth control that is also highly effective in preventing HIV and other STDs. Keep in mind that if you use other forms of birth control but also want protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, the man should also use a latex condom. Simultaneous use of a spermicide with condom will further reduce the chance of pregnancy.
The female condom—Female condoms work in a similar way as the male condom in preventing the passage of sperm. The failure rate is a little higher—21%. It may protect against STDs, but not as effectively as the male condom.
DepoProvera—This is a shot taken every three months that uses progestin to prevent pregnancy. It is highly effective as birth control, but does not protect against STDs.
Minipills—Minipills are taken daily and prevent pregnancy using progestin without estrogen. They are a good option for women who can’t use estrogen, like breastfeeding women. They are effective at preventing pregnancy, though a little less effective than the regular birth control pill. This option does not protect against STDs.
Emergency contraception—Emergency contraception refers to a series of contraceptive pills taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy. It does not prevent STDs.
Intrauterine device (IUD)—An IUD is a T-shaped device inserted into the uterus by a doctor. It prevents fertilization and is a convenient and highly effective form of contraceptive, but offers no protection against STDs.
Diaphragms or cervical caps—These devices are available by prescription. They are used with spermicides and are inserted in the vagina against the cervix to block the passage of sperm. The failure rates are about 20% and higher for women who have already had a child.
Surgical sterilization—Sterilization by surgery is a permanent contraception for people who don’t want children in the future. It does not protect against STDs.
Talk with your doctor to find out what options are within your budget and would work best for your individual situation..
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The National Women’s Health Information Center
Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
The National Women’s Health Information Center website. Available at: http://www.4woman.org/.
What kind of birth control is best for you? US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/.
Last reviewed June 2008 by Ganson Purcell Jr., MD, FACOG, FACPE
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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