Understanding the Different Types of Birth Control

No single birth control method is right for everyone. Your lifestyle, age, and childbearing plans can make some options more appropriate than others. 

With more than 15 methods of birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration, you have a wide range of safe and effective options for preventing pregnancy.

Our OB/GYNs at The Association for Women’s Health Care are birth control specialists who provide comprehensive family planning services for women of all ages. We discuss the pros and cons of different birth control methods with you so you feel confident with your decision and its impact on your reproductive health.

Intrauterine birth control

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped birth control device that we place inside your uterus. It prevents contraception by interfering with the sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg. 

IUDs are available with and without hormones. Both types of IUDs are more than 99% effective in pregnancy prevention. 

Hormonal methods of birth control

Hormonal methods of birth control work to prevent pregnancy by using progestin with or without estrogen. They work by preventing ovulation and/or thickening the cervical mucus.

Implant or injection

Hormonal implants or injections are reversible forms of birth control that offer convenience and long-term effectiveness. An implant consists of a thin rod inserted under your skin in your upper arm that remains in place for three years and is up to 99% effective. 

The contraceptive shot is administered in your buttocks or arm every three months, delivering about 94% effectiveness.

Oral contraceptives 

Oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, are about 91% effective and rank as the most common method of hormonal birth control in the United States. They may not be appropriate if you’re over age 35 or have other medical conditions such as a history of blood clots. 

Their effectiveness relies on remembering to take a pill daily.

Skin patch 

The skin patch releases hormones into your bloodstream for 91% effectiveness when you wear it on your buttocks, lower abdomen, or upper body. You change to a new patch every week for three weeks at home, then go one week without a patch to have a normal period. 

Vaginal contraceptive ring

You wear the vaginal contraceptive ring for three weeks while it releases progestin and estrogen into your bloodstream. Like the patch, you remove it for one week every month. The vaginal contraceptive ring is about 91% effective.

Barrier methods of birth control

Barrier methods of birth control work by preventing sperm from entering your uterus. These methods are most effective when used in combination with a spermicide, a chemical that kills sperm. When used alone, spermicide gels or creams are about 82% effective.

Here are how different barrier methods of birth control work:


A condom prevents a man’s sperm from entering a woman’s body. A male condom is worn over a man’s penis. A female condom is a thin device that fits inside your vagina. 

The effectiveness of male and female condoms is about 82% and 79%, respectively. Both types of condoms can protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). 

Diaphragm, cervical cap, and sponge

The diaphragm, cervical cap, and sponge are devices that you insert into your vagina to cover your cervix and block sperm. 

Diaphragms and cervical caps come in different sizes, so we must fit you for them. The disposable sponge is sold over the counter in one size and contains spermicide.

When used with spermicide, a diaphragm is 88% effective, while the effectiveness of the cervical cap is 77-83%. The effectiveness of the sponge is about 76-88%. 


Sterilization is any procedure that delivers permanent pregnancy prevention. Female sterilization is accomplished by tubal ligation, which blocks or cuts the fallopian tubes to prevent the egg from reaching the uterus. 

The result prevents the egg from becoming fertilized by sperm, which is necessary for pregnancy. Female sterilization delivers more than 99% effectiveness.

Natural family planning

Natural family planning relies on monitoring your body’s natural cycles and avoiding intercourse during the times you’re most likely to become pregnant. These birth control options require a commitment by both partners and can have failure rates of 2-23% with regular use.

Find out more about the different types of birth control and which options may be most appropriate for your needs. Contact our Chicago or Northbrook, Illinois, office today to schedule an appointment.

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