Pros and Cons of Different Types of Birth Control

Before I took a Human Sexuality class here at UCSB, I had no idea that so many different methods of birth control existed, each with their own benefits and effectiveness. I put together a quick guide for anyone looking into getting birth control, but are unaware or unsure of what their options are.


Birth Control Pill

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The most common form of birth control is the pill. It’s the one you’ve most likely heard about, and probably the easiest form to get and take. The pill is a hormonal medicine that stops ovulation preventing the possibility of pregnancy.


  • 91% effective

  • Easy to obtain (prescription from doctor)

  • Often free of cost with health insurance

  • Reduced menstrual cramps and bleeding

  • Reduced acne, PMS, bone thinning, anemia, cysts in breasts and ovaries, etc.


  • You have to remember to take the pill every single day

  • Possible side effects include: spotting in between periods, nausea, headaches, or sore breasts (these symptoms usually go away after 3 months)

  • You need a new prescription every year


Birth Control Implant

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The implant (aka Nexaplon) is a little more convenient, if remembering to take a pill at the same time every day is a little much. The implant is a thin rod, the size of a matchstick, inserted just beneath the skin in your upper arm. It releases hormones in your body that prevent pregnancy.


  • More than 99% effective

  • Convenient; no pill to remember to take

  • Reduced cramps and bleeding during your period

  • Lasts up to 4 years


  • Can be expensive without health insurance

  • Common side effect: irregular bleeding during the first 6-12 months, sometimes long-term spotting

  • Possible side effects include: headaches, nausea, breast pain, weight gain, pain/bruising or an infection where the implant was inserted


Birth Control Vaginal Ring

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The birth control ring (aka NuvaRing) works similarly to the implant, however, it is a small, flexible ring that is inserted into you vagina. The ring releases hormones into your body that prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. The ring is inserted for 3 weeks and removed for 1 week.


  • Convenient; no pill to take every day

  • Regulates your period

  • Reduced cramps and lighter periods

  • You can use the ring to skip periods altogether

  • Can reduce or help prevent: acne, bone thinning, cysts in breasts and ovaries, ectopic pregnancy, endometrial and ovarian cancers, anemia, and PMS


  • Possible spotting or bleeding in between period, sore breasts, nausea or headaches

  • Extra vaginal wetness


Birth Control Patch

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The birth control patch is patch you wear on the skin of your belly, upper arm, butt, or back. You replace the patch every week for 3 weeks and then spend 1 week without the patch. The patch also releases hormones that prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation.


  • Convenient; you don’t have to remember to take a pill every day

  • Can help reduce: acne, bone thinning, cysts in your breasts and ovaries, anemia, PMS. ectopic pregnancy and endometrial and ovarian cancers

  • Helps regulate your periods

  • Reduces menstrual cramps, lighter periods


  • Possible bleeding in between periods, sore breasts, nausea

  • Some soreness on the skin where the patch is


Birth Control Shot

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The birth control shot is an injection you get every 3 months, It contains the progestin, that prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation.


  • Convenient; only have to think about birth control 4 times a year rather than taking a pill every day

  • Can reduce your periods; can stop periods altogether after a year of using it

  • Can help protect you from cancer of the uterus and ectopic pregnancy


  • You have to visit the doctor’s office every three months

  • Possible spotting in between periods, bleeding more than usual, or no periods

  • Possible side effects: nausea, weight gain, headaches, breast soreness, depression, bruising at shot site

  • May take up to 10 months after stopping the shots to get pregnant



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An IUD is an Intrauterine Device; a small device that is places into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are 2 types of IUDs: copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs. The copper IUD does not use hormones; it’s wrapped in copper and prevents pregnancy for up to 12 years. The hormonal IUDs use progestin to prevent pregnancy and lasts 3-6 years, depending on the brand you receive. Both types of IUDs prevent pregnancy by keeping the sperm cells from reaching the egg.


  • More than 99.9% effective

  • Lasts for years, but can be removed at any time by your nurse or doctor

  • Can be used an emergency contraception if put in within 5 days after unprotected sex

  • Hormonal IUDs can reduce cramps and lighten periods

  • Copper IUDs don’t have hormones


  • Pain when IUD is inserted

  • Cramping or backaches after the IUD is inserted

  • Possible spotting in between periods

  • Irregular periods

  • Possibility of heavier periods and worse menstrual cramps with the copper IUD



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None of the birth controls listed offer any protection against STDs. Pair any of these birth control methods with condoms, or female condoms, to ensure protection from both pregnancy and STDs.

More details and information about each of these birth controls -- and some that aren’t listed -- can be found on the Planned Parenthood website here. If you have further questions about which method is right for you, be sure to ask your doctor.