Various birth control methods affect each individual’s body differently, and with so many options out there, it may be difficult to determine which is the best choice for you. Here is our rundown of what you need to know about each method, according to Planned Parenthood and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The birth control implant is a tiny, thin rod that is inserted into your upper arm by a doctor or nurse. The implant releases the hormone progestin and is more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. The implant is low maintenance and can last up to five years, but it is not permanent and can be removed at any point.
Many birth control methods contain both progestin and estrogen, but certain conditions may prevent some people from safely taking estrogen. Since the implant is estrogen-free, it allows more people to take it.
The most common side effect of the implant is spotting, especially within the first year. It can cause long-term spotting or periods that are longer and heavier. However, for most people, the implant causes lighter periods or for them to stop altogether.
The IUD, or intrauterine device, is another low maintenance birth control method, which can last three to 12 years. It is a tiny, T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy, and it is more than 99 percent effective. An IUD can be removed at any point.
There are five brands of IUDs that have been approved by the FDA. Paragard is the only brand that is non-hormonal. The Paragard IUD is wrapped in a tiny bit of copper and can be used for up to 12 years. The other four brands all use the hormone progestin. These IUDs last three to seven years.
Cramping and spotting are common side effects of an IUD; however, many side effects go away or lessen within a few months of insertion. These side effects are more common for those using a copper IUD. On the other hand, hormonal IUDs often cause lighter periods or periods to stop completely.
The birth control shot is an injection that you get every three months and uses the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. It is approximately 94 percent effective with regular use, but can be even more effective when each shot is received on schedule.
The most common side effects of the shot are changes in periods, especially in the first year. Roughly half of people using the shot stop getting their periods. After receiving their last shot, individuals’ periods can be delayed up to 10 months. Some also experience a delay in their ability to get pregnant after discontinuing using the shot.
The birth control ring is a small, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina and prevents pregnancy by releasing the hormones progestin and estrogen. The ring is approximately 91 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, but it can be up to 99 percent effective if used perfectly. There are two brands of the ring — NuvaRing and ANNOVERA.
NuvaRing lasts up to five weeks and must be taken out and replaced by a new ring on about a monthly basis. ANNOVERA, on the other hand, can last for a year; however, one only wears this ring for 21 days and then removes it for seven days before reinserting the same ring for up to 13 cycles.
The ring requires more maintenance than the implant or IUD because you must follow these schedules in order for it to be an effective method of birth control.
Certain medications or supplements may also negatively affect how effective the ring is, including certain antibiotics, the antifungal Griseofulvin, some HIV medicines and some anti-seizure medicines.
Like other hormonal birth control methods, the ring can cause some side effects, such as changes in period, spotting, headaches and sore breasts, but these effects typically subside within two to three months.
A transdermal contraceptive patch can be used by wearing the patch on certain parts of the body, and it releases hormones through your skin to prevent pregnancy.
The patch must be replaced weekly, and it is roughly 91 percent effective. The patch can be more effective when replaced regularly; however, the same medications that may negatively affect the effectiveness of the ring can also impact the effectiveness of the patch.
Possible side effects for the patch include period changes, headaches, nausea, sore breasts and sore skin where the patch is placed. Side effects typically go away within two to three months. On the other hand, the patch may reduce cramps and PMS and cause periods that are lighter or more regular. It can also help prevent acne, iron deficiency, cysts in the breasts or ovaries, bone thinning and some cancers.
Birth control pills are medications that use hormones to prevent pregnancy. They must be taken daily and are approximately 91 percent effective, dependent on how regularly they are taken. There are two kinds of birth control pills — combination pills, which contain both estrogen and progestin, and progestin-only pills.
Failing to take a pill each day on a regular schedule can reduce the effectiveness of the pill. Additionally, the same medications that affect both the ring and the patch can also lower the effectiveness of the pill; however, Rifampin is the only antibiotic that may counteract the effects of the pill.
