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Birth Control

There are a lot of options when it comes to birth control. We get it; it can be a lot of work to figure out what works best for you. Your preferred option for birth control can be based on a variety of factors that impact your lifestyle (Do I want to think about it every day? Am I comfortable inserting something inside of my body? Am I allergic to latex? etc.). Please bear in mind that regardless of your gender, if you are sexually active, you should be thinking about what birth control option works well for both you and your partner(s). Also take note that although many contraceptive methods do a great job of preventing pregnancy, only condoms protect against STIs. We've teamed up with the birth control delivery company, The Pill Club to help you make an informed choice to keep your sex life safe and smart. Remember, your preferences may change over time and not everything may work for you/your body. As long as you are knowledgeable about your choices, you can always change your mind. That's what options are for! For a quick overview, you can check out our summary cards!

Summary Cards

Pills

How do they work?

  • Pills are taken by mouth every day at the exact same time (tip: set an alarm!).
  • They release hormones similar to the ones made by your body. They can prevent pregnancy in different ways, such as by stopping the ovaries from releasing eggs or preventing the embryo from implanting into the uterus.
  • Some pills have 1 hormone. Others have 2.
  • Birth control pills only prevent pregnancy — there is no protection against sexually transmitted infections. Have a talk with the person(s) you have sex with about getting tested and using a condom!

What would I love?

  • 94% effective (if used correctly)
  • Relatively private
  • No interruption during sex
  • Fertility returns quickly after no usage
  • Can make periods more regular, less painful, improve PMS symptoms
  • Easy to use
  • Lowers risk of getting cancer of the uterus and ovaries

What do I need to consider?

  • Vaginal discharge/irritation
  • Irregular periods/spotting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea/bloating
  • Change in appetite/weight gain
  • Increased risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack

Rare, but serious, side effects:

Contact your health care provider immediately if these occur!

  • Bad headache with vision problems
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain
  • Leg pain, swelling, and redness
  • Fever
  • Numbness/ weakness on side of body
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Blood clots

What if I missed my pill?

Follow the instructions given with your pill pack.

Consider taking emergency contraception (EC). EC can lower your chances of getting pregnant. EC is available in the over-the-counter section at any pharmacy and needs to be taken within 72 hours.

EC will not stop a pregnancy when an individual is already pregnant and there is no medical evidence that EC will harm a developing fetus

Ring

How does it work?

  • It is a small, bendable, plastic circle that is inserted into the vagina near the cervix.
  • The ring releases hormones similar to the ones made by your body. It can prevent pregnancy in different ways, such as by stopping the ovaries from releasing eggs.
  • It only prevents pregnancy — there is no protection against sexually transmitted infections. Have a talk with the person(s) you have sex with about getting tested and using a condom!

Duration:

1 month

Typical Instructions*:

Insert ring for 3 weeks. Remove for 1 week to have your period.

* Always follow the directions provided by your prescriber

What would I love?

  • 95% effective (if used correctly)
  • Relatively private
  • No interruption during sex
  • Fertility returns quickly after no usage
  • Can make periods more regular, less painful, improve PMS symptoms
  • Lowers risk of getting cancer of the uterus and ovaries

What do I need to consider?

  • Vaginal discharge/irritation
  • Irregular periods/spotting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea/bloating
  • Change in appetite/weight gain
  • Increased risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack

Rare, but serious, side effects:

Contact your health care provider immediately if these occur!

  • Bad headache with vision problems
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain
  • Leg pain, swelling, and redness
  • Fever
  • Numbness/weakness on side of body
  • Severe abdominal pain

If you smoke, talk to your medical provider before using the ring.

What if my ring falls out?

Less than 3 hours ago? Wash it with warm water; put it back in with clean fingers.

More than 3 hours ago? Put in a new ring with clean fingers. Use condoms for the next 7 days.

Hormonal IUD

How does it work?

