Several methods are available for preventing pregnancy. The only way to avoid all risk of pregnancy is to abstain from sex. If you choose to be sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy, speak with your healthcare provider to determine which birth control method is best for you.

Some methods of birth control also reduce your risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, it is important to note that only the barrier method helps prevent STIs.

Barrier Contraception

Barrier contraception prevents the sperm from reaching the egg. It is only used during sexual intercourse. Options for barrier contraception include:

A latex, polyurethane, or lambskin cover that fits snugly over the erect penis prior to penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth.


  • 82 – 98%


  • Affordable and easily accessible
  • Highly effective
  • Latex condoms also protect against most STIs


  • May tear if used improperly
  •  Lambskin condoms are porous and do not provide adequate protection against STIs.

A polyurethane sleeve with a closed end and ring at the base that fits snugly into the vagina. The tube extends to the outside of the vagina and helps protect the labia from skin-to-skin contact during intercourse.


  • 79 – 95%


  • Lets a woman be in control of condom use during intercourse
  • Offers more protection from skin-to-skin transmission of STIs
  • Widely available


  • Slightly noisy during intercourse
  • May be difficult to insert
  • Not as effective if both partners wear condoms

A thin, shallow disk made of latex or silicone filled with spermicide that is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix 15 minutes prior to intercourse. It is removed a minimum of 6 hours after intercourse and washed with warm, soapy water. Spermicide can be added if there is additional intercourse.


  • 88 – 94%


  • Lightweight and portable
  • Lasts for years if stored and maintained properly
  • Helps a woman maintain control over contraception


  • Must be sized and prescribed by a health care professional
  • Offers no protection against STIs
  • Latex diaphragms cannot be used by women with latex allergies

Similar to a diaphragm, a cervical cap is made out of latex or silicone and is placed over your cervix to block sperm from entering. Spermicide is added to the dome, but additional spermicide is not needed for additional intercourse. A cervical cap can be inserted several hours ahead of time and left in place for up to 48 hours. It should be removed no earlier than 6 hours after intercourse.


  • 86%


  • Lightweight and portable
  • Lasts a long time with proper storage and maintenance
  • Helps a woman maintain control over contraception


  • Must be individually sized and prescribed by a professional
  • Can’t be used by women with a latex allergy
  • Does not protect against STIs

A chemical barrier that kills sperm. Spermicides come in many forms – jellies, foams, suppositories, and films. It is inserted into the vagina before sex. Additional applications of spermicides acts of sex require additional. Spermicides should always be used with condoms.


  • 72 – 82%


  • Affordable and easily available


  • Can be messy
  • Does not protect against STIs
  • Need to reapply for additional sex

Other Methods

Hormonal contraception uses hormones to suppress ovulation, meaning that the egg is not released from the ovary and cannot be fertilized. It also thickens the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus.

Hormonal contraception requires a prescription from your healthcare provider. There are many different delivery methods:  pills, patches, the ring, IUDs and implant devices.  The delivery method is a personal choice.  If used correctly and consistently, they are up to 99% effective. Hormonal contraception options do not protect against STIs.

The Pill is a daily oral medication containing either progestin or a combination of progestin and estrogen (female hormones). The Pill can also help reduce menstrual cramping, decrease bleeding, and improve acne. For this reason, your doctor may prescribe the Pill for you even if you are not sexually active.

The Pill must be taken consistently, every day at the same time, within a 2-hour window.  It is 91–99% effective.

A small, T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. IUDs must be inserted and removed by a healthcare provider.  They are 99% effective.

IUDs can be hormonal or non-hormonal. Hormonal IUDs release progestin to suppress ovulation. One can remain in place for up to 3–7 years (depending on the type).

Non-hormonal IUDs are made of copper, which is a natural sperm-killer. They can remain in place for up to 12 years.

Prescribed by your healthcare provider, the patch is a small adhesive patch you put on your buttocks, abdomen, or upper arm. It should not be placed near your breasts or on your genitals. It releases hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that are absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream. The patch prevents pregnancy in the same way the pill does. It is 91–99% effective.

The Patch is worn 3 out of 4 weeks of a month. You change it once it a week.

A 2-inch soft, flexible, transparent ring prescribed by your doctor that you insert into your vagina. It contains estrogen and progestin that are absorbed through the mucus membranes of the vagina. The Ring prevents pregnancy in the same way as the pill does. It is 91–99% effective. The Ring has a 4-week schedule: 3 weeks with the Ring in place and one week without.

Depo-provera is an injection of progesterone (no estrogen) into your upper arm or buttocks that prevents pregnancy for 3 months. “The Shot” is 94–99% effective. You must return to your health care provider every 12 weeks for another injection.

An implant is a small, matchstick-sized plastic rod inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It contains progestin (no estrogen) and releases the hormone into your body. It can stay in place for up to 3 years. It is 99% effective. It must be inserted and removed by a healthcare provider.

Emergency contraception (EC) can prevent pregnancy when used correctly. It should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sexual intercourse. It was originally approved to be used within 3 days, but we now know it can be effective for up to 5 days.

One type of EC is known as the morning after pill or Plan B. It contains an elevated dose of progesterone and can stop the egg from being released or change the lining of the uterus so that the egg cannot attach and grow.

Another type of EC is Ella; a pill that can block the secretion of the hormone progesterone and in this way prevent a pregnancy.

EC is 58–94% effective. The earlier it is taken, the more effective it is. If EC is the only form of birth control you are using, there is still a 20% chance of pregnancy. The risk of pregnancy may be higher if your body mass index is above 26.

EC does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Most women tolerate EC relatively well but side effects may include nausea, vomiting, and a delayed or early menstrual period.

EC will not cause an abortion or miscarriage (it is not the same thing as RU-486, which is known as the abortion pill). If you are already pregnant, there is no increased risk to the fetus. If you think you are already pregnant from a previous sexual encounter, take a pregnancy test before you use EC.

If you use EC and do not get your period as expected, take a pregnancy test.

EC is not a consistent form of birth control. Talk with your healthcare provider about methods of birth control that might work better for you.

Plan B One Step can be bought at a pharmacy without a prescription.

Ella is available by prescription only.

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