Women today have a wide variety of birth control methods to choose from. From condoms to the contraceptive pill, from IUDs to diaphragms, every woman can find a type of birth control that they feel comfortable with. Yet, all this choice can make it difficult to decide just which form of contraception is the right one for you. By reading up on the tried and tested kinds of birth control, as well as newer contraceptives, you can get a better idea of what would be most suitable for you.
Because there are so many different methods of birth control, contraceptives are typically sorted into various categories. Contraceptive types include barrier methods, hormonal birth control, long-term contraceptives, and natural birth control. Although some contraceptive methods are inadequate, the majority of birth control options are effective. However, it is important to note that no form of contraception provides 100% protection against pregnancy. The only fool-proof way not to get pregnant is to abstain from sex completely.
Barrier methods of birth control work to prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from coming into contact with an egg. Contraceptives that fall into this category include female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, the contraceptive sponge, and male condoms. Associated with few birth control side effects, these contraceptives are non-hormonal. Additionally, the male and female condoms are the only forms of birth control that offer any type of protection against STDs.
Hormonal contraceptives help prevent a pregnancy by using synthetic forms of naturally occurring hormones to prevent your body from ovulating. In some cases, the hormones may also work to thin the lining of the uterus and to thicken cervical mucus. Unfortunately, hormones can also produce some unpleasant side effects including decreased libido, causing some women to be turned off of these very effective birth control methods. Depo-Provera (the "birth control shot"), birth control pills, the birth control patch, the birth control ring, Implanon as well as some IUDs, such as the Mirena, are examples of hormonal contraceptives.
Forms of long-term birth control include tubal ligations, IUDs, and, for men, vasectomies. Both tubal ligations and vasectomies are meant as permanent birth control methods, although they can be reversed. Once an IUD is inserted by your health care professional, it can stay in place for anywhere from five to seven years.
Many women prefer to use natural, hormone free birth control. Known as Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM), this type of contraception relies upon periodic abstinence when a woman is fertile. FAM can involve charting your basal body temperature and/or menstrual cycle; noting the changes in your cervical mucus; and using the rhythm method or it's newest incarnation, the standard days method. Breastfeeding is also a very effective type of natural birth control known as the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM).
Check out our forum on birth control to connect with other women looking for information about contraception.
Get more information about different forms of birth control at Planned Parenthood.