Methods of pregnancy prevention are often called contraception or birth control. Your health care provider may also prescribe hormonal contraceptives for reasons other than pregnancy prevention. Selecting a method for pregnancy prevention is a personal choice. When choosing birth control, (please change to “method for pregnancy prevention.” I didn’t want to change it since it’s a hyperlink) 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/diseases (STIs/STDs). 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 healthcare provider.
Below we have summarized each of the methods of pregnancy prevention 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. (remove since no longer active). It is important to remember that birth control does not protect you from STIs/STDs.
Yearly visits, or annual exams, are recommended before getting a prescription for contraceptive medicine or having a contraceptive device inserted.
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
The intrauterine device (IUD) are T-shaped plastic devices that are placed into the cavity of the uterus during an office visit. We offer the following IUD’s: Skyla, Kyleena, Mirena, and Paragard. The IUD prevents pregnancy in several ways, including thickening of cervical mucus which prevents sperm from entering your uterus. IUDs containing the progestin hormone called levonorgestrel also thin the lining of the uterus. IUDs may be used by most people with a uterus, including people who have never given birth to children. IUDs do not contain estrogen and may be used for 3, 5, or 10 years depending on which type you choose. LEARN MORE>>
The contraceptive implant, also known as Nexplanon, is a matchstick-sized plastic rod that contains a progestin called etonogestrel, which is a hormone that prevents pregnancy. A healthcare provider inserts the rod under the skin of your arm during an office visit. One rod lasts three years. The implant does not contain estrogen. LEARN MORE>>
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 while using it, 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 Pills (Oral Contraceptive Pills)
“Birth control” pills prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation, thickening the cervical mucus, and thinning the lining of the uterus. If you choose to use “birth control” pills to prevent pregnancy, you need to take one pill at the same time each day. Depending on the kind of pill you choose, 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 pills, make an appointment with Women’s Health at the Student Health Center to discuss them. LEARN MORE>>
Contraceptive Vaginal Ring
The vaginal ring, also known by the brand name Nuvaring, prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation with the hormones estrogen and progesterone. For three weeks of each month, you wear one flexible plastic ring inside your vagina. LEARN MORE>>
The contraceptive patch, also known by the brand name Ortho Evra, (it’s called Xulane now – Ortho Evra is no longer on the market) prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation with the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The patch is applied on the skin weekly for 3 weeks and delivers continuous levels of these hormones through your skin. 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 vaginal sex or other contraceptive failure (e.g., the breaking of a condom). It is most effective when taken immediately. There are 2 types of emergency contraception available.
- Plan B is a pill that contains a hormone called levonorgestrel to stop ovulation, thicken the cervical mucus, and thin the uterine lining. It is one of the hormones contained in the “birth control” pill. Plan B can be purchased at the Student Health Center Pharmacy without a prescription and is best started up to 72 hours after unprotected vaginal sex.
- Ella is a pill that contains ullipristal acetate, which stops ovulation. Ella must be prescribed by your healthcare provider and is best started up to 72 hours after unprotected vaginal sex, although it can be effective up to 5 days after unprotected vaginal sex. LEARN MORE>>
A condom is a latex or plastic sheath that one wears on the penis during oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Condoms block sperm from entering the uterus and they 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.
The female condom is a nitrile condom that is inserted into the vagina before vaginal sex. 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 sex. 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 offers one type of diaphragm, that goes by the brand name of Caya, that does not require fitting. LEARN MORE>>
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 vaginal sex. Leave the sponge inside the vagina for six hours after you have vaginal sex. LEARN MORE>>
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 creams, films, foams, gels or suppositories. You may use them alone or with other methods of pregnancy prevention. You will always use spermicide with a diaphragm or cervical cap. You must insert spermicide into your vagina before each act of vaginal sex in order to prevent pregnancy. LEARN MORE>>