So you’re sexually active with a guy, but not ready to have a baby. Seems like a simple enough equation. Pick a method of contraception and you’re all set, right? Not so fast, young lady.
You may be surprised to know there are 20 methods of contraception available. However, some are better than others at preventing pregnancy, a few may have side effects, and most will not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
How to Choose
Obviously, if you are married or in a committed relationship—better yet, you and your partner have each been tested—you have more options for contraception. For those of you in the other category, it is best to choose a contraceptive that protects you from both pregnancy and STIs.
To help you decide which method of protection best suits your needs and lifestyle, we’ve compiled this list of twenty contraceptives, and included some key facts about each so you can choose wisely and easily. But keep in mind this is only a guide. Ovatures does not endorse any of the below methods. We recommend discussing your options with a licensed women’s health care professional in order to choose the method that’s right for you.
1- Barrier contraceptives
- Condoms – Condoms are the best method for preventing STIs and, if used correctly, their pregnancyprotection level is very high. And the best news is, they have no side effects unless you are allergic to latex.
- Spermicide: This acts as a chemical barrier, preventing sperm from reaching the uterus. But because its effectiveness is low when it comes to preventing pregnancy, it should be combined with another method of contraception. And spermicides do not offer protection from STIs.
- Female condoms: These are made from nitrile rubber. They protect the user from unwanted pregnancy and from STIs, but they are less effective than the male version.
- The diaphragm: Thisis a flexible silicone dome that a user can insert into the vagina herself. Planned Parenthood says it is 88% effective in preventing pregnancy when used correctly, possibly higher when used with spermicide. But since it does not cover the mucous membrane of the vagina, it cannot protect against STIs.
- The vaginal sponge: This is a device made from polyurethane foam containing spermicide. The user inserts it into her vagina prior to having sex and must wait at least six hours after having sex before removing it. Its effectiveness in preventing pregnancy ranges from 76-88%, but it does not prevent STIs.
2- Hormonal contraceptives
- The pill: Taken by prescription, the pill is 91% effective at preventing pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. It can also help with other issues, like irregular or painful periods. However, it may cause side effects and does not protect you from STIs.
- The progestin-only mini pill: The mini-pill emerged as an alternative for women who experience side effects from the traditional pill, which contains both progestins and estrogen. But unlike the pill, the mini-pill has to be taken every day at the same time and, according to the Mayo Clinic, is not as effective as the pill, and does not protect from STIs.
- The morning-after pill (MAP): Also known as “Emergency Contraception” or EC, this contains a high dose of hormones so it should only be used when absolutely necessary and taken no later than 72 hours after having sex.
- Intrauterine device (IUD): This small implant is placed in the uterine cavity by a healthcare professional. It can last for three to ten years depending on the type. Some release hormones and others do not. While an IUD will not protect you from STIs, this is a very convenient and effective form of contraception.
- The contraceptive patch: This is a simple adhesive patch that is applied to the skin and needs to be changed once a week. As a contraceptive, it is almost as effective as the pill, but it does not protect from STIs. And the list of potential side effects is long.
- The vaginal ring: This is a ring made of an ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer that a user can insert into the vagina herself. While protection only lasts three weeks, it is a very effective form of contraception. According to the American Pregnancy Association, its failure rate is less than 2% when used correctly and consistently. But it does not protect from STIs.
- The contraceptive injection: This injection of hormones is given by a health care professional every one to three months. While it may have side effects like the pill, it is up to 94% effective in preventing pregnancy and offers a progestin-only option for those who need to avoid estrogen. In some cases it may even help reduce heavy or painful bleeding. But like the pill, it does not protect against STIs and it may take up to a year after stopping the injections for your period and fertility to return.
- The contraceptive implant: This is a subcutaneous implant placed under the skin on the arm by a health care professional. It is a small plastic tube that releases hormones. As a contraceptive, it is highly effective and lasts for three years, however it does not prevent STIs.
3- Permanent contraception
- Vasectomy: This is a simple surgical procedure for men during which the tubes that carry sperm are blocked. There is minimal discomfort or down time after the procedure. While this permanently prevents unwanted pregnancy, those who are not in a committed relationship are advised to use condoms when having sex to avoid STIs.
- Tubal Ligation: This is a surgical procedure for women done in the operating room to tie off the fallopian tubes, which transport the egg. This minimally-invasive laparoscopic procedure can be done immediately after childbirth or at any time. But again, those who are not in a committed relationship are advised to still use condoms to avoid contracting STIs.
4- Alternative natural methods
- The rhythm or calendar method: This method involves a woman tracking her most fertile days and then avoiding sex during that time. But since this method depends on the length of a woman’s menstrual cycle, and not all women are regular in their menstruation, this is not a very effective method of birth control.
- Coitus interruptus or the withdrawal method: This involves withdrawing the penis prior to ejaculation. But if a man does not withdraw in time or if pre-seminal fluid leaks into the vagina, a pregnancy can occur. Therefore this method is not considered a reliable form of contraception.
- Cervical mucous: A few days before ovulation begins, cervical mucous becomes more elastic. This is one indicator that a woman is in her fertile period and should avoid sex during that time if she does not want to get pregnant. But, like the withdrawal method, this is a very unreliable method for preventing pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding: Women who are breastfeeding often do not ovulate since prolactin (one of the breast feeding hormones) inhibits this process. Prolactin is most potent during the first six months since giving birth, and if the baby is being fed exclusively on breast milk. However, there are many contributing factors that influence the effectiveness of this method so it should be discussed with your doctor or nurse.
The Wrap Up
So yes, there are 20 types of contraception, but what’s the overall takeaway? If you are not in a committed relationship, it is always best to add a condom to the mix when having sex, no matter what method of contraception you choose. It is also important to speak to your gynecologist or women’s health care professional since the right method of contraception is different for each individual situation. Feel free to contact us at Ovatures if you need help finding a local provider.