From the IUD to the pill, the implant to the shot, we all want to practice safe sex, but sometimes it’s a real struggle trying to decide which path you want to take on the birth control road. Consider this article a guide on the pros and cons of each method when you’re taking your sexual health into your own hands. Hell, you may even learn about a few methods you’ve never even thought of. 

Birth Control Pill (Effectiveness: 91%)

photolibrary rf photo of birth control pills

Perhaps one of the most common methods of birth control is the pill and there are two kinds – combination pills and progestin-only pills. The combination pills have both estrogen and progestin and have a wide variety to choose from depending on how often you want to have periods and the dose of hormones that mixes best with your body, as stated by the Mayo Clinic. These pills prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg and slow its progress through the fallopian tubes, as well as thicken your cervical mucus and thin the lining of the uterus. 

The progestin-only pills (also known as the minipill) only contain progestin as the name would state, and all the pills are active, meaning you’ll always have your period with not as many options available. The functions are all the same as the combination pills, but the levels of progestin are lower than they would be in combination pills.

            Pros:

  • Can be easily reversed if you decide to get pregnant. 
  • Reduced symptoms of endometriosis.
  • Shorter, lighter, and more regulated periods, or fewer or no periods.
  • Can be taken even if you have certain health problems.
  • Lowered risk of ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancers.
  • Can help improve acne. 

            Cons: 

  • Must be taken at the same time daily. 
  • Skipping or taking them late can reduce effectiveness.
  • No protection against STDs. 
  • Side effects such as irregular bleeding, bloating, breast tenderness, nausea, depression, weight gain, and headache may occur. 
  • Can decrease your sex drive.
  • Can cause weight gain, irregular bleeding, ovarian cysts, and mood swings or depression.

Birth Control Implant (Effectiveness: 99%)

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This method has gained a lot of popularity over the past few years, alongside the IUD. The Nexplanon implant is a tiny, thin rod about the size of a matchstick that releases progestin, says Planned Parenthood. They can last for longer than most other methods (up to five years) and fewer than 1 in 100 people who use it get pregnant each year. 

            Pros:

  • You don’t have to worry about taking it daily or using it incorrectly. 
  • You can get pregnant quickly after removal, if you choose to. 
  • Can help cut down on period cramps. 
  • Estrogen-free, so more people are able to use it.
  • Lasts longer than most. 

            Cons:

  • Can cause irregular bleeding and temporary headaches, breast pain and nausea. 
  • Possible temporary pain or bruising or an infection in the spot of the implant. 
  • Can cause a decrease in your sex drive, weight gain, mood swings and depression.
  • Can cause vaginal inflammation or dryness. 
  • Increased risk of ovarian cysts. 

IUD (Effectiveness: 99%)

birth control
Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition on Unsplash

The IUD is a small piece of flexible plastic shaped like a T. They prevent pregnancy by changing the way the sperm cells move so they can’t get to the egg and there are two different types: copper and hormonal (per Planned Parenthood). The copper IUD, Paragard, doesn’t have any hormones and is simply wrapped in copper, which sperm doesn’t like. It can protect you for up to twelve years. 

The hormonal IUD is sold in four different brands – Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta and Skyla – and uses progestin to help prevent pregnancy. Depending on the brand, these can last 3 to 7 years. 

            Pros:

  • Can be used as emergency contraception if placed within 120 hours after protected sex.
  • Can be kept in for a long period of time. 
  • You don’t have to worry about taking it daily or using it incorrectly. 
  • Won’t affect your fertility.
  • Can steady your periods and make them lighter. 
  • Copper IUD doesn’t cause weight gain. 

            Cons: 

  • Don’t protect against STDs.
  • Insertion can hurt.
  • Can cause migraines and headaches. 
  • 1 in 10 women get ovarian cysts in the first year after getting an IUD (per WebMD)
  • Raises your odds for pelvic inflammatory disease

Birth Control Shot (Effectiveness: 94%)

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The depo shot is an injection of progestin you get every three months (per Planned Parenthood). The shot prevents ovulation and thickens the cervical mucus, thus preventing pregnancy. 

            Pros: 

  • Your Period will be lighter or non-existent. 
  • Can protect you from cancer of the uterus and ectopic pregnancy.
  • You only have to get it four times a year. 

