Contraceptive methods, also known as birth control, are methods used to keep from getting pregnant.
An estimated half of all students in the U.S. in grades 9 through 12 have had sexual intercourse.
Understanding your options and choosing a contraceptive method before becoming sexually active can prevent unwanted pregnancy. Condoms, one type of contraceptive method, can also provide protection against HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
How do I choose a contraceptive method?
Factors to consider when choosing a contraceptive method include:
- Effectiveness in preventing pregnancy
- Ease of use
- Availability without a prescription
- Effectiveness in protecting against STDs
- Your physical health
Types of Contraceptive Methods
There are a variety of contraceptive methods available, including:
- Abstinence – not having sex
- Birth control pills – daily pills containing hormones that prevent pregnancy
- Hormonal injections – given every three months to prevent pregnancy
- Hormonal implants – tiny rods inserted under the skin of your upper arm that release hormones to prevent pregnancy
- Hormone patch – small patch worn on the skin that slowly releases hormones into your body to prevent pregnancy
- Vaginal hormonal ring – inserted into the vagina where it releases hormones to prevent pregnancy
- Intra-Uterine Devices (IUD) – small plastic device inserted into the uterus by a physician and left there
- Male condoms – a rubber sleeve worn over the penis to catch the sperm when a man ejaculates; also protects against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Female condom – a thin plastic pouch that lines the vagina, preventing sperm from reaching the uterus
- Spermicides – chemicals used in the vagina to make sperm inactive; available in many forms, including foam, gel, cream, film and suppositories
- Contraceptive sponge – a doughnut-shaped device made of soft foam coated with spermicide that is pushed up in the vagina
- Diaphragm – a small, dome-shaped device made of latex or silicone that is inserted into the vagina and covers the cervix (the opening to the uterus); requires a prescription, a pelvic exam to determine the right size, and must always be used with spermicides
- Cervical cap – a small, thin latex or plastic cone shaped like a thimble that fits tightly over the cervix; requires a prescription, a pelvic exam for sizing, and must be used with spermicides
- Sterilization – permanent birth control
- Emergency contraception – also known as the “morning-after pill,” for use when birth control method fails; most effective if taken within 3 days of unprotected sex
Note: The withdrawal method – when the male withdraws before ejaculation – is not considered a safe form of contraception and often results in pregnancy.