Wellness and Health Promotion

Birth Control

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There are many different methods of birth control that are all effective in preventing pregnancy. Birth control does not prevent sexually transmitted infections; barrier methods such as condoms should be used with birth control to prevent STIs. In addition to the methods below, abstinence is also a valid and common method of preventing pregnancy. Talk to your doctor to figure out what the best method of birth control is for you.

Oral Contraceptive (The Pill)

Birth control pills contain both estrogen and progestin and is prescribed by a doctor. There are also progestin only options for people who cannot take estrogen. There are typically one week of sugar pills to take during the week of your period. The pill is most effective when taken at the same time each day and has a 93% success rate. The pill has many side effects such as:

  • irregular or heavier periods
  • blood spotting
  • depression

Make sure to speak to your doctor about which birth control pill is right for you and inform them if you begin to experience troubling symptoms. Oral contraceptives are usually covered by most insurance policies.

IUD (Hormonal)

A hormonal IUD is a small T-shaped plastic device that is placed inside your uterus by your doctor. It releases a small amount of a hormone called progestin daily to prevent pregnancy. This device can stay in your uterus for 3-6 years and has over a 99% success rate at preventing pregnancy. Hormonal IUDs often cause lighter, infrequent, or shorter periods and may stop your period altogether. This is normal and is not a harmful effect.

IUD (Non-Hormonal)

A non-hormonal IUD is a small, copper, T-shaped device that is placed into your uterus by a doctor. The copper coil on the device creates an inflammatory reaction that is toxic to sperm and thus prevents pregnancy. This device can stay in your uterus for up to 10 years and has over a 99% success rate. The non-hormonal IUD can also be used as a method of emergency contraception. Copper IUDs may cause heavier or longer periods.

Vaginal Ring

The vaginal ring releases estrogen and progestin. You place it inside your vagina and leave it in for three weeks. During the fourth week, you remove the ring to have your period and then replace it with a new ring. The ring has a 93% success rate.


The implant is a single thin rod that is placed in the upper arm that releases progestin into the body over the course of 3 years. The implant is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Contraceptive Patch

The patch is worn on either the buttocks, abdomen or upper body and is prescribed by a doctor. It releases estrogen and progestin into the bloodstream. The patch is changed once a week for three weeks. During the fourth week, you do not wear a patch for your period. The patch has a 93% success rate.

Depo Provera (Shot)

The shot is an injection of progestin into the buttocks every three months. The shot has a 96% success rate.

Family Planning

Understanding your monthly fertility pattern can help you prevent or plan pregnancy. Your fertility pattern is the number of days in the month in which you are fertile (able to get pregnant), infertile, and days when fertility is unlikely but possible. If you have a regular menstrual cycle, there are typically nine days per month in which you are fertile. If you do not want to get pregnant, you plan not to have sex or using a barrier method of contraception during sex during that time. The success rate of this method varies significantly from 77-98%.

Barrier Methods

External Condom

External condoms are worn by the person with a penis during sex which keeps sperm from entering the vagina. Condoms are most commonly made of latex but there are other ones available made of synthetic or natural materials for people who do have an allergy or aversion to latex.

Latex and synthetic condoms prevent pregnancy as well as STIs, including HIV. Natural condoms are effective in preventing pregnancy but not as effective in preventing STIs.

Condoms can only be used once. Latex condoms cannot be used with oil-based lubricant, massage oils, lotions, petroleum jelly; it will cause them to tear or break more easily. Silicon and water-based lubes should be used with latex condoms. External condoms are 87% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Internal Condom

Internal condoms are worn by the person with a vulva during sex and helps prevent sperm from getting into the body. It is packaged with lubricant and is sold at most drug stores. 

It is effective in preventing STIs in addition to preventing pregnancy. The internal condom is inserted into the vagina, similarly to a tampon. The thicker outer ring is placed inside (gently squeeze the sides and insert until it is resting at the cervix) with the thinner material being at the opening of the vagina.

The internal condom can be inserted up to eight hours before sex. Do not use an internal condom with an external condom; it will cause tearing and has not been shown to be more effective in preventing pregnancy. The internal condoms have a 79% success rate.

Dental Dam

Dental dams are latex or polyurethane sheets used between the mouth and vagina or anus during oral sex and are used to prevent oral transmission of STIs. Dental dams cannot be reused and should not be stretched as it can cause them to tear.

You can create a dental dam out of a condom by cutting both ends and down the middle to create a flat piece of latex (must be latex or polyurethane). Using household supplies such as plastic wrap can also work as a dental dam if you do not have one available.Make sure it is not microwavable plastic wrap because it has microscopic holes.

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception should not be used as a regular form of birth control but can be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. The pill can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex, but the sooner it is taken afterwards, the more effective it is at pregnancy prevention.

Emergency contraception is available over the counter at most drug stores and pharmacies. Plan B is the most known emergency contraceptive pill, but generic brands such as MyWay or Option 2 are the same effectiveness and typically are less costly. Non-hormonal, or copper IUDs, can also be placed within 5 days of unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.

Side effects of emergency contraceptive pills include:

  • nausea/vomiting
  • heavier periods
  • menstruating between periods
  • cramps
  • breast tenderness
  • headaches
  • fatigue

There are many options to get emergency contraception affordably. See the sex access map to find the best option for you.

Contraception Linked Citations:

CDC – Reproductive Health – Contraception. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/index.htm

CDC – Condom Effectiveness. https://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/index.html

Last Updated: 6/27/22