            Cons: 

  • Can delay pregnancy for 9-10 months after use when stopped. 
  • Doesn’t protect against STDs.
  • Can affect bone mineral density.
  • Can cause irregular periods. 

Vaginal Ring (Effectiveness: 91%)

birth control
Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition on Unsplash

The vaginal ring is a small and flexible ring that needs to be replaced monthly. It contains estrogen and progestin to prevent ovulation and thicken your cervical mucus. There are two kinds of rings – NuvaRing and ANNOVERA. Both you take out and replace yourself, so there’s no need to go to the doctor every month. The NuvaRing lasts up to five weeks, whereas the ANNOVERA ring is worn for three weeks and then taken out for seven days for your period. The ring comes with a case to store it in during your ring-free week. 

            Pros:

  • Easy use. 
  • Only needs replaced once or twice a month.
  • Regulates periods.
  • Can help prevent a variety of things, including acne, bone thinning, cysts in your breast and ovaries, ectopic pregnancy, infections, anemia, PMS and endometrial and ovarian cancers.
  • Very easy to get pregnant if you decide to stop using the ring and try for a baby.
  • Most side effects go away after two or three months. 

            Cons: 

  • ANNOVERA needs to be washed when taken out.
  • Can cause bleeding between periods, sore breast, nausea, and headaches.
  • May cause extra vaginal wetness. 
  • You have to stay on a schedule and make sure to replace it when the time comes.

Birth Control Methods You Can Use Every Time

Condom (Effectiveness: 85%): Worn on the male and covers the penis during sex to collect semen. Stops the sperm from getting into the vagina. Come in latex, plastic, and lambskin. Latex and plastic protect against STDs, but lambskin condoms do not, due to tiny holes in them. The holes are small enough that sperm can’t make it through, but big enough to let bacteria and viruses through (per Planned Parenthood). You have to use them correctly the whole time and they can be breakable. 

Internal Condom (Effectiveness: 79%): This one is for the ladies. They provide essentially the same protection as a regular condom. They are inserted into the vagina and create a barrier that stops the sperm from reaching the egg. Helps to protect against STDs and has to be used correctly every time. These condoms may cause irritation down there for both parties, but lube may help to correct this.

Diaphragm (Effectiveness: 88%): A shallow, silicone cup that you bend in half and insert inside to cover your cervix, this method must be used with spermicide to work best. Spermicide has chemicals that stop sperm from making its way to the egg. Diaphragms can be difficult to use correctly and can be moved out of place if there’s roughness in bed and if you use spermicide too much, it can cause irritation and raise your risks of contracting HIV (per Planned Parenthood). They come in different sizes, but beware that changes in your body can mess up your sizing, so if you gain or lose weight, you may need to be refitted for a new size.

Birth Control Sponge (Effectiveness: 76-88%): This small, round sponge made from plastic contains spermicide and covers your cervix when inserted. It has a fabric loop to help make it easy to remove and the only brand sold in the U.S. is the Today Sponge. It can be used by itself or with condoms. Like with every method, it is most effective when used correctly.

The birth control sponge does not protect against STDs and may actually increase your risk of contracting HIV or other STDs, due to a chemical in the spermicide called Nonoxynol-9 that can irritate your vagina and make it easier for the viruses to enter. Adding a condom can help to prevent this though. The sponge is a hormone-free option and most can’t feel it once it’s inserted. 

Cervical Cap (Effectiveness: 71-86%): Made from soft silicone, this method is put deep inside the vagina to cover the cervix. Adding spermicide makes this method much more effective. The caps are smaller than diaphragms and can be left in up to two days. This is another hormone-free method and can be used over and over again for up to a year.

Cervical Caps have to be left in for at least six hours after sex. If going for round two or three while the cap is in, more spermicide will have to be added into your vagina. Just like the diaphragm, these can be moved out of place during sex and come in different sizes and changes to your body can mess up the fit. 

No matter what method you chose, make sure it’s the right one for you and always weigh the pros and cons that fit your lifestyle, as well as the risks you’re willing to take. With a variety of different methods available for you, there are always ways to make sure you’re staying safe and protected during your playful times, so go forth and make your decision.