Birth Control

Not ready to be a parent yet? Hoping to avoid a surprise pregnancy?

Here are some methods for keeping a pregnancy from happening along with their failure rates, advantages and disadvantages.

Print this chart

Method How it Works Advantages Disadvantages

Couple does not get involved in sex play or intimate contact

100% effective

  • No medical or hormonal side effects
  • Protection from STIs
  • Free
  • Always works

Penis is removed from vagina before ejaculation (semen released) to prevent sperm from meeting egg

76% effective

  • Can be used to prevent pregnancy when no other method is available
  • Drop of semen or pre-ejaculate could produce a pregnancy
  • Requires self-control and trust
  • Not recommended for teens
  • No protection from STIs
No Method

Not using any precautions to prevent a pregnancy from happening.

15% effective

  • Can be spontaneous
  • Free
  • Pregnancy could result
  • No protection from STIs

Thin sheath made of latex, plastic or animal tissue covers penis before intercourse

79-86% effective if used correctly and consistently

  • Easily available
  • Can provide some protection against some STDs
  • Do not have any serious medical complication. Effect on body is external and temporary
  • Do not affect fertility
  • Failure rate due to leak, fall off or breakage
  • Do not protect against STDs that are passed through skin to skin contact
  • When used with spermicide which immobilizes sperm, may increases chance of sperm or virus to penetrate condom
  • Men usually don’t like them.
Pill – also known as oral contraceptive

A small pill taken once daily, at the same time.

Artificial hormones designed to help a woman’s body believe that it is pregnant month after month. Delivers a combination of estrogen and progestin to a woman’s body.

It purpose is to: 1. Stops egg from being released, 2. or cause the mucous in cervix to change to inhibit sperm transport, 3. or change lining of uterus to inhibit implantation of fetus.

*Note: There is insufficient medical evidence to determine exactly how the chemical is working in each individual woman’s body.

95% effective when taken daily and at same time.

  • Regulates periods
  • Convenient
  • Reversible – no lasting effects on fertility
  • Less menstrual cramps
  • Protects from ovarian and endometrial cancers
  • No protection from STIs
  • Weakens immune systems causing susceptibility to bacterial & viral infections
  • Must be taken daily & at same time
  • Sometimes will produce symptoms of pregnancy, such as: nausea, vomiting, spotting, breast tenderness, weight gain
  • Migraine, stroke, mood swings
  • Breast cancer, high blood pressure
  • Costly, most insurances do not cover cost
  • Loses effectiveness when missed or taken off schedule
  • Changes in mucous discharge can cause her to be more susceptible to STIs.
The Patch

Prevents pregnancy the same way as birth control pills: Stop egg from being released, changing the mucous in the cervix making it more difficult for sperm to enter the uterus.

It delivers continuous levels of the progestin and estrogen through the skin and into the bloodstream.

99% effective

  • Uses a 28-day, or four week cycle. Wear one patch continuously for seven days, remove patch and apply new one each week for three weeks. No patch is used on fourth week when period should start.
  • Convenient
  • Reversible – no lasting effects on fertility or on fetus
  • Does not interrupt sex
  • Decrease cramps, length and intensity of period
  • May reduce risks for ovarian cancer
  • Does not protect from STIs
  • Headache, upper respiratory infection, menstrual cramps, abdominal pain
  • Blood clots, stroke or heart attacks
  • Must use back up contraception if she forgets to change patch or patch falls off.
  • If she forgets to apply a new patch for more than 2 days she may not be protected from pregnancy.
  • May have side effects – diminished sex drive, hair loss, headaches, nausea, weight gain
  • May delay return to fertility
  • May increase risk of breast cancer or liver disease

The progestin component of Lunelle prevents the ovary from releasing an egg.

99% effective

  • A once a month contraceptive injection.
  • Does not protect from STIs
  • Women who have a history of breast or uterine cancer, blood clots, heart disease, liver dysfunction, diabetes and migraine headaches may not be good candidates.
  • Risk of blood clots
  • Weight gain, nausea, breast tenderness, mood changes, irritability or depression may occur, fluid retention.
  • Need to have health exam prior to injection being given.
  • Must have subsequent injects every 28 days. Protection from pregnancy ceases after 33 days from injection.