Many side effects of the pill are also shared by the ring and the patch. A doctor may advise those who are over 35 years old and smoke or have a history of blood clots or breast cancer not to take combination pills. Progestin-only pills may also not be the safest form of birth control for those who have a history of some cancers or certain forms of lupus.
Condoms are one of the most easily accessible forms of birth control, and one of the only methods that also prevents STIs. Condoms can be made out of latex, plastic or lambskin, and they work by covering the penis during sex and preventing sperm from entering the vagina. Condoms are about 85 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, but they can be up to 98 percent effective if used perfectly alone and more than 99 percent effective when used with other methods.
Due to limited skin-to-skin contact and exchange of bodily fluids, latex and plastic condoms are also effective in reducing the risk of contracting an STI. However, lambskin condoms do not prevent STIs.
Condoms are one of the forms of birth control with the fewest possible side effects. For those who experience irritation or who are allergic to latex, they may need to try switching brands or using plastic condoms instead.
Internal condoms provide the same protection against pregnancy and STIs as regular condoms. Instead of this condom going on the penis, it is inserted into the vagina or anus. Internal condoms are made from nitrile, a soft plastic, and create a barrier between sperm and the vagina just like other condoms do.
If used perfectly, internal condoms can be up to 95 percent effective at preventing pregnancy; however, their average effectiveness is 79 percent when they are not used with other forms of birth control. However, internal condoms and regular condoms should never be used together at the same time. Because they are latex-free, internal condoms are also less likely to cause irritation and can be used by those with latex allergies.
Diaphragm and Cervical Cap
Both diaphragms and cervical caps are little cups that are inserted into the vagina and cover the cervix during sex to prevent pregnancy. However, cervical caps are smaller, and the shape of each is a slightly different. Cervical caps can be left in for longer than diaphragms — up to two days — but diaphragms are more effective at preventing pregnancy.
Both act as a barrier to stop sperm from joining an egg and should be used in conjunction with spermicide to be effective. Diaphragms are approximately 88 percent effective. Cervical caps are about 86 percent effective for those who have never given birth and only 71 percent for those who have.
Both carry similar risks and may not work for those who are sensitive or allergic to silicone, have given birth in the last six weeks, have had toxic shock syndrome or if they or their partner have HIV/AIDS. Cervical caps also should not be used by those who have cervical cancer or other cervical conditions.
Some people who use diaphragms get frequent urinary tract infections, while cervical caps may cause bladder infections. Both may also cause discomfort or irritation, irregular spotting or bleeding, or abnormal discharge. Those using either method should also watch out for signs of toxic shock syndrome.
The birth control sponge is a small, round sponge made of a soft plastic. It works similarly to the diaphragm, as it is inserted into the vagina and covers the cervix during intercourse. In addition to creating a barrier between sperm and the cervix, the sponge also contains spermicide to help prevent pregnancy. Sponges have fabric loops attached to them to make them easier to remove after sex.
The sponge is about 88 percent effective for those who have never given birth; however, it is only about 76 percent effective for those who have previously given birth. To increase the effectiveness of the sponge, it can be used along with other forms of birth control.
The sponge may not work for those who are allergic or sensitive to spermicides, sulfites or polyurethane. It also may not be safe for those who have recently had an abortion, miscarriage or birth, have a history of toxic shock syndrome or have an infection in or near the vagina.
Spermicide within the sponge may cause irritation, which can increase the risk for HIV and other STIs. Sponge users may also be at a slightly increased risk for toxic shock syndrome. To lower this risk, the sponge should not be in place for longer than 30 hours, and it should never be used while an individual is on their period.
A spermicide is a chemical that stops sperm from reaching an egg. Spermicide should be inserted into the vagina prior to sex, and it comes in several forms, including creams, gels, film, foams and suppositories.
While spermicide must be used with diaphragms and cervical caps to be effective, it may also be used with condoms and other forms of birth control to lower the chances of pregnancy. Spermicide is only about 72 percent effective when used alone.
The most common side effect of spermicide is irritation. This irritation can increase risk for HIV and other STIs. Some people may also be allergic to spermicide.