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Birth Control: What Type Is Right for You?

You have a lot of choices for birth control, from condoms to caps to pills. Find one that you're confident with -- and that you can commit to using every time you have sex.

Hormonal Birth Control

These include birth control pills, stick-on patches, insertable vaginal rings, shots, and implants. You’ll need a prescription for them.

They use hormones, similar to the ones in your body, to stop the release of an egg so that it can't get fertilized by sperm.

How well it works depends on how well you use it. Most people don’t use any method perfectly, all the time. Things happen!

With typical use, hormonal birth control is about 90% effective. But if used correctly all the time, it prevents pregnancy over 99% of the time. The implant is also about 99% effective.

If you decide to take a birth control pill, ask your doctor how long you should use another form of birth control until the pill takes effect.

Barrier Birth Control

As the name suggests, these create a barrier to keep sperm from reaching an egg. You can get most of them at a pharmacy with no prescription.

Male condomsare reliable and cheap. Latex condoms are a good choice. They're durable and may be more effective against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than “natural” or “lambskin” condoms.

With typical use, the male condom is about 80% effective. If used perfectly every time, it prevents pregnancy 98% of the time.

A female condom is a thin, flexible, plastic tube that you would partially insert into your vagina, creating a barrier. Female condoms may also help against STDs. Female condoms are about 80% effective.

Other types of birth control work well in preventing pregnancy, but they don't protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).  

The sponge is another non-prescription option. It's a small piece of foam, treated with spermicide, that you place high up in your vagina. It's between 68% and 84% effective. You can also use spermicides -- gels, creams, and foams -- with other birth control or on their own. Alone, they're about 70% effective.

A few options -- like the diaphragm, cervical cap, and cervical shield -- are available only by prescription. They're rubber or silicone barriers that you place far up in your vagina. They're about 90% effective in preventing pregnancy.

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