hands holding different forms of birth control around woman deep in thought
May 21, 2024

Birth control, also called contraception, is how you prevent pregnancy. There are many different types of birth control out there, and these can include pills, medical devices, surgical procedures, and others. Some forms of birth control are more effective than others. Keep reading to find out more about the different forms of birth control available and what you should consider when choosing a birth control method.

What Is Birth Control?

The term birth control is used to describe any medicine, device, or method used to prevent pregnancy. If you are sexually active and do not want a baby, you should be using a form of birth control, as pregnancy can happen any time you have unprotected sex. There are a lot of different forms of contraception, but they only work when used correctly. Before using any form of birth control, you should take the time to understand how it works and how to use it properly for the best results.

How Does Birth Control Work?

pregnancy test displaying one line to show not pregnant

Different forms of birth control work differently. Some methods prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm from reaching an egg, while others prevent the ovary from releasing an egg in the first place. Other types might damage sperm so it can’t swim to an egg or thicken cervical mucus so sperm can’t swim through it. Some contraception forms may also change the thickness of the uterine lining so an egg can’t implant. Birth control methods can use one or more of these functions to prevent pregnancy.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Birth Control

When you are trying to determine which birth control method is best for you and your partner, you should look at a variety of factors. Some things to consider when making your decision include:

  • Effectiveness at preventing pregnancy
  • Ease of use
  • Comfort level
  • Protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Plans for pregnancy
  • Age and overall health
  • Side effects and risks
  • Frequency of sex and number of partners
  • How important it is to be able to keep your method a secret
  • Menstrual benefits such as lighter or more predictable periods

Types of Birth Control

assortment of birth control methods, including pills, IUD, condoms, implant

Before you decide on a birth control method, you should discuss the options with your healthcare provider and partner. Contraception is only effective when used properly, so you need to make sure you and your partner understand how to correctly use the method you choose. The main types of birth control methods are:

  • Abstinence - This involves refraining from sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy. It is the only form of birth control that is 100 percent effective.
  • Barrier methods - This form of contraception keeps sperm from entering the uterus, and it is used each time you have sex. Examples include male condoms, female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, vaginal sponges, and spermicide. Condoms provide the most protection against STIs.
  • Hormonal medication and devices - These contraception methods use hormones to prevent ovulation or change the conditions in the cervix and uterus. Some hormonal medications require daily, weekly, or monthly use, such as birth control pills, patches, and vaginal rings. Other medications and devices are inserted into your arm or uterus for long-acting protection, such as a birth control shot, implant, and IUD. Hormonal contraception can affect menstrual cycles.
  • Fertility awareness - Also called family planning, this form of birth control uses natural methods to prevent pregnancy. Examples include the rhythm method to determine if it’s the time of month when you are fertile, the cervical mucus method that analyzes vaginal discharge to identify fertility, and the basal body temperature method to identify ovulation based on body temperature.
  • Sterilization - Sterilization involves undergoing surgery to permanently prevent pregnancy. Female sterilization procedures include salpingectomy and tubal ligation. Male sterilization is performed via vasectomy. Sterilization is almost 100 percent effective, but failure is possible.
  • Emergency contraception - Also called the morning after pill, this provides protection against pregnancy if your birth control fails. Emergency contraception can be used within 120 hours of unprotected sex, though it is most effective if used within three days.

What Are the Most Effective Forms of Birth Control?

The most effective form of birth control is to not have sexual intercourse (abstinence). Otherwise, forms of contraception that are more convenient and require less maintenance are usually the most effective, since birth control only works when used correctly and consistently. These forms include birth control implants, IUD, and sterilization. Methods like fertility awareness or pulling out are the least effective types of birth control. Doubling up on birth control is typically recommended and most effective, such as using both condoms and birth control pills. Combining barrier methods with hormonal medication or devices helps protect against STIs, prevents sperm from entering the uterus, and prevents eggs from being released or implanted.

Birth Control and Nutrient Depletion

vitamins in the shape of the letter B

Hormonal forms of birth control, especially oral pills, can cause nutrient depletion. B vitamins are most often affected. Some women may become deficient in vitamins B6, B9 (folate), and B12 while using this method of birth control. To combat these nutrient deficiencies, it can be beneficial to take vitamin B supplements to make sure your body is still getting enough of these essential nutrients.

More Birth Control Advice at Midtown Express Pharmacy

Do you have questions about birth control or want to learn more about how to get started with the method of your choice? Our knowledgeable and caring pharmacy team will be happy to answer your questions and provide advice to help you find the best options for your health and situation. Reach out to us at Midtown Express Pharmacy so we can help guide you along your health and wellness journey!