Birth Control: All Guides

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Birth Control: A Guy’s Guide

If you’re thinking about becoming involved in a sexual relationship, making healthy sexual decisions is extremely important, because they involve your body, your mind, and the well-being of another person. If you do decide to have sex, it’s important to learn about how to protect yourself and your partner from getting an STI, and how to prevent pregnancy if you’re having sex with a female.

There are many different types of birth control (also called contraception). They vary in how well they prevent pregnancy, how much they cost, how easy they are to use, and whether they protect against STIs. Birth control options also vary depending on whether they’re used by girls, guys, or both. There are some methods of birth control that are specifically for guys, some that are specifically for girls, and abstinence (not having sex), which anyone can practice.

If you do have sex, you’re at risk for STIs and causing pregnancy. However, if you practice safe sex with only one partner (who isn’t infected and has no other sexual partners) and you make good decisions about birth control, you can greatly lower these risks.

The most effective birth control for males are condoms. Condoms are worn over the penis during sex with a male or female partner. They prevent pregnancy by acting as a barrier, preventing semen from entering the vagina so the sperm can’t reach a female’s “egg.” Condoms also lessen the chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) by acting as a barrier, preventing STIs from passing from one partner to another. Using condoms allows guys to have an active part in preventing pregnancy! You can learn more about how to use condoms by reading our condom health guide.

As a young man, you might not be familiar with all of the types of birth control that are available for women. Check out the guides below to learn more about the different birth control options available for males and for females:

If you’re concerned about birth control, here’s a tip on how to bring it up with your health care provider: What’s the best kind of birth control?

Birth Control: Female Barrier Methods

barrier methodsWhat does the term “barrier method” mean?

A “barrier” is something that blocks or separates; for example, a wall, or a fence. The term “female barrier method” of birth control, means that there is a barrier (either physical or chemical) that is used to prevent a man’s sperm from reaching a female’s egg and thus preventing pregnancy.

What does the female reproductive system look like?

Take a look at the image below to become familiar with the female reproductive system.

Female Reproductive System

What are the different types of female barrier methods?

There are five types of female barrier methods:

  1. Spermicides
  2. Cervical Cap
  3. Contraceptive Sponge
  4. Diaphragm
  5. Female Condom

How does each method work, and how effective are they at preventing pregnancy?

Each female barrier method has a different efficacy rate towards preventing pregnancy. These rates vary depending on “typical use” vs. “perfect use”. Keep in mind that perfect use hardly ever happens.

Spermicides

Spermicides are a chemical barrier method of birth control that come in different forms, such as foams, creams, jellies, suppositories (small oval shaped devices that get placed in the vagina and release a foam), and films (small paper-like tissues that get inserted into the vagina). They work to prevent pregnancy by paralyzing or killing sperm so that the sperm can’t pass through a woman’s cervix and reach her uterus.

Out of 100 women using spermicides
Typical use: 28 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 18 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Cervical Cap:

A cervical cap is a small dome-shaped cup that fits tightly around the base of a woman’s cervix (the opening of the uterus at the top of the vagina). The cap forms a physical barrier to stop sperm from reaching a woman’s uterus. Note: Spermicide always needs to be used with the cervical cap.

To understand how effective the cervical cap is, first you need to know that there are two different sets of efficacy rates. One set is called “nulliparous”, and another called “parous”. Nulliparous is a medical term that means a woman has never given birth to a baby. Parous is a medical term that means that a woman has given birth to one or more babies.

Out of 100 nulliparous women using a cervical cap
Typical use: 14 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 9 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Out of 100 parous women using a cervical cap
Typical use: 29 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 26 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Contraceptive Sponge:

The contraceptive sponge is a small, doughnut-shaped foam sponge that contains spermicide. It’s placed in a woman’s vagina, and a “dimple” on one side fits over the cervix and stops sperm from reaching the uterus. Once in the vagina, the sponge releases spermicide.

Like the cervical cap, the contraceptive sponge has two different sets of efficacy rates; one for “nulliparous” women and one for “parous” women.

Out of 100 nulliparous women using a contraceptive sponge
Typical use: 12 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 9 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Out of 100 parous women using a contraceptive sponge
Typical use: 24 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 20 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Diaphragm:

A diaphragm is another small dome-shaped device that fits inside the vagina and covers the cervix. To obtain a diaphragm, a woman will need to be fitted for one by her health care provider, and she will also need a prescription. Note: Spermicide always needs to be used with a diaphragm.

Out of 100 women using a diaphragm with spermicide
Typical use: 12 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 6 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Female Condom:

The female condom is a thin, lubricated sheath (with two ends) that gets placed inside the vagina. One end has a closed ring that lies inside the vagina and covers the cervix, forming a barrier. The other end has a ring which lies outside the vagina. This ring is open, allowing for intercourse. Note: Never use a male condom and a female condom at the same time.

Out of 100 women using a female condom
Typical use: 21 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 5 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1

Do female barrier methods protect against STIs?

For the most part, no. The cervical cap, contraceptive sponge, diaphragm, and spermicide do NOT protect against STIs. The ONLY female barrier method that protects against STIs is the female condom.

Birth Control: Female Hormonal Methods

hormonal methodsWhat are hormonal methods of birth control?

Hormonal methods of birth control are types of birth control that use hormones (estrogen and/or progestin) to help prevent ovulation. There are many different types of hormonal birth control, and they vary in their effectiveness.

