Ovia Fertility helps you track your unique cycle and understand your body better. If you don’t have the Ovia Fertility and Cycle Tracker app, you can download it here.
Choosing a birth control method is a very personal decision – what causes an issue for one person, might solve an issue one for another. There’s a lot to consider when selecting a method that might be best for you.
How to pick from multiple birth control options
First thing’s first, consider what’s important to you. Do you prefer an option that you don’t have to worry about most of the time? Are you looking for something hormonal to help you manage difficult periods, or do you have a health condition that prevents you from being able to use a hormonal option? Does having children in the future factor into your decision?
Here are some of the most popular birth control methods, and why you might find them to be a good fit, depending on your preferences.
Birth control implant
- What it is: A small plastic rod inserted under the skin of the arm, the implant releases a hormone that prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs. It can be inserted in a provider’s office or health clinic. The implant is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Might be a good fit if you’re looking for: a long-acting reversible contraception (or LARC) that you don’t have to worry about regularly. The implant can last for about five years, is highly effective at preventing pregnancy, and doesn’t interrupt sex. You might also enjoy lighter or even non-existent periods (though this can come after spotting). LARCs can also be cost-effective over the long term.
Birth control pill
- What it is: These use one or two hormones to regulate the menstrual cycle — there are many types of birth control pills with different hormone combinations and doses. The pill is about 91% effective at preventing pregnancy, but if it’s taken correctly, that number shoots up to 99%. So be sure to follow the package instructions closely.
- Might be a good fit if you’re looking for: lighter and less painful periods, and if you want a method that doesn’t interrupt sex. You can also use the pill to skip your period.
Birth control patch
- What it is: A small hormonal patch worn on the skin. The patch needs to be changed once a week and is about 91% effective at preventing pregnancy. Like the pill, if it’s used correctly according to package instructions, it is 99% effective.
- Might be a good fit if you’re looking for: lighter and less painful periods and reduced acne. This method doesn’t interrupt sex and doesn’t need to be taken every day. You can also use the patch to skip your period.
Birth control ring
- What it is: A small, flexible ring that releases hormones. The ring is inserted into the vagina once every 3-6 weeks. If you do this on schedule every time, the ring is 99% effective.
- Might be a good fit if you’re looking for: lighter and less painful periods and reduced acne. This method doesn’t interrupt sex, doesn’t need to be taken every day, and can be inserted at home. You can also use the ring to skip your period.
Birth control shot
- What it is: A hormonal shot given once every three months. It is most effective when follow-up shots are administered on time. It is about 94% effective at preventing pregnancy as many people don’t get their shots on schedule. If you do get your shots on schedule, it’s 99% effective. Shots can be done by a provider or at home.
- Might be a good fit if you’re looking for: a LARC that you don’t have to worry about every day, that doesn’t interrupt sex, and that can lead to lighter or even non-existent periods (though this might come after spotting for about a year).
- What it is: Male and female (or internal) condoms are both physical barrier methods of birth control that are placed on either the penis or inside the vagina. The male condom is 85% effective at preventing pregnancy and the female condom is 79% effective.
- Might be a good fit if you’re looking for: a method with few side effects, that’s non-hormonal, affordable and available over the counter, and offers protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the only birth control method that helps protect against STIs, so they can be used on their own or alongside other birth control methods (though these two types of condoms shouldn’t be used together).
- What it is: A small T-shaped device that’s inserted into the uterus. The copper version is hormone-free and the various types of plastic IUDs release a hormone. Both are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Might be a good fit if you’re looking for: a LARC that you don’t have to worry about regularly — hormonal IUDs can last 3-5 years and the copper IUD can last 10 years. IUDs are highly effective at preventing pregnancy, and don’t interrupt sex. For some, the copper IUD is appealing as a non-hormonal method. For others, the hormonal IUD, allows for lighter or even non-existent periods (though this might come after spotting for several months). LARCs can also be cost-effective over the long term.
These are just some of the more effective forms of reversible birth control options. Other methods include physical methods (like the diaphragm, cervical cap, birth control sponge, and spermicide), behavioral methods (like breastfeeding as birth control, and cycle tracking or “the rhythm method”), and permanent methods (like sterilization and vasectomy).
With so many methods to choose from and so much to consider, it can be helpful to speak with a healthcare provider about your health history and your birth control preferences. They can help you learn more about all your birth control options, answer your questions, and recommend a method that should work for you.
And if you’re taking the pill or have an IUD, add it to your Ovia profile!
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- “Birth Control.” Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control.
- “Birth control methods.” Office on Women’s Health.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, April 24 2017. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/birth-control-methods.
- “Choose the Right Birth Control.” MyHealthfinder. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 5 2020. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/everyday-healthy-living/sexual-health/choose-right-birth-control.
- “What do I need to know about birth control?” Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens/preventing-pregnancy-stds/what-do-i-need-know-about-birth-control.