The most effective birth control methods are the hormonal IUD, the copper IUD, and the arm implant.
The IUD is a small, t-shaped plastic device with two soft threads that is placed in your uterus by an OB/GYN or healthcare provider. It is a quick nonsurgical procedure (about 15 minutes) and once the IUD is in place, it prevents sperm from reaching and fertilizing eggs. The IUD is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy making it one of the most effective birth control methods available. Depending on the IUD you choose, you can have pregnancy protection from 3 years up to 10 years. If you decide that you want to get pregnant, the IUD can be removed at any time during a quick visit to an OB/GYN or healthcare provider.
Hormonal IUDs work by releasing small amounts of the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel. Levonorgestrel is similar to the natural hormone progestin and it functions by blocking sperm and thickening the cervical mucus. Hormonal IUDs can also lead to lighter and shorter periods. Brands of hormonal IUDs include Sklya, Mirena, Kyleena, and Liletta.
Non-hormonal IUDs work by releasing small amounts of natural, safe copper into the uterus. Copper is a spermicide and kills sperm on contact with them. ParaGard is the only non-hormonal IUD currently available.
The implant is another form of birth control that is also a LARC (long acting reversible contraceptive) like the IUD. This thin, flexible plastic implant (brand name Nexplanon) is inserted under the skin in your upper arm by a healthcare provider. It is about the size of a matchstick and it provides pregnancy protection by releasing small amounts of the hormone progestin into your body. This hormone prevents your ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens your cervical mucus which keeps sperm from reaching the eggs. The birth control implant lasts up to 4 years and it is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Just like the IUD, you can “get it and forget it”!
The patch, the ring, the pill, and the injectable shot are all moderately effective methods of birth control.
The patch is a square, beige piece of plastic about 2 inches across that looks like a Band-Aid. Every week, you must stick a new patch to your skin so that it can release hormones into your body and prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones released by the patch also thicken your cervical mucus which helps to block sperm from reaching the egg in the first place. The patch is available under the generic brand name Xulane.
The ring is a small, flexible, plastic ring that you insert into your vagina. It works by releasing hormones into your body that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus which helps to block sperm from reaching the egg in the first place. The ring stays in your vagina for 3 weeks and on the 4th week, you must remove it and insert a new one. The ring is available under the brand name NuvaRing.
The pill (AKA “oral contraception”) is a pill that you must take once a day at the same time every day. The pill works by releasing hormones into your body that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus which helps to block sperm from reaching the egg in the first place. There are lots of different brands of the pill on the market and new brands come out all the time.
The least effective methods of birth control are withdrawal (pulling out), the condom, and natural family planning.
Withdrawal (Pulling Out):
Withdrawal (AKA “pulling out) is the oldest method of birth control around. It requires the guy to have precise control and pull out of your vagina before he ejaculates sperm. This form of birth control is also called “coitus interruptus”.
The condom, sometimes called the “internal condom” or the “female condom” is a plastic pouch that you insert into your vagina. The internal condom works the same way that the “male” condom does except that you insert it into your vagina instead of onto the penis. As long as it does not break, the “internal condom” keeps the sperm inside the condom and out of your vagina.
Natural Family Planning:
Natural Family Planning (AKA “fertility awareness”) requires you to track your menstrual cycle so that you know what days you can get pregnant. This can be complex as you need to pay very close attention to your body and it’s patterns.