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Birth Control Health Center

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Your Birth Control Options

Wondering what type of birth control is best for you? You have a lot of options, from condoms to caps to pills. Find one that you're confident with -- and that you can honestly commit to using every time you have sex.

Hormonal Birth Control

You need a prescription for these. They use hormones -- similar to the ones in your body -- to stop the release of an egg so that it cannot get fertilized by sperm.

Options include birth control pills, stick-on patches, insertable vaginal rings, shots, and implants. With typical use, most hormonal birth control is about 90% effective. But if you make sure to use it correctly all the time, it prevents pregnancy over 99% of the time. The implant is about 99% effective too.

Hormonal birth control won’t protect you from STDs.

Ask your doctor how long you should use another form of birth control until the pill takes effect.

Barrier Birth Control

Just like 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 condoms are a reliable and cheap way of preventing pregnancy. 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.

When we talk about how effective the following types of birth control are, we’re assuming “typical” use -- that is, not always perfect.

A female condom is a 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 barrier birth control work well in preventing pregnancy but don't protect you from STDs. They may be best if you're in a committed relationship.

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, spermicides are 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.

IUDs (Intrauterine Devices)

These are small plastic devices that a doctor or nurse will insert into your uterus. The procedure is simple and quick, although a little uncomfortable. Once it's in position, the IUD will protect you from pregnancy for a long time.

IUDs that use hormones are good for 5 years. The copper-T IUD -- which uses copper, a natural sperm-killer -- is good for up to 10 years. Again, IUDs don't protect you from sexually transmitted diseases. IUDs are about 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.

WebMD Medical Reference

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