Types of Birth Control

By Jessica Lietz

  • Overview

    Birth control can be short term or permanent. It can be used by a woman or by a man. It can be easily available or require a doctor's prescription. The type of birth control used may vary by personal preference, the situation at hand or existing medical conditions. When considering a method to use, a couple should consider effectiveness, reliability and whether it provides protection from sexually transmitted infections.
  • Function

    The function of birth control is to prevent pregnancy. Birth control may be used daily, be in constant use such as an implanted device or patch, be used only during sexual activity, or may be permanent and irreversible. Some types of birth control are worn, while others are inserted into the woman's body or ingested as a pill.
  • Types

    According to the Food and Drug Administration, hormonal birth control methods including the pill, the patch and the ring prevent ovulation and thicken mucus in the cervix to prevent pregnancy. Barrier methods prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg and include the male and female condoms, the sponge, contraceptive jelly, the diaphragm, the cervical cap, and the intrauterine device (IUD). Natural methods of birth control do not use any medications or devices and include the rhythm method, the sympto-thermal method, lactational amenorrhea, and withdrawal. Sterilization is a permanent method of birth control and includes tubal ligation or insertion of coils into fallopian tubes for women and vasectomy for men.

  • Features

    According to the Mayo Clinic, hormonal methods of birth control are prescribed by a doctor and are 92 to 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. Barrier methods are less effective at preventing pregnancy but have fewer side effects and cost less than hormonal birth control. Natural birth control does not require a doctor's prescription and there is little to no cost for this method. Sterilization is the most effective type of birth control but is considered irreversible and permanent.
  • Time Frame

    Barrier methods are used during sexual activity and then removed. IUDs are inserted for up to 10 years but may be removed sooner. According to the Mayo Clinic, hormonal methods such as the ring or the patch may be worn for three weeks and then removed for one week, while the pill must be taken at the same time every day. Natural methods of birth control such as the sympto-thermal method and lactational amenorrhea require daily charting of fertility signs and may be used for any length of time. Sterilization is meant to last a lifetime.
  • Considerations

    When considering what type of birth control to use, one factor is whether the woman wants to have children in the future. Whether a woman is currently breastfeeding is another consideration, as some types of hormonal birth control not advised when nursing a baby. Other considerations may include cost, convenience and age of the woman.
  • Benefits

    Barrier methods such as condoms are inexpensive, do not require a prescription, and are readily available at most stores and pharmacies. According to the Mayo Clinic, hormonal methods such as the pill can relieve symptoms of PMS and prevent anemia. Natural birth control may be stopped any time a woman decides she wants to have a baby and may help a woman learn more about how her body works. Because it's highly effective, sterilization may relieve couples from the worry of having an unplanned pregnancy.
  • Warning

    According to the Mayo Clinic, male and female condoms are the only types of birth control that can help prevent a sexually transmitted disease. Women over age 35 or who smoke should not use hormonal birth control because it increases the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Sterilization is not immediately effective, and backup birth control may be needed for a short time to prevent pregnancy.
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