Methods of contraception, or birth control, prevent pregnancy. Your health care provider may also prescribe hormonal contraceptives for reasons other than birth control. Selecting a contraceptive is a personal choice. When choosing birth control, consider factors such as availability, cost, effectiveness, ease of use, convenience, side effects, short- and long-term effects, reversibility, prevention of chronic disease like uterine or ovarian cancer, personal medical history and prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is important to remember that condoms are the only form of contraception that decrease the risk of being infected with an STI. Discuss your options with your health care provider.

Below we have summarized each of the methods of birth control to help you decide upon the method that is right for you. We have listed the options in order from more effective to less effective. Follow the learn more links under each method to read more detailed descriptions of each method from Planned Parenthood or Bedsider. In addition the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals offers Method Match, an interactive guide to choosing a birth control method. It is important to remember that birth control does not protect you from STIs.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

The intrauterine device (IUD), also known by the brand names Mirena, Skyla and Kyleena and Paraguard are T-shaped plastic devices. A health care provider inserts an IUD into your uterus during an office visit. The IUD prevents pregnancy in several ways, including thickening of cervical mucus which prevents sperm from entering your uterus. IUDs may be used by most women, including women who have never had children.They do not contain estrogen and may be used for 3,5 or 10 years depending on which type you choose. LEARN MORE>> 

Birth Control Implant

A birth control implant, also known by the name Implanon or Nexplanon, is a matchstick-sized plastic rod that contains the hormone etonogestrel that prevents pregnancy. A health care provider inserts the rod under the skin of your arm during an office visit. One rod lasts three years. Because birth control implants do not contain estrogen, your healthcare provider may recommend an implant if you cannot use estrogen. LEARN MORE>>

Birth Control Shot

Depo Provera is an injection of progesterone that lasts for 3 months. You may have irregular periods for the first 3-9 months you use Depo Provera. After six months, many women stop menstruating. Depo Provera causes bone loss so the FDA recommends that it be used for a maximum of 2 years. If you take Depo Provera we encourage you to supplement your diet with calcium and vitamin D. It may take up to one year to return to normal menses after discontinuing use. LEARN MORE>>

Birth Control Vaginal Ring

The vaginal ring, also known by the brand name Nuvaring, stops ovulation with the hormones estrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy. You need to an annual well woman visit to receive a prescription for the vaginal ring. For three weeks of each month, you wear one flexible plastic ring inside your vagina. LEARN MORE>>

Birth Control Patch

The birth control patch, also known by the brand name Ortho Evra, inhibits ovulation with the same hormones found in birth control pills. You need to an annual well woman visit to receive a prescription for the birth control patch.The patch delivers continuous levels of these hormones through your skin. LEARN MORE>>

Birth Control Pills

If you choose to use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy, you take one pill at the same time each day. You need to an annual well woman visit to receive a prescription to get birth control pills. Birth control pills contain hormones that stop ovulation. Depending on the kind of pill you take, it may contain only the hormone progestin, or it may contain both estrogen and progesterone. If you have side effects or other problems with your pills, do not stop taking your pills abruptly. Stopping pills can lead to uterine bleeding and increase your risk of pregnancy. If you have problems with your birth control pills, make an appointment with Women’s Health at the Student Health Center to discuss them. LEARN MORE>>

Emergency Contraception (Morning-After Pill)

Emergency contraception, also known as emergency birth control, backup birth control, or the morning-after pill, is a safe and moderately effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse or birth control failure (e.g., the breakage of a condom). Emergency contraception is also known by the brand name Plan B One-Step. It is most effective when taken immediately.

You can start taking it up to 72 hours after unprotected intercourse. Emergency contraceptive pills contain progestin, a hormone found in other birth control pills. Plan B One-Step can be purchased at the Student Health Center Pharmacy without a prescription. LEARN MORE>>

Barrier Methods

Male Condom

A condom is a latex or plastic sheath that you wear on your penis during intercourse. Condoms block sperm from entering a woman’s uterus. They also reduce both partners’ risks of sexually transmitted Infections such as HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Condoms do not protect completely against herpes or genital warts, but they do decrease the risk of transmission.

Do not use condoms with oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline because the condom will dissolve. We recommend water-based lubricants, such as Astroglide or KY Jelly, for use with condoms. LEARN MORE>>

Female Condom

The female condom is a nitrile condom that you insert into your vagina before having intercourse. It both prevents pregnancy and reduces your risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A flexible ring at the closed end holds the female condom in place inside the vagina. A flexible ring at the open end of the female condom stays outside the vagina during intercourse. When the nitrile heats to your body temperature the material adheres to the walls of the vagina. A prescription can be written for the female condom. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of the female condom and another form of contraceptive at $0 or minimal cost. The Student Health Center Pharmacy carries female condoms. LEARN MORE>>


A diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped latex cup with a flexible rim. You fill it with spermicide and insert it in your vagina. When you place it properly, it covers your cervix, blocking the opening to your uterus. Leave your diaphragm in place six hours after you have intercourse. Women’s Health can fit you for a diaphragm at the Student Health Center. LEARN MORE>>

Birth Control Sponge

The birth control sponge, also known by the brand name Today Sponge, is a round foam sponge filled with spermicide. You moisten it with water and place it in your vagina against your cervix before intercourse. Leave the sponge inside you for six hours after you have intercourse. LEARN MORE>>

Cervical Cap

A cervical cap, also known by the brand name FemCap, is a silicone cup that fits around the cervix, blocking sperm from entering the uterus. Because it is not made of latex, a cervical cap might be a favorable option if you are allergic to latex. This is not available at Student Health. LEARN MORE>>


Spermicides are substances that prevent pregnancy by immobilizing sperm. They come in different forms, including cream, film, foam, gel or suppository. You may use them alone or with other methods of birth control. You will always use spermicide with a diaphragm or cervical cap. You must insert spermicide into your vagina before each act of intercourse in order to prevent pregnancy. LEARN MORE>>