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Her Campus American Breaks Down Your Birth Control Options

There are many options for birth control and contraceptive methods, and when choosing one it is important to consider your lifestyle and medical history. Some methods have hormones while others do not, some require a daily commitment, and others you can just forget about. Getting information about all of the choices can be overwhelming. Below is a list of barrier methods, hormonal methods, LARC’s (Long-acting reversible contraceptives), and emergency contraception options. There are more options than these, but the options included on this list are some of the most effective and simple methods. All information presented in this article is based on information from the American University Wellness Center and Planned Parenthood.  If you are interested in learning about more options and/or information about these options such as benefits and side effects, check out the Planned Parenthood website for birth control.


Barrier Methods

1. The Condom

There are two types of condoms: External Condoms (Perfect use: 98% effective, Typical use: 82% effective) and Internal Condoms (Perfect use: 95% effective, Typical use: 79% effective)

Condoms are one of the most commonly used methods, and is the only method that prevents against STI’s and HIV transmission. Along with that, condoms come in 3 materials: latex, polyurethane, and animal skin. However, animal skin does not prevent the spread of viruses.

2. Dental Dams

Dental dams are not meant to prevent pregnancy, however they are a barrier method for oral sex which helps to prevent the spread of STI’s.

Hormonal Methods

1. The Pill (Perfect use: >99% effective, Typical use: 91% effective)

The pill must be taken daily (generally at the same time of the day). It thickens cervical mucus and thins uterine lining in order to prevent pregnancy. However, the pill is also helpful for those with heavy and/or irregular periods, bad PMS, ovarian cysts, and those in need of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) relief or Endometriosis relief. Birth control pills contain two hormones: Estrogen and/or Progestin. Typically, there are 3 weeks of active pills, and 1 week of placebo pills (which may contain no hormones, or a lower dose of hormones), this is when you would have a period.

2. The Patch (Perfect use: >99% effective, Typical use: 91% effective)

The patch is exactly what it sounds like – a patch. It’s similar to a band-aid that sticks to your skin, although it is designed to stay on for a week and release Estrogen and Progestin into your body. There is one patch for each week for three weeks. After that there is the same kind of placebo week like the pill has, except there is just no patch for the fourth week. Because there is Estrogen involved in this method, this helps with menstrual regulation and easing menstrual side effects.

3. NuvaRing (Perfect use: >99%, Typical use: 91% effective)

NuvaRing is a flexible ring that is worn internally in the vagina for three weeks, and then is taken out for a week and replaced with a new one at the end of that week. Similar to the pill and the patch, it contains Estrogen and Progestin. The ring is removed during sex, but should be reinserted within 3 hours. Again, the Estrogen in this method helps with menstrual regulation and side effects

4. Depo Provera, AKA “The Shot” (Perfect use: >99%, Typical use: 94%)

Depo Provera is an injectable form of Progestin which is given every 12 weeks by a doctor. Unlike the pill, patch, and ring, you do not have to think about the shot everyday, week, or even month. Although you do not have to do something daily, weekly, or monthly, you do need to remember to go to the doctor to get the Depo Provera shot every 3 months.


LARC’s (Long Acting Reversible Contraception)

Note: These methods do not require daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly maintenance.

1. IUD (Intrauterine Device/System) (99% effective)

An IUD is a T-shaped device placed in the uterus with strings that hang through the cervix. They are placed by a doctor and can be removed at any time by a qualified medical professional if desired. There are several types of IUDs, all of which are reversible. They all create an environment which make it difficult for sperm to reach an egg. Almost all IUDs use the hormone Progestin. Here are a few types of IUDs and how long you can wear them for: 

Mirena – Up to 6 years

Kyleena: Up to 5 years

Skyla: Up to 3 years

Lileta: Up to 3 years

*Paragard: Up to 12 years (Paragard is hormone free and contains copper which is naturally toxic for sperm, thus creating a toxic environment for sperm in the uterus)


2. Nexplanon, AKA “The Implant” (99% Effective)

The Nexplanon is a matchstick-sized implant in the forearm. It works by releasing low doses of Progestin for up to 3 years. However, if you want it to be removed before the end of 3 years, you can have a qualified medical professional remove it before this time is up.


Emergency Contraception (ECP)

Note: Emergency Contraception is not intended to be a long-term birth control plan.

1. The Morning After Pill

The morning after pill is a high dose of hormones that can be taken after unprotected sex to delay ovulation or to prevent implantation. There are two brands of morning after pills which are most commonly used:

Plan B One Step: Works best within 3 days of unprotected sex.

Ella (Requires doctor’s prescription — higher dose of hormones): works best within 5 days of unprotected sex.

2. Paragard

This IUD can be inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex in order to work as a form of emergency contraception.


Still not sure which option might be best for you? Ask the experts at Planned Parenthood by taking this quiz!


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I'm a freshman at American University (Class of 2020) currently studying International Relations and Arabic. I love clothing, cats, and photography; I also throw knives as a hobby. 
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