Birth Control Guide

In my own experience, there are not nearly enough avenues for people to find the right method of birth control. Coming from a conservative high school in Texas, I never received a proper sex education. So, upon coming to college, I found myself frighteningly uninformed on the realities of safe sex. After hours of research spent combing through PlannedParenthood.com, I eventually landed on the birth control pill as the easiest and most convenient choice for me. Sex education is not always the most comfortable thing to talk about, but ultimately, it is critical that knowledge about the different types of contraceptives is accessible. With plenty of options designed to suit different people’s needs, it is important to choose which one is best for you.

Birth control pill: The most popular choice of birth control. When taken around the same time every day, the pill is 99% effective against pregnancy. The pill’s combination of progestin and estrogen suppresses ovulation, and prevents the sperm from fertilizing the egg. There are also plenty of non-birth control benefits, like easing period pain, regulating periods, and clearing up acne.

The pill usually comes in two types: the estrogen and progestin combination, or the progestin-only pill. Progestin-only pills are recommended for people who have health conditions that prevent them from taking estrogen. They are safer for smokers, diabetics, and heart disease patients, as well as those at risk for blood clots. They are also prescribed to women who are breastfeeding. In order to properly prevent pregnancy, progestin-only pills need to be taken at exactly the same time every day, so if you’re not the best at remembering to take your pill, the combination pill might be a safer bet. Another option is the extended-cycle pill, which allows you to have a period only every three months.

IUD (Intrauterine Device): A small t-shaped device made out of flexible plastic that is inserted into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. It is an effective, long-term birth control method that usually lasts for 3-6 years, and can also be easily removed. This is a great choice for people who do not want to worry about keeping track of their birth control. There’s also the option of the Copper T IUD, which can still be effective if inserted into your uterus five to seven days after unprotected sex.

Vaginal ring (also known as NuvaRing): A small, flexible ring made of plastic that delivers estrogen and progestin. You place the ring in your vagina for three weeks, and then you take it out for the last week of every month to have your period. It’s quick, easy, and convenient.

Cervical cap: A small, silicone cap that you place over your cervix before sex. When used correctly with spermicidal lubricant, the cap blocks the opening of the uterus.

Diaphragm: Made of rubber and shaped like a dome, a diaphragm prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg. Like the cervical cap, it covers the cervix and must always be used with spermicidal lube. Women must be fitted for a diaphragm in their doctor's office.

Female condom: A little pouch that you insert into the vagina and over the cervix. Can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex. Female condoms are one of the few options that protect against STDs. Male condoms, however, provide more protection.

Male condom: When worn properly during sex, male condoms collect semen, prevent pregnancy, and protect against STDs.

Patch: A thin, beige plastic patch that sticks to your skin and releases hormones. The patch is quick, easy, and painless. You can stick it to your skin and forget about it, until you have to replace it the next week!

Implant: A tiny rod that is inserted under the skin of your upper arm, implants are nearly 100% effective. Implants can last up to four years and costs range from $0 to up to $800. Similar to IUDs, after insertion, birth control does not need to be directly managed, and can be forgotten about.

Sterilization: A surgical procedure where women undergo either tubal ligation, a procedure that blocks the fallopian tubes from carrying eggs to the uterus, or tubal implants, where a small coil is inserted into the fallopian tubes. For men, sterilization is a vasectomy, a minor surgery in which the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles are cut.

Morning-after pill (Plan B): Plan B contains a higher dose of the same synthetic hormones found in the combination pill, and prevents the sperm from fertilizing the egg. It works best if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but may work up to five days later.

More information can be found at plannedparenthood.org, birthcontrol.com, and webmd.com/sex/birth-control.

Photo by: Hana Antrim