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Birth Control

There are many different types of birth control available. Some things to consider when deciding which type could be right for you are whether you need a prescription, whether it protects from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), how well it prevents pregnancy, and how simple it is to use. Your doctor can help you decide which birth control will be the best fit for you. There are two main types of birth control methods − barrier methods and hormonal methods.

Barrier Methods of Birth Control include:

  • Condoms
  • Spermicide
  • Diaphragm
  • Cervical Cap
  • Sponge

Hormonal Methods of Birth Control include:

  • Birth Control Pills
  • Skin Patch
  • Vaginal Ring
  • Birth Control Shot
  • Birth Control Implant
  • Intrauterine Device (IUD)

Emergency contraceptive methods are available to help prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.

Call your provider’s office to discuss which birth control option may be right for you.


Condoms provide the best protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and are available without a prescription. Two types of condoms are available − male and female. They have no effect on your natural hormones and can be used immediately after childbirth. Condoms should be used with lubricant to help prevent them from tearing and reduce irritation. Condoms should be thrown away after each use.


Spermicide is a chemical that inactivates sperm. Spermicides come in many different forms − foam, gel, cream, films, or suppositories − and are available without a prescription. They have no effect on your natural hormones. The spermicide is inserted into the vagina 10-15 minutes before sex and remains effective for up to 1 hour after insertion. The spermicide needs to stay in place for 6-8 hours after sex, to be effective.


The diaphragm is a small, dome-shaped silicone or latex device that is inserted in the vagina before sex. You need a prescription for a diaphragm and it should be used with spermicide to prevent pregnancy. The diaphragm needs to be left in the vagina for at least 6 hours after sex, but not more than 24 hours. Diaphragms should be washed with soap and water after each use and last between 2-5 years, depending on the type of diaphragm.

Cervical Cap

The cervical cap is a small plastic dome that is inserted into your vagina and fits tightly over your cervix with suction. It should be used with a spermicide. Cervical caps must be fitted and prescribed by your provider. The cap may be inserted up to 40 hours before sex and must remain over the cervix for at least 6 hours after sex, but not more than 48 hours total. The cervical cap should be washed with soap and water after each use and lasts up to 1 year.


The sponge is a soft, round sponge that is coated with spermicide. Wet the sponge with water before inserting it into the vagina to cover the cervix and inactivate sperm. The sponge can be inserted up to 24 hours before sex and should be left in place for at least 6 hours after sex, but not longer than 30 hours. The sponge should be thrown away after each use.

Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills contain hormones that help prevent pregnancy as well as treat conditions caused by hormone imbalances. Birth control pills should be taken every day at the same time each day to most effectively prevent pregnancy. Birth control pills require a prescription. There are many kinds of birth control pills. Talk with your provider to find the pill that fits your needs best.

Skin Patch

The patch is a small adhesive patch that contains hormones, which are slowly released to prevent pregnancy. The patch is prescribed by your provider and can be worn on the buttocks, ribs, upper back, upper arm, or abdomen. Wear a new patch for 3 weeks in a row before removing it. On the fourth week, do not wear a patch − this will be the week you have your period. Activities such as bathing or swimming will not affect the patch.

Vaginal Ring

The vaginal ring is flexible plastic ring that is inserted in the vagina to release hormones and prevent pregnancy. It is worn for 21 days in a row, then removed for 7 days, during which time you will have a period. The vaginal ring must be prescribed by your provider, and you will insert a new ring yourself each month.

Birth Control Shot

The “Depo” shot contains hormones which help prevent pregnancy. It is prescribed and given in your upper arm or buttock every 13 weeks by your provider. The average time to get pregnant after stopping the injections is 10 months, so speak to your provider if you are planning a pregnancy and currently getting the shot.

Birth Control Implant

The implant is a small rod, about the size of a matchstick, that is inserted under the skin of your upper arm by your provider. It releases progestin, which helps prevent pregnancy. Your provider will numb a small area on the inside of your upper arm and use a special insertion tool to place the implant. The implant is effective for up to 3 years. When you are ready for the implant to be removed, your provider will numb a small area of your upper arm, make a small incision and remove the implant.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

The IUD is a small, T-shaped device that is placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy for several years. There are two types of IUDs available − hormonal and copper IUDs. Hormonal IUDs release a small amount of progestin into the uterus to prevent pregnancy up to 3-7 years, depending on the type. The copper IUD does not contain any hormone and lasts up to 10 years. The IUD will be placed by your provider during a pelvic exam. The IUD has a string that will be checked to ensure the device is properly in place. The copper IUD protects against pregnancy right away. The hormonal IUD may take up to 7 days before reaching peak effectiveness, based on when during your menstrual cycle the IUD was placed. When you are ready to stop using the IUD, your provider will remove it during a pelvic exam.

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception decreases the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sex. Using emergency contraception does not cause an abortion. An abortion ends an existing pregnancy − emergency contraception prevents a pregnancy from occurring. It is most effective when taken as soon as possible after having unprotected sex.

The two main types of emergency contraception are pills or the copper IUD. The copper IUD must be inserted by your provider. Some emergency contraceptive pills are available over the counter, and some require a prescription. Emergency contraceptive pills should be taken within five days of unprotected sex and are more effective the earlier they are taken. You should take a pregnancy test if you have not had a period within a week of when you expect it.

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