Let’s face it: There is a lot of misinformation out there about birth control. And it’s especially puzzling at a time when you’re exploring your sexuality and learning how to maintain your sexual health. To set the record straight, we partnered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Women’s Health to share the Birth Control Chart every young woman should know about.
There are many FDA-approved birth control options to choose from. And since no one product is best for everyone—and some methods are more effective than others at preventing pregnancy—you need to speak to your healthcare provider to determine which one is right for you. Here’s what you need to know before your visit.
1. There are different types of FDA-approved medicines and devices for birth control that vary in how long they last and how they work. They are:
- Permanent Sterilization — These surgeries (vasectomies for men and trans-abdominal surgical sterilization for women) or implants (for women it’s called a transcervical tubal sterilization implant) are indefinite.
- Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC) — IUD or IUS (intrauterine device or system). These methods last for several years.
- Contraceptive Injection — This method is given as a shot (injection) every three months.
- Short-Acting Hormonal Methods — The oral contraceptives (“the pill” and “the mini pill”) and the patch and the vaginal contraceptive ring prevent pregnancy by interfering with ovulation and possibly fertilization of the egg.
- Barrier Methods — These options (including a diaphragm, sponge or cervical cap with spermicide, male and female condoms, and spermicide alone) block sperm from reaching the egg.
2. You need to know the use, risks, and effectiveness of each contraceptive product, device, or procedure. That way you can make an informed choice about which one is right for you. The FDA compiled some of those for you, so you don’t have to do the research yourself. Your healthcare provider can tell you more about what you need to know about each birth control method.
3. Emergency contraception should NOT be used as a regular form of birth control. This option should only be used if you did not use birth control or if your regular birth control fails (such as a condom breaks). According to the FDA Birth Control Chart, emergency contraception prevents about 55-85% of predicted pregnancies.
4. Consider pregnancy rates to get an idea of how effective a product or procedure is at preventing pregnancy. Check the FDA Birth Control Chart to find the number of pregnancies expected per 100 women during the first year of typical use. Typical use shows how effective the different methods are during actual use (including sometimes using a method in a way that is not correct or consistent). Ask your healthcare provider for the specific rate for the birth control product you are considering.
5. Follow directions carefully. No matter which method you choose, it’s important to thoroughly review and comprehend the instructions—if you don’t, you increase your chance of getting pregnant.
6. We’re sure you know this by now, but remember: The only sure way to avoid pregnancy is not to have any sexual contact.
7. Planning a visit to your doctor, healthcare provider, or pharmacist? Speak up. When discussing which method is right for you, be sure to let them know if you:
- Have liver disease
- Have blood clots
- Have family members who have had blood clots
- Are taking any other medicines, like antibiotics or daily prescription medicines
- Are taking any herbal products, like St. John’s Wort
- Are breastfeeding
- Have been pregnant recently
Ready to find the birth control method that’s right for you? Consult the FDA Office of Women’s Health Birth Control Chart now, then contact your healthcare provider to make an appointment.