Birth control basics
Birth control, also known as contraception, is
designed to prevent pregnancy. Birth control methods
may work in a number of different ways.
To help determine which birth control method would
be best for you, consider your lifestyle, personal
preferences and health status. How do you feel about
planning for sex? Inserting birth control devices
into your body? Taking a pill at the same time every
day or tracking your fertile days? Permanently
ending the ability to conceive or father a child?
It's also important to make an honest assessment of
yourself, your partner and your relationship. You
may have different birth control needs if you have
sex often or you're not in a monogamous
relationship. Ideally, you and your partner will
discuss the options and reach a mutually beneficial
Birth control pills
Birth control pills are a common type of
contraception. If you're considering taking birth
control pills, you may have more choices than you'd
You'll start by choosing either combination birth
control pills or minipills. If you choose
combination birth control pills, you'll have another
choice — conventional packs or continuous dosing.
With conventional birth control pills, you'll have a
period every month. With continuous dosing birth
control pills, you may have a period only four times
a year or eliminate your period entirely.
Of course, each type of birth control pill has its
own risks and benefits. Understand the basics, then
work with your health care provider to determine the
best birth control pill for you.
Other birth control options
When you think of birth control options, what comes
to mind? Birth control pills are a popular choice,
but don't stop there. Other birth control options
abound — and the choice is up to you.
If you need birth control only occasionally,
over-the-counter male or female condoms might be
appropriate birth control options. Condoms also
provide protection against sexually transmitted
infections. The contraceptive sponge is another
option that's available without a prescription. If
you're most concerned about effectiveness,
prescription contraceptives — such as contraceptive
injections, a vaginal ring or an intrauterine device
— might be better birth control options.
As you consider your birth control options, be open
to all the possibilities. Get familiar with how
different types of birth control work, as well as
the risks and benefits of specific birth control
If you're sure that you don't want to be pregnant —
or father a child — at any point in the future, you
may consider sterilization.
For men, vasectomy is the only option for
sterilization. During this straightforward surgery,
the tubes that carry sperm into the semen are cut
and sealed. After a successful vasectomy, a man
isn't able to father a child.
Women may be able to choose from several
sterilization options, including tubal ligation — a
surgical procedure — and the Essure and Adiana
systems, both of which permanently block the
Sterilization is an effective method of birth
control. The decision to pursue sterilization must
be taken seriously, however. Although reversal is
sometimes possible after vasectomy or tubal
ligation, sterilization of any type is considered
Emergency contraception helps prevent pregnancy
after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception isn't
meant to be used in place of routine birth control —
but it's an option if you've had unprotected sex,
your method of birth control failed or you missed a
birth control pill.
To be effective, emergency contraception must be
used as soon as possible after unprotected sex. In
the U.S., two types of emergency contraception are
available: pills and intrauterine device (IUD).
Emergency contraception pills are also known as the
morning-after pill. Three brands — Next Choice, Plan
B One-Step and Ella — are available. Emergency
contraception pills can be used up to five days
after unprotected sex. However, the pills are more
effective the sooner you take them.
Another option is a copper IUD. The brand name is
ParaGard. To prevent pregnancy, the IUD must be
inserted within five days after unprotected sex.