Birth Control Guide

If you do not want to get pregnant, there are many birth control options to choose from. No one product is best for everyone. Some methods are more effective than others at preventing pregnancy. Check the pregnancy rates on this chart to get an idea of how effective the product is at preventing pregnancy. The pregnancy rates tell you the number of pregnancies expected per 100 women during the first year of typical use. Typical use shows how effective the different methods are during actual use (including sometimes using a method in a way that is not correct or not consistent). The only sure way to avoid pregnancy is not to have any sexual contact. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best method for you.

FDA-Approved Methods Number of pregnancies expected (per 100 Women) Use Some risks or side effects
Sterilization Surgery for women Less than 1 Onetime procedure.
Permanent
Pain
Bleeding
Infection or other complications after surgery
Sterilization implant for women Less than 1 Onetime procedure.
Permanent
Pain/cramping
Pelvic or back discomfort
Vaginal bleeding
Sterilization Surgery for men Less than 1 Onetime procedure.
Permanent
Pain
Bleeding
Infection
IUD Copper Less than 1 Inserted by a healthcare provider.
Lasts up to 10 years
Cramps
Heavier, longer periods
Spotting between periods
IUD with Progestin Less than 1 Inserted by a healthcare provider.
Lasts up to 3-5 years,
depending on the type
Irregular bleeding
No periods (amenorrhea)
Abdominal/pelvic pain
Implantable Rod Less than 1 Inserted by a healthcare provider.
Lasts up to 3 years.
Menstrual changes
Weight gain
Acne
Mood swings or depressed mood
Headache
Shot/Injection 6 Need a shot every 3 months. Loss of bone density
Irregular bleeding/Bleeding between periods
Headaches
Nervousness
Abdominal discomfort
Weight gain
Dizziness
Oral Contraceptives
The Pill
(Combined Pill)
9 Must swallow a pill every day. Spotting/bleeding between periods
Nausea
Breast tenderness
Headache
Oral Contraceptives
The Pill
(Extended/Continuous use Combined Pill)
9 Must swallow a pill every day. Spotting/bleeding between periods
Nausea
Breast tenderness
Headache
Oral Contraceptives
The Mini Pill
(Progestin Only)
9 Must swallow a pill at the same time every day. Spotting/bleeding between periods
Nausea
Breast tenderness
Headache
Patch 9 Put on a new patch each week for 3 weeks (21 total days).
Don't put on a patch during the fourth week.
Spotting/bleeding between menstrual periods
Nausea
Breast tenderness
Headache
Stomach pain
Skin irritation
Vaginal Contraceptive Ring 9 Put the ring into the vagina yourself.
Keep the ring in your vagina for 3 weeks and then take it out for one week.
Vaginal discharge, discomfort in the vagina, and mild irritation.
Headache
Nausea
Mood changes
Breast tenderness
Diaphragm with Spermicide 12 Must use every time you have sex. Irritation
Allergic reactions
Urinary tract infection
Sponge with Spermicide 12-24 Must use every time you have sex. Irritation
Cervical Cap with Spermicide 17-23 Must use every time you have sex. Irritation
Allergic reactions
Abnormal Pap test
Male Condom 18 Must use every time you have sex.
Provides protection against some STDs.
Irritation
Allergic reactions
Female Condom 21 Must use every time you have sex.
Provides protection against some STDs.
Discomfort or pain during insertion or sex.
Burning sensation, rash or itching
Spermicide 28 Must use every time you have sex. Irritation
Allergic reactions
Urinary tract infection
Other Contraception - Emergency Contraceptives (EC): May be used if you did not use birth control or if your regular birth control fails (such as a condom fails). It should not be used as a regular form of birth control. Emergency contraception prevents about 55 - 85% of predicted pregnancies.
Levonorgestrel 1.5mg (1 pill)
Levonorgestrel .75 mg (2 pills)
7 out of every 8 women who would have gotten pregnant will not become pregnant after taking this EC. Swallow the pills as soon as possible within 3 days after having unprotected sex. Menstrual changes
Headache
Dizziness
Breast pain
Lower stomach (abdominal) pain
Nausea
Vomiting
Tiredness
Ulipristal Acetate 6 or 7 out of every 10 women who would have gotten pregnant will not become pregnant after taking this EC. Swallow the pills as soon as possible within 5 days after having unprotected sex. Headache
Abdominal pain
Tiredness
Nausea
Menstrual pain
Dizziness

For more information on the chance of getting pregnant while using a method or on the risks of a specific product, please check the product label or Trussell, J. (2011). Contraceptive failure in the United States. Contraception 83(5): 397-404.