If you’re sexually active but aren’t ready to be a parent, a good birth control method is a necessity. And because there are so many effective types of birth control, choosing the right one is largely a matter of lifestyle and personal preference. Read on to learn more about the different types of contraception so that you can make a healthy choice that meets your needs.
Barrier Methods of Contraception
Barrier methods work by literally creating a barrier that keeps sperm from meeting and potentially fertilizing an egg. The most common barrier method is the male condom, which is simply a latex sheath that fits over the penis to prevent sperm from escaping. In addition to providing contraception, the male condom also protects against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). While condoms are about 99 percent effective with perfect use, they are about 82 percent effective with imperfect use.
Female condoms are similar to male condoms except that they are placed into the vagina to block sperm from entering the cervix. Female condoms are about 95 percent effective with perfect use and 79 percent effective with imperfect use.
Another barrier method, the sponge, fits into the vagina to block sperm from entering the cervix. This method is about 91 percent effective when used as directed and 88 percent effective with imperfect use; it’s less effective for women who have been pregnant before, and does not prevent the transmission of STDs.
Hormonal Birth Control Methods
This type of contraception includes hormones that can be delivered in a variety of forms to disrupt the fertilization process. The most common form of hormonal birth control is the pill, which comes in both estrogen and progestin and progestin-only formulations. The pill prevents fertilization by both preventing the release of an egg and thickening cervical mucus so sperm cannot pass through. The pill must be taken each day as directed for optimal efficacy. The birth control patch contains both progestin and estrogen, delivered through a patch that sticks to the skin for three weeks out of each month. The patch and the birth control pill are 99 percent effective when used as directed and about 91 percent effective with imperfect use.
Another hormonal method, the NuvaRing, is a soft, flexible ring placed into the vagina that releases estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy. It is worn for three weeks each month and then replaced. This method is 99 percent effective with perfect use and 91 percent effective with imperfect use.
If you need a “fix it and forget it” method of contraception, the birth control implant is placed into the upper arm and releases progestin. It lasts up to three years and is more than 99 percent effective. Another similar method, Depo Provera, is an injection of progestin that is given by your doctor every three months. The “birth control shot” is 99 percent effective with correct use and 94 percent effective with imperfect use.
It’s important to remember that hormonal birth control methods do not prevent the spread of STDs.