With each of these methods you take a hormone–usually progestin or estrogen–similar to those that your body makes naturally. These hormones prevent ovulation; you have no egg to be fertilized, so you can’t become pregnant. Hormonal contraception is generally over 95% effective, and for most women, has few serious side effects.
If you’re over 35, and a smoker, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether this method is right for you, since hormonal birth control may increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Birth control pills Oral contraceptives are one of the most popular forms of birth control. There are many different brands of “the pill” with differing levels of hormones. Talk to your doctor about choosing the right pill for you.
Depo-Provera injections If it’s not convenient to take a pill every day, you may prefer to receive hormone injections. Some are given each month, and some are effective for as long as three months. Irregular bleeding is one potential drawback of this method.
Nuva ring This is a flexible plastic ring with controlled-release progestin and estrogen. You wear it for 21 days, remove it for 7 days – during your period – and insert a new one. You can insert and remove the ring yourself, without a doctor visit.
Ortho Evra patch This is ready-to-wear birth control, a small patch like a band-aid on your skin. It releases controlled doses of hormones, which you absorb through your skin. You wear each patch for a week, replacing it the same day of the week for 3 weeks. During the fourth week, you don’t wear the patch, and your period occurs. Here again, you can wear and replace it yourself, without visiting your doctor.
Intrauterine Devices Intrauterine devices, or IUDs as they are commonly known, are small plastic devices inserted into the uterus by your doctor. They are about 99% effective. Two types of IUD are available here in the U.S. The hormonal IUD releases small amounts of progestin, and works similar to a birth control pill. It must be replaced every 5 years. A copper IUD can be worn for as long as 10 years. By releasing a tiny amount of copper into the uterus, it prevents your eggs from being fertilized or attaching to the wall of the uterus.
Barrier Methods One way or another, barrier methods prevent sperm from reaching the egg and fertilizing it. But in order to make them effective, it’s critical to use these methods every time you have sex.
Spermicidal A spermicide may be a foam, cream, jelly, tablet or film applied in the vagina, containing a chemical that kills sperm. Ask your doctor about which of the various products is best for you.
Male condom This is one of the oldest-and still one of the more effective- methods of birth control. Your partner wears a thin sheath, usually made of latex, over his penis, providing a physical barrier to sperm. In addition to birth control, this also offers protection from STDs.
Female condom This is a thin plastic pouch that lines your vagina, held in place by an inner ring at the cervix, and an outer ring at the opening of the vagina. Like the male condom, it’s a physical barrier that provides birth control and protection from STDs.
Diaphragm A small round rubber dome fits inside your vagina and covers your cervix, preventing sperm from reaching the egg.
Cervical cap Similar to the diaphragm, this is a small thin dome of rubber or plastic worn inside your vagina. It fits tightly over the cervix
Tubal Sterilization for women Sterilization is the surgical blockage of the pathways for egg or sperm. Either a man or women can be sterilized. This is meant to be a permanent form of birth control, so consider it carefully before you decide.
Reversal procedures are often ineffective, and require expensive major surgery. They are generally not covered by medical insurance.