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Birth Control Choices

Birth control keeps you from getting pregnant during sex. There are many types of birth control. Some are more effective than others. New types are being tested all the time. Your healthcare provider can help you decide which type of birth control is best for you. But no matter which type you choose, you and your partner must use it the right way each time you have sex. Some of the most common types are described below.


A condom is a thin covering that fits over the penis. (The female condom fits inside the vagina.) A condom catches sperm that come out of the penis during sex.


Spermicide is a gel, foam, cream, tablet, or sponge (although the sponge has barrier properties in addition to spermicidal properties). It is put in the vagina before sex to kill sperm.

Diaphragm and cervical cap

Diaphragms and cervical caps are round rubber cups that keep sperm out of the uterus. They also hold spermicide in place.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

An IUD is a small device that is placed in the uterus by a healthcare provider to prevent pregnancy.

The pill

The birth control pill is taken daily. It contains hormones that stop a woman’s body from releasing an egg each month.

Other hormones

Hormones that stop a woman’s egg from being released each month can be delivered in other ways. These include injection, implant, patch, or vaginal ring.

Other choices

Here are some other birth control methods:

  • Male sterilization (vasectomy). This is surgery that ties off or cuts the tubes (vas deferens) in the testes. This is done so sperm can't come out when the man ejaculates.

  • Female sterilization. This is surgery to block or cut the woman's fallopian tubes. It can be done by placing a tool into the uterus (hysteroscopy). This is done to place small coils into the fallopian tubes. The FDA has placed restrictions on this method. If you are interested in this method, talk with your healthcare provider about possible risks. Female sterilization can also be done through the belly (laparoscopy) to block the tubes. Or to remove part or all of the tubes.

  • Withdrawal method. This is when the male doesn't ejaculate into the vagina. Instead he withdraws his penis just before he ejaculates. But the failure rate for this method ranges from 22% to 28%.

  • Fertility awareness method. This is when a woman keeps track of her fertile days. She only has sex at times when she is not likely to get pregnant. This method is hard for women who have irregular periods.

Emergency contraception (EC)

Emergency contraception can help prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Hormone pills (morning after pills) are available over the counter to anyone. A second type of EC, a copper IUD, needs to be inserted by a trained healthcare provider. Either type of EC can be used up to 5 days after sex. But it should be taken as soon as possible. The sooner it is used after unprotected sex, the more likely it is to be effective. EC will not work if you’re already pregnant.

Things to consider

Think about the following:

  • Choose a type of birth control that is easy for you to use.

  • Read the package and follow your healthcare provider's instructions to learn to use your birth control the right way.

  • Most forms of birth control don't protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To protect against STIs, always use a latex condom. If you are allergic to latex, a nonlatex condom may offer some protection.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Online Medical Reviewer: Irina Burd MD PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.