Birth control (contraception) is any method, medicine, or device used to prevent pregnancy. Women can choose from many different types of birth control. Some work better than others at preventing pregnancy. The type of birth control you use depends on your health, your desire to have children now or in the future, and your need to prevent sexually transmitted infections. Your doctor can help you decide which type is best for you right now.
There is no “best” method of birth control for every woman. The birth control method that is right for you and your partner depends on many things, and may change over time.
Before choosing a birth control method, talk to your doctor or nurse about:
- Whether you want to get pregnant soon, in a few years, or never
- How well each method works to prevent pregnancy
- Possible side effects
- How often you have sex
- The number of sex partners you have
- Your overall health
- How comfortable you are with using the method (For example, can you remember to take a pill every day? Will you have to ask your partner to put on a condom each time?)
Learn about types of birth control that you or your partner can use to prevent pregnancy.
Keep in mind that even the most effective birth control methods can fail. But your chances of getting pregnant are lower if you use a more effective method.
Women can choose from many different types of birth control methods. These include, in order of most effective to least effective at preventing pregnancy:
- Female and male sterilization (female tubal ligation or occlusion, male vasectomy) — Birth control that prevents pregnancy for the rest of your life through surgery or a medical procedure.
- Long-acting reversible contraceptives or “LARC” methods (intrauterine devices, hormonal implants) — Birth control your doctor inserts one time and you do not have to remember to use birth control every day or month. LARCs last for 3 to 10 years, depending on the method.
- Short-acting hormonal methods (pill, mini pills, patch, shot, vaginal ring) — Birth control your doctor prescribes that you remember to take every day or month. The shot requires you to get a shot from your doctor every 3 months.
- Barrier methods (condoms, diaphragms, sponge, cervical cap) — Birth control you use each time you have sex.
- Natural rhythm methods — Not using a type of birth control but instead avoiding sex and/or using birth control only on the days when you are most fertile (most likely to get pregnant). An ovulation home test kit or a fertility monitor can help you find your most fertile days.
Birth control works to prevent pregnancy in different ways, depending upon the type of birth control you choose:
- Female or male sterilization surgery prevents the sperm from reaching the egg by cutting or damaging the tubes that carry sperm (in men) or eggs (in women).
- Long-acting reversible contraceptives or “LARC” methods (intrauterine devices, hormonal implants) prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs, prevent sperm from getting to the egg, or make implantation of the egg in the uterus (womb) unlikely.
- Short-acting hormonal methods, such as the pill, mini-pill, patch, shot, and vaginal ring, prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs or prevent sperm from getting to the egg.
- Barrier methods, such as condoms, diaphragms, sponge, cervical cap, prevent sperm from getting to the egg.
- Natural rhythm methods involve avoiding sex or using other forms of birth control on the days when you are most fertile (most likely to get pregnant).