  • The intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped device with strings hanging from the bottom that is inserted into the uterus.
  • The hormonal IUD releases a hormone similar to one made by your body. It can prevent pregnancy in different ways, such as by stopping the ovaries from releasing eggs.
  • It only prevents pregnancy — there is no protection against sexually transmitted infections. Have a talk with the person(s) you have sex with about getting tested and using a condom!
  • This is a prescription-only device and only a medical professional can insert an IUD. The process takes less than 10 minutes.

Duration: 

3 years for Skyla®

3 years for Liletta®

5 years for Mirena®

What would I love?

  • 99% effective
  • Relatively private (partner may feel strings during sex)
  • No interruption during sex
  • Fertility returns quickly after removal
  • Little maintenance (a string check once a month) after insertion
  • Can make periods more regular, less painful, and improve PMS symptoms

What do I need to consider?

  • Cramps/bloating
  • Spotting/irregular periods
  • Breast tenderness
  • Change in appetite/weight gain
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (5/1000 people)
  • IUD may come out (50/1000 people)
  • Damage to the uterus (<1/1000 people — this is rare!)

Rare, but serious, side effects:

Contact your health care provider immediately if these occur!

  • Bad headache with vision problems
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain
  • Leg pain, swelling, and redness
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Severe abdominal pain

How do I make sure the IUD is still there?

Do a string check! Once a month, put 2 clean fingers into your vagina until you feel your cervix (like the tip of your nose). Feel for the strings, but don’t pull on them! If they’re not there, go to a medical provider.

Non-Hormonal (Copper) IUD

How does it work?

  • The intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped device with strings hanging from the bottom that is inserted into the uterus.
  • The copper or non-hormonal IUD interferes with sperm movement which can prevent pregnancy.
  • It only prevents pregnancy — there is no protection against sexually transmitted infections. Have a talk with the person(s) you have sex with about getting tested and using a condom!
  • This is a prescription-only device and only a medical professional can insert an IUD. The process takes less than 10 minutes.

Duration:

10-12 years

Brand:

ParaGard®

What would I love?

  • 99% effective
  • Relatively private (partner may feel strings during sex)
  • No interruption during sex
  • Fertility returns quickly after removal
  • Little maintenance (a string check once a month) after insertion

What do I need to consider?

  • Heavier periods
  • Spotting
  • Cramps/bloating
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (5/1000 people)
  • IUD may come out (50/1000 people)
  • Damage to the uterus (<1/1000 people — this is rare!)

Rare, but serious, side effects:

Contact your health care provider immediately if these occur!

  • Back pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Severe abdominal pain

How do I make sure the IUD is still there?

Do a string check! Once a month, put 2 clean fingers into your vagina until you feel your cervix (like the tip of your nose). Feel for the strings, but don’t pull on them! If they’re not there, go to a medical provider.

Implant

How does it work?

  • It is a thin, plastic tube that is inserted below the skin of the arm.
  • It releases a hormone similar to one made by your body. It can prevent pregnancy in different ways, such as by stopping the ovaries from releasing eggs.
  • It only prevents pregnancy — there is no protection against sexually transmitted infections. Have a talk with the person(s) you have sex with about getting tested and using a condom!
  • Only a medical professional can insert an implant. The process takes less than 10 minutes.

Duration:

3 years

Brand:

Nexplanon®

What would I love?

  • 99% effective
  • Private
  • No interruption during sex
  • Fertility returns quickly after removal
  • Can make periods more regular, less painful, improve PMS symptoms
  • No maintenance after insertion

What do I need to consider?

  • Vaginal discharge/irritation
  • Irregular periods/spotting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea/bloating
  • Change in appetite/weight gain
  • Changes in mood
  • May leave scar at insertion site

Rare, but serious, side effects:

Contact your health care provider immediately if these occur!

  • Bad headache with vision problems
  • Chest pain
  • Leg pain, swelling, and redness
  • Fever
  • Numbness/weakness on side of body, trouble speaking/thinking, changes in balance
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Signs of liver problems (dark urine, fatigue, lack of hunger, light-colored stools, throwing up, yellow skin or eyes)
  • Signs of high blood sugar (confusion, feeling sleepy, increased hunger or thirst, urinating more frequently, flushing, fast breathing, or breath that smells like fruit)

How do I make sure the implant is still there?

