How to Choose a Birth Control Method

There are a wide variety of birth control methods available on the market today. While this article is no replacement for a visit to your gynecologist, it can inform you on the types of birth control and help you decide on your preference before you make a visit to the doctor.


  1. 1
    Consider what's important to you in regards to birth control. Here are some factors to think about:
    • Effectiveness: Most reversible types of birth control are not 100% effective, but some are more effective than others. If a pregnancy is not possible for you, you would want to choose a method with a very high effectiveness rate. On the other hand, if pregnancy is an option for you, a method that is not as effective may not be such a bad thing.
    • Effort: Consider how much effort you are willing to put into your birth control. Is it something you want to think about every time you have sex? Every day? Every couple weeks? Every couple years?
    • Reversibility: If you think you may want to have children soon, you don't want to choose a method that is not quickly or easily reversible: i.e. hormonal methods and surgical procedures.
    • Cost: Some methods are cheaper than others.
    • Protection: If you are in a long-term relationship and do not need protection from STDs or STIs, then you may choose to not use condoms. But condoms are the only form of contraception that also prevents the transmission of HIV and other STDs.
    • Prior experience/side effects: One method may not have worked well for you in the past, so you do not want to choose a similar method to that one. For example, hormonal birth control may have caused side effects for you, and you may want to look into other methods with less side effects.
  2. 2
    Research these types of birth control and think about their benefits and disadvantages. The bullet points below contain overviews for each type of contraception, but if you are considering a specific method you should research it more fully.
    • A cervical cap
      Barrier methods: diaphragms, cervical caps, male condoms, female condoms, and sponges. These methods are often used with spermicide and create a physical barrier against sperm so they cannot enter the uterus. These methods must be used each time you have sex. Overall, these methods are generally cheaper and have fewer side effects, but they do have a lower pregnancy prevention rate.
    • A Mirena IUD or intrauterine device.
      Hormonal methods: IUDs, shots (Depoprovera), patches, vaginal ring (Nuva Ring), arm implant (Implanon), and the pill. These methods regulate hormones in the female body (estrogen and progestin) in order to prevent pregnancies. Pills are usually taken every day; rings, shots, and patches every few weeks; and IUD's and implants every couple of years. They are very effective, but may cause serious side effects.
      • The copper IUD does not use hormones, but it also has side effects to be considered.
    • All natural methods: withdrawal and Feminine Awareness Method (FAM). These methods have no side effects and are free. However, the withdrawal method (removing the penis before ejaculation) requires a large amount of trust and experience, and may be ineffective. The FAM method can be used successfully, but it requires a woman to chart her cycle correctly using signs from her body for at least six months. It also requires experience and trust. Natural methods are most successfully used with another form of birth control.
    • A vasectomy is a surgical procedure performed on men to prevent pregnancy.
      Permanent surgical procedures: vasectomy and tubal ligation. These procedures are for couples that no longer want to have children and are 100% effective. However tubal ligation is not reversible. Most couples choose to get a vasectomy, because it is a quick, fairly painless, and cheaper procedure.
    • Emergency procedures: Plan B. Plan B is a pill that can be taken, up to five days after failure of birth control or unprotected sex, to reduce the risk of a pregnancy occurring. It uses a large dose of hormones to have this effect and is disruptive to a woman's cycle; it's an emergency procedure that is not intended for everyday birth control.
  3. 3
    Choose a method of birth control. Also consider using two methods in conjunction with each other. 'Two is better than one' is true in the case of birth control; it lowers the risk of pregnancy significantly.
  4. 4
    Visit your physician and get a prescription if needed. Barrier methods like condoms or sponges and all natural methods do not require a prescription, but it's wise to research them thoroughly and seek education anyway.


  • The strongest form of birth control is abstinence, and temporary birth control methods can fail. (Vasectomies and tubal ligation are 100% effective.) However, with two or more methods of birth control, and perfect use, the failure rate increases to 99.99%.
  • This article is not a replacement for a doctor's advice.
  • Unprotected sex can lead to pregnancies or STDs. When in doubt, use a condom.

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Categories: Birth Control and Contraceptives