What Are The Different Types of Birth Control?

Many birth control methods are available, including pills, implants, injections, patches, and natural family planning practices (abstinence, fertility tracking, etc…). The effectiveness of each method can vary and some may not be right in certain circumstances. All help to prevent conception, but with so many options out there, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you.

Pharmaceutical birth control methods

In most cases, you will need to see a doctor to get a prescription for these types of birth control. They will discuss your options with you based on your needs and health history.

The Pill

This is one of the most common types of birth control available. The combined contraceptive pill prevents ovulation (the release of an egg) and thins out the uterine lining. This method is about 91%-95% effective, depending on whether or not the user has taken it correctly. Most often, the pill helps lighten up periods and improve menstrual cramps as well.

The Patch

Just like the pill, the patch contains and releases hormones, though it is applied to the skin rather than ingested. It must be applied each week for three weeks and has an effective rate the same as the pill.

The IUD (intrauterine device)

This birth control device is also known as the coil and is around 99.9% effective. It is T-shaped and flexible for comfort. It must be inserted by a physician and should not come out until you are ready to remove it. The copper IUD can last up to ten years and releases copper as a spermicide. With this type of IUD, you will have a period each month. The hormonal IUD uses the hormone progestin to thin the lining of the uterus. It also thickens cervical mucus to stop the sperm from moving to the egg and fertilizing it. This type of IUD lasts between three and five years and periods often stop.

The Nexplanon™ implant

This device is a small, flexible rod filled with the hormone progestin. It is implanted by a physician into the upper arm and releases the hormone slowly over time. The implant will last up to three years and is around 99.9% effective. Periods often stop with this device which can be a nice added benefit for some patients.

Vaginal rings

This is a flexible, ring-shaped device that releases the hormones progestin and estrogen over a three-week time frame. Like the other hormonal birth control methods, you use the ring for three weeks and take it out to have a period. It is between 91% and 99% effective.


This method is also called “the shot” and must be administered by a doctor every three months. The brand name of the shot is Depo-Provera. It contains only progestin hormones. It prevents ovulation, like the pill, and is around 94% effective. Periods often stop with Depo-Provera, which can be an added benefit for some.


There are male and female condoms and both are considered barrier devices that prevent sperm from getting to the egg. Male condoms are made of polyurethane or latex and are simple to use. They also help prevent STIs. Male condoms are about 82% effective. Female condoms are less effective (around 79%) and can be more difficult to obtain. If you think these are right for you, speak with your doctor.

The Diaphragm and Cervical cap

The diaphragm is made out of rubber and is inserted to sit directly over the cervix. It has a strong but flexible rim to fit into the pubic bone more easily. When used alone, it is about 77% to 83% effective, but when used with a spermicide, it will be around 88% effective. A cervical cap is similar, though smaller, and is made of latex rubber. It needs to have spermicide inside of it to be as effective as possible.

The Sponge

This birth control device seems odd, but it is exactly what it sounds like. It is inserted into the vagina along with foam (using an applicator) and stays in place with a depression that lays against the cervix. The sponge is a barrier while the foam is a spermicide. This is not the most reliable form of birth control and is less likely to work if you have already had a child.

Permanent forms of contraception

These are surgical methods of birth control for women and men that are non-reversible. These are not usually easy to get and require comprehensive discussions with your doctor.

Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure for women that involves a surgeon sealing the fallopian tubes by burning, cutting, or blocking them. Both methods prevent future fertilization and are 99% effective.

For men, a vasectomy is the only form of permanent birth control available. A surgeon will cut or block the tubes through which sperm moves, which is 99% effective. This procedure can be reversible in some cases but may result in abnormal sperm.

Want to learn more about the different types of birth control?

At Women’s Healthcare Associates, our goal is to provide the best experience in women’s care in the area. Our Services include comprehensive healthcare specialized for women, prenatal and pregnancy care, digital mammography, bone density screening, ultrasound, contraception, menopause, and more! For more information about how we can help you, please give us a call at (806) 355-6330.

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