Even though you may not be able to see the implant, you should be able to feel it. 

If you don’t feel it, go see a health care provider.

Injection

How does it work?

  • It is an injection that can be given in your arm or in your buttock.
  • It releases a hormone similar to the one made by your body. It can prevent pregancy in different way, such as by stopping the ovaries from releasing eggs.
  • It only prevents pregnancy — there is no protection against sexually transmitted infections. Have a talk with the person(s) you have sex with about getting tested and using a condom!

Duration:

3 months

Brand:

Depo-Provera®

What if I’m late for my next injection?

Less than 4 weeks late? Go to your health care provider to get another shot.

More than 4 weeks late? Use condoms for 7 days and get a pregnancy test.

What would I love?

  • 99% effective
  • Private
  • No interruption during sex
  • No maintenance required
  • Can make periods more regular, less painful, improve PMS symptoms
  • Lowers risk of getting cancer of the ovaries

What do I need to consider?

  • Vaginal discharge/irritation/dryness
  • Irregular periods/spotting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea/bloating
  • Change in appetite/weight gain
  • Hair changes on body
  • Decreased sex drive

Rare, but serious, side effects:

Contact your health care provider immediately if these occur!

  • Bad headache with vision problems
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain
  • Leg pain, swelling, and redness
  • Fever
  • Numbness/weakness on side of body
  • Sever/abdominal pain
  • Bone loss

If you have weak bones, talk to your medical provider before getting the injection.

Patch

How does it work?

  • It is a patch that is placed on your skin. Avoid the breast and genital regions.
  • The patch releases hormone similar to the ones made by your body. It can prevent pregnancy in different ways, such as by stopping the ovaries from making eggs.
  • It only prevents pregnancy — there is no protection against sexually transmitted infections. Have a talk with the person(s) you have sex with about getting tested and using a condom!

Brand:

Xulane®

Typical Directions*:

Use a new patch every week for 3 weeks. Do not use a patch during the 4th week to have your period.

*Always follow the directions provided by your prescriber

What would I love?

  • 95% effective (if used correctly!)
  • No interruption during sex
  • Fertility returns quickly after no usage
  • Can make periods more regular, less painful, improve PMS symptoms
  • Easy to use

What do I need to consider?

  • Vaginal discharge/irritation
  • Irregular periods/spotting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea/bloating
  • Change in appetite/weight gain
  • Changes in mood
  • May cause skin irritations
  • Increased risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack

Rare, but serious, side effects:

Contact your health care provider immediately if these occur!

  • Bad headache with vision problems
  • Vision problems
  • Chest pain
  • Leg pain, swelling, and redness
  • Fever
  • Numbness/weakness on side of body
  • Severe abdominal pain

If you smoke or weigh over 198 pounds, talk to your doctor before using the patch.

What if the patch comes off?

If it falls off, put it back on. If it does not stay on, use a new patch. 

If it has been off for longer than 1 day, put on a new patch and use condoms for the next 7 days. 

Barrier Methods:

Options include a cervical cap, diaphragm, sponge, and internal or external condom. Out of all the types of contraceptives, the external condom is the most commonly used, as it offers protection against both STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Internal condoms offer protection against STIs as well. For safety reasons, make sure you use a new condom each time you have sex — and be sure to check the expiration date!

If your partner is reluctant to use condoms, discuss it together, but be clear and firm about why you want to practice safe sex. It’s your sex life, meaning you get to choose when, where, and how you want to have sex. If you are the partner that prefers not to wear condoms due to a feeling of decreased pleasure or comfort, consider trying out different kinds of condoms for fit and feel. Condoms come in a variety of sizes; if it feels too tight or loose, you might just need a different size! You can also try adding a drop of lube in the tip of the condom before rolling it on to increase sensation. Last tip: practicing masturbation with a condom on can also help you get used to the feeling!

Sterilization:

Sterilization methods prevent pregnancy by blocking the reproductive function in men or women. They’re grouped into two categories: tubal ligation and vasectomy. Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are clamped or severed, preventing eggs from reaching the uterus for implantation. A vasectomy consists of tying off and cutting the tubes that transport sperm. Both types are permanent and offer more than 99% protection against pregnancy (but none against STIs).