Progestin-only contraceptives deliver hormones to the body by an injected into arm or buttocks every 12 weeks (3 months). Progestin, is a synthetic progesterone. Hormones keep the ovaries from releasing eggs. Thickens the cervical mucous which keeps sperm from joining with an egg.

99% effective

  • Protects against pregnancy for 12 weeks
  • Some women stop periods altogether
  • Convenient
  • No heart related complications associated with estrogen
  • May protect against endometrial cancers
  • Does not protect from STDs
  • Excessive bleeding or irregular periods
  • Possible hair loss, weight gain, mood swings, headaches
  • Possible ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
  • Temporary to permanent sterility
  • Increased risk of cervical cancer
  • Risk of breast cancer
  • Bone density may decrease
  • Allergic reaction, Bad (LDL) cholesterol levels may increase
Diaphragm or Cervical Cap

Soft rubber barrier intended to fit securely over the cervix. Used with spermicide. Blocks the entrance to the uterus preventing sperm from reaching an egg.

82% effective

  • Limited protection from STDs
  • Can be put in hours prior to sex
  • Minimal side effects
  • Fertility is unaffected
  • Do not alter a woman’s hormonal patterns
  • Limited protection from STDs
  • Increased risk of bladder infection
  • Must be fitted by physician
  • May become dislodged during sex
  • Can interrupt spontaneity
  • Latex allergies cause painful reaction in vagina or on penis
Emergency Contraception a.k.a. The Morning After Pill

A mega dose of contraception, which is designed to 1. stop ovulation, 2. change the mucus in the cervix, or 3. change the lining of the uterus to inhibit implantation of fetus. Treatment schedule is one dose within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse and a second dose 12 hours after the first dose. However, studies have found that the pills are effective when the first dose is started up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected intercourse.

98% effective

  • May help to relieve the fear of getting pregnant
  • Most effective when taken within 24 hours and decreases somewhat during each 24 hour period up to 72 hours.
  • If fertilization has already occurred one possible action of the pill is to “irritate the lining of the uterus” to end the pregnancy this would be considered to be an abortifacient.
  • Side effects: nausea, vomiting (if pill is vomited up it is no longer effective) headache, breast tenderness, abdominal pain, dizziness.

Spermicide is a chemical that prevents pregnancy by immobilizing or killing sperm so non can reach and fertilize the egg.

Spermicide is contained in gel, foam, or other “carrier” that holds the spermicide within the vagina.

Often used with a vaginal barrier such as a diaphragm or cervical cap, but can be used alone.

  • Side effects are minimal.
  • Fertility returns after the spermicidal effect wears off.
  • Need only to be used when required
  • Some protection against STIs when used with condoms
  • Provide backup when regular method is not available.
  • Provide some lubrication
  • Allergic or sensitivity to chemical
  • Does not protect against Chlamydia, Gonorrhea or HIV
  • Infection – risk of vaginal and urinary tract infection
  • Correct technique may be difficult to learn
  • Taste and smell may be unpleasant
  • Must be inserted shortly before intercourse, interrupts spontaneity

A soft, flexible ring about 2 inches is inserted into the vagina only once a month. It slowly releases a low dose of the hormones that inhibit ovulation and alter the cervical mucus to increase the difficulty of sperm movement. At the end of 21 day, remove the ring to allow the body to have its menstrual cycle. After a seven day break, insert new ring.

99% effective

  • Inserted once a month
  • Convenient
  • No protection from STIs
  • If ring slips out of vagina for more than 3 hours there is no protection from pregnancy
  • Headaches, nausea and breast tenderness
  • Blood clots, stroke, heart attack, Vaginitis
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Sinusitis
  • Weight gain
Female Condom

A thin, loose-fitting and flexible plastic tube worn inside the vagina. A soft ring at the closed end of the tube covers the cervix during intercourse and holds it inside the vagina and partly covers the lip area. Provides a barrier between partners to prevent sharing bodily fluids like semen, blood or saliva.

Effectiveness unknown

  • May reduce the risk and the spread of some STDs.
  • May prevent pregnancy
  • No hormonal side effects
  • Available without a prescription
  • Can break or leak
  • Noticeable during sex
  • Sometimes difficult to insert or use
  • Penis can dislodge the female condom
  • Penis could be placed between wall of vagina and outer wall of female condom
  • Relatively large and can be difficult to insert

Switch to our mobile site