The Basics of Birth Control

First, it’s important to know the different types of birth control available for women. Most are aware of the pill, condoms and Plan B. But, there is more to birth control than just paying for a monthly prescription or buying condoms. There are options for each and every lifestyle, allergy and personal preference.

How Does Birth Control Work?

Birth control methods can be split up into two categories: barrier and hormonal. A barrier method blocks the path of sperm through the cervix. Hormonal methods usually regulate female hormones to prevent ovulation, and sometimes thicken cervical mucus. Now, there are pros and cons to each of the methods that fall into these categories. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular methods.


Barrier Methods

Male Condoms

Arguably the most familiar form of birth control, this barrier method is currently THE ONLY WAY TO PREVENT STIs! While most condoms are made from latex, some companies also produce latex-free condoms for those with latex allergies. Male condoms are 85 percent effective when used properly, and even more effective when used in conjunction with spermicide. In the end, condoms may not be the most effective form of birth control on the market, but their ability to prevent STIs makes this one of the most popular methods.


This method may be a little less familiar to college-aged women but it is, at 84 percent effective, almost as good as a condom. A diaphragm is basically a rubber cap you coat with spermicide and use to cover the cervix, blocking the entry of sperm. If getting a diaphragm, you will need to be fitted for one by a gynecologist which means making an appointment. However, after receiving the diaphragm, you can pretty much control your contraception for two years. See the Planned Parenthood: Diaphragm for more detailed instructions on how to use this method.


Hormonal Methods

The Pill

Like the condom, most people are familiar with this method. The pill prevents ovulation with up 99 percent effectiveness in contraception. However, as with most hormonal methods, there can be side effects such as weight gain, acne and mood swings. This method does require that you take the pill around the same time, EVERY DAY. So, if you are forgetful, consider a more hands-off method. The upside to the pill is that some brands allow you to skip periods for months at a time and may even relieve heavy periods and cramping.


The Nexplanon implant is inserted into the inner, upper arm, just below the skin. This implant gives off a low dose of hormones to prevent ovulation and pregnancy. This may have the same side effects as the pill because the hormones are released into your bloodstream. However, this method is good for three years at a time and entirely reversible. On the downside, you do have to go to the doctor to have the implant inserted in your arm. See the Nexplanon website for more information.


The Intrauterine Device (IUD)

The IUD is a t-shaped device that is placed just inside the uterus to either prevent ovulation or act as a natural spermicide, depending on the brand you choose. All IUDs require a visit to the doctor for insertion and removal. There may be a large co-pay up front depending on your insurance, but in the long run it is less expensive than the monthly costs of the pill or condoms.

The copper IUD (Paraguard) releases natural copper to kill sperm as it enters the uterus. This method is the most effective, non-hormonal method on the market currently. However, it is not recommended for women with heavy periods or endometriosis, as it can worsen these issues. The copper IUD is also the longest lasting method at a life of ten years!

The hormonal IUD (Mirena, Skyla, Kyleena, etc.) acts just like the implant and the pill, preventing ovulation. The added bonus of this hormonal method is that, since the hormones are not being released into the bloodstream, there are less physical side effects like weight gain. IUDs like Skyla and Kyleena are made for women who have never had children and are smaller for a less uncomfortable insertion. Check out the Planned Parenthood: IUD page for more information on each type of IUD.



There are more methods than listed here. Be sure to do your research and use the websites below to inform your decision. In the end, what matters is that you are comfortable with your method and that you stay safe and healthy. Just remember that condoms prevent STIs, and Plan B is for emergencies only! Good luck out there, ladies!

Planned Parenthood: Birth Control Options

WellWVU: Birth Control Info

FDA: Birth Control Chart