Birth Control Methods

Birth control methods are used to help prevent pregnancy. There are many different methods to choose from. Talk with your healthcare provider about which method is right for you. Be sure to ask your provider how well each one works. Also ask about the benefits, risks, and side effects of each method.


Some birth control methods work by releasing hormones such as progestin and estrogen. These methods include hormone implants, hormone shots, the vaginal ring, the patch, and birth control pills. They all work by stopping the release of the egg from the ovary (ovulation). All of these methods work well and can be stopped at any time.

  • The implant is a small device that needs to be placed in the upper arm by a trained healthcare provider. It works for up to 3 years.

  • Hormone injections must be repeated every 3 months.

  • The vaginal ring must be replaced monthly. It can be removed during the fourth week of each cycle.

  • The patch must be replaced weekly. It's not worn during the fourth week of each cycle.

  • Birth control pills must be taken every day.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

An IUD is a small, T-shaped device. It must be placed in the uterus by a trained healthcare provider. There are different types of IUDs available. They work by causing changes in the uterus that make it harder for sperm to reach the egg. Depending on the type of IUD you have, it may work for several years or longer. The IUD is a reversible birth control method. This means it can be removed at any time.


A condom is a sheath that forms a thin barrier between the penis and the vagina. It helps prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm from entering the vagina. When latex condoms are used, they have the added benefit of protecting against most STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Condoms are used each time there is sexual intercourse and should be discarded after each use. Ask your healthcare provider about the different types of condoms available. These include both the male condom and female condom.


Spermicides come as foams, jellies, creams, suppositories, and tablets.  They help prevent pregnancy by killing sperm. When used alone they are not that reliable. They work best when combined with other birth control methods such as diaphragms and cervical caps.

Sponge, diaphragm, and cervical cap

All of these methods help prevent pregnancy by covering the opening of the uterus (cervix). This prevents sperm from passing through.

The sponge contains spermicide. It can be bought over the counter. The sponge must be left in place for at least 6 hours after the last time you have sex. However, it should not stay in place for more than 24 hours. Discard after use.

The diaphragm and cervical cap must be fitted and prescribed by your healthcare provider. Both are used with spermicide. The diaphragm must be left in place for at least 6 hours after sex. However, it should not stay in place for more than 24 hours. It can be washed and reused. The cervical cap must be left in place for at least 6 hours after sex. However, it should not stay in place for more than 48 hours. It can be washed and reused.

Withdrawal method

This is when the man pulls his penis out of the vagina just before ejaculation (“coming”). This lowers the amount of sperm entering the vagina. Be aware that fluids released just before ejaculation often still contain some sperm, so this method is not as reliable as certain other methods.

Rhythm method

This method is also call natural family planning or fertility awareness. It requires that you know when in your menstrual cycle you are likely to become pregnant. Then you not have sex during those days. This requires careful planning and good discipline. Your healthcare provider can explain more about how this works.

Tubal ligation and vasectomy

These are surgical methods to prevent pregnancy. Tubal ligation is an option for women. The fallopian tubes are blocked or cut (ligated). This keeps the egg from passing into the uterus or sperm from reaching the egg. Vasectomy is an option for men. The tubes that normally carry sperm to the penis are either closed or blocked. Both tubal ligation and vasectomy are permanent birth control methods. This means reversal is either not possible or unlikely to work. They are good choices for women and men who know that they don't want to have children in the future.

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