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What Are the Different Types of Birth Control Methods?

There are many types of birth control, including hormonal, permanent, emergency, barrier, and natural methods. Deciding which one is best for you is a personal decision that you must make based on your health needs and each method’s effectiveness rate.

Hormonal Birth Control

The following birth control methods use hormones to prevent pregnancy:


The two types of birth control pills are combination pills and progestin-only (or mini) pills. Combination pills contain both the hormones estrogen and progestin, while mini-pills contain only progestin. Both work by thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the uterine lining to make it difficult for sperm to reach and fertilize an egg. Combination pills also prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs.

You must take the pill at the same time every day for it to be effective. With typical use, they’re 91 to 99 percent effective.


The patch is a thin, adhesive square you place on your back, upper arm, butt, or stomach that delivers estrogen and progestin through the skin. You have to change the patch at the same time every week, and it’s 91 percent effective with normal use. Commonly used brands include Xulane and Ortho Evra.


A vaginal ring is a small plastic ring you insert into your vagina once a month. This method releases progestin and estrogen to prevent pregnancy and is at least 91 percent effective. NuvaRing is one of the most popular brands of this type of contraceptive.


Your healthcare provider can give you a shot, typically in your upper arm or buttock, that contains progestin once every three months. Alternatively, there’s a brand called Depo-subQ Provera 104 that you can inject yourself, usually in your upper thigh or stomach, at home. The shot is at least 94 percent effective against pregnancy.


Your medical provider can insert this thin plastic rod under the skin of your upper arm once every three years. It releases progestin and is 99 percent effective. Nexplanon is one of the most popular brands.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

Hormonal IUDs are small, T-shaped plastic devices your local healthcare provider can insert in your uterus. The device will steadily release the hormone progestin levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy. These devices are more than 99 percent effective for up to five years.

Nonhormonal Birth Control

You can also choose a nonhormonal birth control method to prevent pregnancy. Women whose bodies react strongly to certain hormones might prefer these options. They include:

Copper IUDs

These nonhormonal IUDs are similar in size and shape as hormonal IUDs but are wrapped in a layer of copper that acts as a spermicide. Copper IUDs are more than 99 percent effective and last up to 10 years.

Barrier Birth Control

Barrier methods prevent the egg and the sperm from meeting and must be used every time you have sex.

  • Male condom: This thin film made of latex, polyurethane, or a natural material, such as lambskin, covers the penis. It can come either lubricated or nonlubricated and is at least 82 percent effective against pregnancy. Latex and polyurethane condoms are one of the few forms of birth control that also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Female condom: This thin, lubricated nitrile pouch fits inside the vagina and is at least 79 percent effective. Female condoms can also help prevent STI transmission, but not as effectively as male condoms.
  • Diaphragm or cervical cap: Women can insert these thin silicone cups into the vagina to cover the cervix during sex. They’re used with spermicidal gel and are 88 percent effective.
  • Contraceptive sponge: This soft foam disk sits in the vagina to cover the cervix during sex and releases a continuous stream of spermicide. Depending individual use, this method is 76-88 percent effective.
  • Spermicide: Spermicide kills sperm and comes in cream, foam, jelly, film, or tablet form. Women can insert spermicide deep within the vagina or use it with condoms, diaphragms, and cervical caps. Used alone, this method is about 72 percent effective.

Natural Birth Control

Natural birth control prevents pregnancy without the use of hormones or birth control devices. These contraceptive methods include:

  • Fertility awareness-based methods: Women who are highly aware of their menstrual cycles and signs of ovulation can plan their sexual activity accordingly. They might avoid having sex or use barrier methods of birth control when they know they’re most fertile. This method is about 75 percent effective.
  • Lactational amenorrhea method (LAM): Women who have recently given birth might use this method, which relies on frequent breastfeeding to prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs. It’s a temporary form of natural birth control that is typically effective for up to six months.
  • Withdrawal: This method involves the male partner pulling out of the vagina before he ejaculates and is about 78 percent effective.
  • Abstinence: Refraining from any sexual activity is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent pregnancy.

Permanent Birth Control

Sterilization is a form of permanent birth control that cannot be reversed. There are two kinds:

  • Tubal ligation in women: This noninvasive surgical procedure involves cutting, sealing, tying, or clipping the fallopian tubes that carry the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. It is 99.5 percent effective.
  • Vasectomy in men: A woman’s partner might choose to have a vasectomy, which is another simple surgical procedure. It involves cutting, tying, or blocking the tubes that carry the sperm to the penis and is more than 99 percent effective.

Emergency Birth Control

Women can take emergency contraception immediately after having unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of emergency birth control:

  • Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs): You can take one dose of a progestin-only pill within three days of having sex. They’re at least 87 percent effective. Or, you can take a ulipristal acetate pill within five days of having sex, which is at least 93 percent effective. You can also take a combined dose of estrogen and progestin, which consists of two pills taken 12 hours apart within three days of having sex and is about 75 percent effective.
  • Copper IUDs: If you have a copper IUD inserted within five days of having unprotected sex, it will be more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

Birth control is a personal choice depending on your body and lifestyle. Talk to your Nurx™ medical provider to discuss your options and find the one that works best for you.

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