What are the different types of female hormonal methods?

There are six types of female hormonal methods:

  1. Birth Control Pills
  2. Depo-Provera® Hormonal Injections
  3. Estrogen/Progestin Hormonal Injections
  4. Hormonal Implants
  5. Hormone Patch (Ortho-Evra®)
  6. Vaginal Hormonal Ring (NuvaRing®)

How does each method work, and how effective are they at preventing pregnancy?

Each female hormonal method has a different efficacy rate towards preventing pregnancy. These rates vary depending on “typical use” vs. “perfect use”. Keep in mind that perfect use hardly ever happens.

Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills (also called oral contraceptive pills or the “Pill”) are small tablets that a woman takes each day. The pills are made up of hormones (progestin-only or a combination of estrogen and progestin) that work to prevent pregnancy.

Out of 100 women using combination or progestin-only pills
Typical use: 9 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 1 or less women become pregnant in a yearpregnant_1
Depo-Provera® Hormonal Injections:

Depo-Provera® is an injection (shot) that a woman is given every 3 months. The shot contains a hormone that works to prevent pregnancy.

Out of 100 women using Depo-Provera®
Typical use: 6 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 1 or less women become pregnant in a yearpregnant_1
Estrogen/Progestin Hormonal Injections:

An estrogen-progestin hormonal injection is a shot than a woman receives once a month. It contains hormones that prevent pregnancy. *Note: These injections are not currently available in the US.

Out of 100 women using estrogen/progestin injections
Typical use: 6 or less women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 1 or less women become pregnant in a yearpregnant_1
Hormonal Implants:

A hormonal implant is a tin rod the size of a matchstick that gets inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm. The implant releases hormones that prevent pregnancy.

Out of 100 women using hormonal implants
Typical use: 1 or less women become pregnant in a yearpregnant_1
Perfect use: 1 or less women become pregnant in a yearpregnant_1
Hormone Patch (Ortho-Evra®):

The hormone patch looks like a small square Band-Aid® and is worn on the skin; either on the stomach, buttocks, upper back, or upper arm. It contains hormones that get absorbed through the skin and works to prevent pregnancy.

Out of 100 women using a hormone patch
Typical use: 9 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 1 or less women become pregnant in a yearpregnant_1
Vaginal Hormonal Ring (NuvaRing®):

The vaginal hormonal ring, or “ring” for short, is a small, flexible ring that a woman inserts into her vagina. The ring releases hormones that prevent pregnancy.

Out of 100 women using a vaginal hormonal ring
Typical use: 9 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 1 or less women become pregnant in a yearpregnant_1

Do hormonal methods of birth control protect against STIs?

No. Hormonal methods of birth control do NOT protect against STIs.

Birth Control: Other Birth Control Methods for Females

other methodsWhat other types of birth control are available for females?

There are four additional types of female birth control:

  1. Female Sterilization
  2. Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs)
  3. Natural Family Planning
  4. Lactational Amenorrhea (LAM)

How does each method work, and how effective are they at preventing pregnancy?

Each of these methods has a different efficacy rate towards preventing pregnancy. These rates vary depending on “typical use” vs. “perfect use”. Keep in mind that perfect use hardly ever happens.

Female Sterilization:

Female sterilization is a permanent method of birth control. There are several different methods of female sterilization, and they all involve minor surgery. All methods either close or cut the fallopian tubes (the tubes that carry the eggs from the ovary to the uterus) so that sperm can’t move through and fertilize an egg.

Out of 100 women using female sterilization
Typical use: 1 or less women become pregnant in a yearpregnant_1
Perfect use: 1 or less women become pregnant in a yearpregnant_1
Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs):

An IUD is a small device that is placed inside of a female’s uterus. There are two different types of IUDs; copper and hormonal. Although they work in different ways, both are longer term birth control options. The hormonal IUD can stay in a woman’s body for up to 5 years, and the copper IUD can stay in a woman’s body for up to 10 years.

Out of 100 women using an IUD
Typical use: 1 or less women become pregnant in a yearpregnant_1
Perfect use: 1 or less women become pregnant in a yearpregnant_1
Fertility Awareness Based Methods:

FAB methods are a way for a woman to become aware of when she is ovulating so that she can prevent pregnancy. When using this method to prevent pregnancy, sexual partners do not have sexual intercourse during ovulation (the time during a woman’s menstrual cycle when she is most likely to become pregnant).

Out of 100 women using fertility awareness based methods
Typical use: 24 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: Less than 1 to 5 (average of 3) women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1pregnant_1
Lactational Amenorrhea (LAM):

The LAM method is a temporary method of birth control that a woman can use under the following conditions:

  • A woman has to be breastfeeding a baby that she has given birth to
  • The baby must be under 6 months old
  • She hasn’t had her period since giving birth

Breastfeeding a baby changes how a woman’s body works and prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg. When there is no egg, pregnancy can’t happen.

Out of 100 women using the lactational amenorrhea method
Typical use: 2 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1
Perfect use: 2 women become pregnant in a year pregnant_1pregnant_1

Do natural family planning methods of birth control protect against STIs?

No. None of these methods protect against STIs. you’re sexually active, use a condom every time you have sexual intercourse to protect yourself from getting an STI. Abstinence (not having sex) is the only method that guarantees pregnancy and STI prevention.