Birth control (contraception)

When we think of birth control for women, we might often only think about something to put in our body, like the pill, intrauterine device (IUD) or condoms. But, there are other kinds of birth control as well, like the rhythm method, vasectomy , tubal ligation — even abstinence. (The oldest trick in the book, literally). Think of birth control as any pregnancy prevention method — temporary or permanent.1

If you’ve never looked into the history of contraception, take a five-minute break for an entertaining history lesson. Humans have tried all sorts of things to avoid pregnancy over time, but it wasn’t until the 1960s when the first form of contraception hit the American market — the pill. Since the birth control pill, there have been lots of advances in contraceptives. If you’re sexually active and don’t want to get pregnant, a method of birth control may be a smart choice. You’ve got lots to choose from.

What are the different types of birth control?

Your overall health, future plans to have kids and personal preference will help determine the method of birth control that’s best for you. Be sure to do your research. Your doctor can answer any questions you have to help you decide.

Here are some options:2, 3

  • Abstinence: The most effective birth control is to not have sex. Plain and simple, right? Abstaining from sex is a personal choice that should be respected — and it’s 100% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Sterilization: A permanent, surgical method to preventing pregnancy is sterilization. Women have their tubes tied (called a tubal ligation) and men get their vasa deferentia cut and sealed (called a vasectomy). This might be something a husband or wife might choose after they’ve had the number of children they want. Or certain health conditions may require one of these procedures to help keep someone healthy.
  • Long-acting reversible contraceptives: These are put inside your body and last anywhere from 3 to 10 years, depending on the method you choose. IUDs and hormonal implants are examples of this kind of contraception.
  • Short-acting hormonal contraceptives: These are methods you use regularly — sometimes daily. The birth control pill, patch, injection and vaginal ring are all short-acting hormonal contraceptives.
  • Barrier methods: These are things you use every time you have sex, like condoms, diaphragms, sponge and cervical cap.
  • Natural rhythm methods: Also called natural family planning, this method tracks a woman’s menstrual cycle history to predict ovulation. This helps determine when she’ll likely be most fertile and able to get pregnant. Couples may also use this method to try and get pregnant.4

How to get birth control

In the market for new birth control or ready to start one? Schedule a visit with your primary care provider (the doctor or provider you might see for your yearly physical). The type of birth control your doctor recommends will be based on your age, overall health, lifestyle, personal preference and family history. Be sure to write down your questions and concerns before you head out.

Footnotes

  1. Birth Control Health Center webmd.com, 2021.
  2. Birth Control Options & Types my.clevelandclinic.org, 2019.
  3. Birth control methods womenshealth.gov, 2017.
  4. Rhythm method for natural family planning mayoclinic.org, 2018.
  5. Birth Control: Benefits Beyond Pregnancy Prevention webmd.com, 2020.
  6. Birth Control Pill webmd.com, 2020.
  7. Emergency Contraception acog.org, 2021.