Types of Birth Control: What You Need to Know

types of birth control

Naturally, we often think of birth control as a method for preventing pregnancy. But, it can also have other use applications such as regulating menstrual cycles, relief for painful periods and to help treat hormonal acne.

The type of birth control that is best for you depends on a variety of factors including the reason for use, personal medical history, age, lifestyle, future family planning goals, and even your personal preference.

Here is an overview to help give you understand of the different types of birth control that may be available to you:

Hormonal Birth Control

Hormonal birth control options use synthetic forms of hormones to mimic the naturally-occurring hormones produced in a woman’s body. These hormones work to stop ovulation and prevent sperm from fertilization of an egg. This can either be a combination hormonal birth control which contains both estrogen and progestin, or a progestin-only method. These methods are widely popular because with the exception of Depo Provera, they are reversible. Hormonal birth control methods are also convenient, effective and have low failure rates when used as directed. There are intrauterine devices, injections, implants and more. It’s important to note that this type of birth control does not offer any protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Barrier Birth Control

Barrier birth control methods block sperm from entering the uterus entirely. These include condoms for men and women, diaphragms, contraceptive sponges and cervical caps. Male condoms are the most effective at both preventing pregnancy and STIs. Another form of barrier birth control is spermicide–a chemical method that is available as a cream, gel, foam or suppository. Inserted in the vagina before sexual intercourse, spermicide blocks sperm from entering the cervix and slows its ability to swim. Spermicide is often used in combination with condoms and is a mandatory component of diaphragms and cervical caps.

Natural/Behavioral Birth Control

Natural methods of preventing pregnancy are another option. This option, which has no side effects, refers to any action that can naturally prevent a pregnancy from happening in the first place such as abstinence, withdrawal, fertility awareness methods, outercourse and continuous breastfeeding for up to 6 months to postpone ovulation after giving birth. With the exception of abstinence and outercourse, these methods are generally less effective as other types of birth control and require a high level of discipline and self-control. They work best when in a stable relationship when both partners are equally committed to preventing pregnancy.

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception may be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or in situations when a primary method of birth control has failed. Commonly referred to as the morning-after pill or Plan B, emergency contraceptive pills can be taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after sex. Unlike hormonal birth control pills, morning-after pills are available at most drug stores without a prescription. Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections and should not be used as a regular form of birth control.

Intrauterine Devices (IUD)

Considered a long-term birth control option, an intrauterine device is a t-shaped device made up of flexible plastic and inserted through the vagina and into the uterus. It prevents sperm from reaching and fertilizing eggs. As mentioned, there are hormonal IUDs, but there is also a hormone-free device called ParaGard which uses copper. Depending on which type of device you choose, IUDs may last anywhere from 3 to 10 years before needing to be replaced.

Permanent Birth Control

For those who know they do not want to have children or are confident they are finished having children, there are two types of permanent birth control. For women, the procedure is called tubal ligation or “having your tubes tied.” For men, this sterilization procedure is called a vasectomy. Both are nearly 100 percent effective when it comes to preventing pregnancy, however, there is a waiting period before it becomes effective that you’ll want to use a secondary method of birth control. Neither method protects against STIs and while in some cases these procedures can be reversed, there are no guarantees and should be considered irreversible.

Choosing a Type of Birth Control

Each of the categories of birth control have different options within them. You may try several different options before finding the one that is best for you and it’s not uncommon for women to change methods as her needs change during each season of life.

You should always consult a licensed healthcare professional to help determine which birth control option is best for you. It may also involve discussion with your partner if you are married or in a committed relationship.

To learn more about the pros and cons of each method, call Kernodle OB/GYN at (336) 538-2367 to schedule an appointment at one of our two convenient locations in Burlington and Mebane, North Carolina.

Help us serve you better and tell us how we're doing.