Birth control (contraception)

Learn about birth control options

There are a number of ways to approach birth control. Before making your decision, research each method, talk about it with your partner, and make a list of questions for your doctor. It's also important to consider the risks and possible side effects for each method. For some of these methods, that may include weight gain, changes in mood, allergic reactions and irregular periods.
  • Traditional – abstinence and fertility awareness
  • Barrier – male or female condom, diaphragm, sponge, cervical cap and spermicide
  • Hormonal – the pill, patch, ring, shot or emergency contraceptive
  • Implanted – intrauterine device (IUD) or implantable rod
  • Sterilization – permanent male or female surgeries

No matter which method you choose, it's important to follow all directions carefully to avoid pregnancy. And an important word about protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): male condoms are the only contraceptive that offers some protection against most STDs.

How to talk to your doctor

Your doctor can help choose the right method of birth control for you. Some things to consider during the discussion:

  • Your overall health
  • How often you have sex
  • How many sexual partners you have
  • If you want to have children in the future
  • If you will need a prescription or if you can buy the method over the counter
  • The details of the method, including how it works, its risks and its effectiveness in preventing pregnancy

The discussion with your doctor should also include information about your health habits and health history. Depending on the birth control method you’re considering, it will be important to tell your doctor if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have liver disease or other health conditions
  • Have blood clots or have family members who have had blood clots
  • Are taking any other medicines
  • Are taking any herbal products, like St. John's Wort

Not every method is right for every person. Learning about each and talking openly with your partner and your doctor will help you make a decision right for you.

Learn more about birth control methods