Natural family planning:

Although not a pill or device, natural family planning is still a contraceptive method. Natural family planning is based on knowing the female partner's menstrual cycle so couples can avoid having sex during times of fertility. There are different ways to determine one's most fertile time, including the calendar, basal body temperature, and cervical mucus method, and higher protection rates occur when all three methods are used in combination. The effectiveness of this type of contraception varies because most people with a period don’t have a perfectly regular menstrual cycle. Natural family planning also does not protect against STIs (sensing a theme here?).

Withdrawal ("pull out") method:

“Don’t worry; I’ll just pull out.” The withdrawal/pull out/coitus interruptus method is when a male partner withdraws their penis from the vagina prior to ejaculation. Fun fact: about 35 million couples around the world rely on the withdrawal method. Wow! So, is it effective? If always done correctly, of every 100 women whose partners use withdrawal, 4 will become pregnant each year. Conversely, if not always done correctly (we are human after all), of every 100 women whose partners use withdrawal, 27 will become pregnant each year. While a convenient option, the withdrawal method requires a lot of experience, self-control, and trust. The partner with a penis must really know their sexual cycle, and be able to exhibit maximized control. The withdrawal method is not recommended for individuals who experience premature ejaculation. It is also important to note that pregnancy can still occur if semen or pre-ejaculate/pre-cum is spilled on the vulva. The science on whether pre-cum can cause pregnancy is inconclusive, but studies suggest that it might, so it is at least worth acknowledging. Did we mention this method also doesn’t protect against STIs? (condoms for the win).

Emergency contraception:

Soooooo you've already had sex without birth control, or perhaps the condom broke. First of all, relax! Now is not the time to panic. If you are still within a 120 hour (5 day) window, you can take emergency contraception, colloquially known as the "morning-after pill," to prevent pregnancy. Plan B is One-Step is the most well-known form of emergency contraception; you can get it at most drugstores or online. It is 95% effective within the first 24 hours, or about an 88% effective rate, on average, within 72 hours. Ella, also a pill, is 93-95% effective within 5 days. Ella requires a prescription from a doctor because it contains something called ulipristal acetate, which suppresses your body from producing progesterone, thereby delaying ovulation for up to 5 days (allowing sperm enough time to die before an egg is released). You can also get the copper (or non-hormonal) IUD inserted, which lowers your chances of getting pregnant by more than 99.9% if done within 5 days of unprotected sex. The copper IUD is the most effective form of emergency contraception, and can be left in for up to 12 years to help prevent future unwanted pregnancies. It is free under most insurance plans and Medicaid. Please read this Planned Parenthood article for more information on emergency contraception. If you have had unprotected sex, it is also wise to get tested for STIs, but not right away (different STIs can be detected in tests after different time periods after exposure to an infected partner). P.S. Emergency contraception is not the same thing as abortion, as it works before pregnancy begins. This is common misconception to be aware of.

What if I don’t want to use contraception?

Abstinence, the practice of voluntarily refraining from sexual activity, is the only way to enjoy 100% protection from both STIs and pregnancy. Abstinence, by the way, is a completely fair choice (whether you have been sexually active before or not)! Remember, there are other ways to enjoy physical pleasure, including masturbation (with or without a partner), kissing, massages, etc.! Never let anyone pressure you into something you don't want to do. 

Knowledge, confidence, and communication are the key ingredients to delicious, safe sex. If you’re going to engage in sexual activity, take control of your sexual health and future by using birth control to prevent unintended pregnancies and STIs. With the peace of mind, you will enjoy sex a whole lot more!

tabú tip:

Finding the right birth control option for you can take time. What works for your friend might not work the same for you; that’s okay! Discuss your options with your doctor, and use these handy summary cards to help you think about what might work best for you. And don’t forget, condoms are the best (and only, besides abstinence) method to protect against STIs!

This basic is powered by our friends at The Pill Club — birth control, delivered.


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