Birth Control

An unintended pregnancy can cause stress to your routine life. It is wise to use a birth control when you and your partner want to have penetrative sex but not get pregnant. Choose from a range of birth control methods which best suits your needs and lifestyle.

Last Updated: 22 October 2020

Birth Control
Birth Control

Birth control methods differ from one type to another in its function, use and effectiveness. Below are the different types of birth control available. Go through the ease, time, effort and efficacy associated with each before selecting the one which you want to try in order to prevent pregnancy.

Natural birth control methods ·         Fertility awareness

Being aware of the overall working of the female reproductive system can help you to identify your fertile days of the menstrual cycle. Avoiding having sex or using a contraceptive measure during the fertility window can work as a natural birth control method. For more information, check our articles below:

Predict your fertile days using our Ovulation Calculator

Learn more about ovulation

·         Pulling out

Also called as withdrawal, it is a natural way to avoid pregnancy. Quickly pulling the penis just before orgasm can prevent ejaculating inside the vagina. The efficiency of this method is reported to be only 75-80 percent because of the fact that in some cases, the residual sperms on the penis before ejaculation can lead to pregnancy, and in some cases, if the pulling out did not happen fast enough, some sperms can get deposited on the vagina.

Barrier methods of birth control: Over-the-counter options

Barrier methods refer to birth control types which prevent the sperms released into the vagina during intercourse, reaching the egg.

Some barrier birth control options are available over the counter in pharmacies, super markets and online shops. If a doctor’s visit for contraception feels inconvenient, here are a few which doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription:

·         Spermicide

Spermicide is a chemical which can kill sperms. It is available as gels, creams, foams and films. Spermicide is applied into the vagina, close to the cervix. It takes 10-15 minutes for it to become effective which can last for only one hour, after which it has to be re-applied. Spermicides can also be used along with condoms.

Spermicides offer ease of use and does not interfere with the normal hormonal functions of the woman’s body. However, it carries the risk of vaginal irritation and allergies in some.

·         Condom for Men

Efficiency: 82 percent

Male condoms are usually made of latex or polyurethane. It is worn on an erect penis during intercourse. Semen gets collected in the condom, preventing it from reaching the vagina.

·         Condom for Women

Efficiency: 79 percent

Female condoms are thin tubes made of latex with two flexible rings, one at each end. The smaller ring is to be inserted into the vagina up to the cervix and the bigger ring end opens out from the vagina covering the labia. During intercourse, semen collects in the condom, preventing it from entering the cervix.

A female condom can be worn 8 hours before sex and must be removed immediately after semen deposition into it. Avoid using both a male and female condom together as it may tamper both, increasing the chances for pregnancy.

·         Contraceptive Sponge

Efficiency: 76-88 percent

Sponge is a birth control device made of soft foam and has spermicide on it. It is inserted into the vagina and blocks the cervix during intercourse. It can be inserted 24 hours prior to having sex and must not be removed for 6 hours after sex. On a total, a sponge can remain inside for not more than 30 hours after which it should be removed and discarded.

Sponge has shown to be safe for most women. Some women may experience toxic shock syndrome while using sponge. Avoid using it during menstruation and within 6 weeks of delivery.

Barrier methods of birth control: Doctor-prescribed options

Other barrier birth control methods which require a doctor’s consultation are:

·         Diaphragm

Efficiency: 88 percent

Diaphragm is a soft, dome shaped disk made of latex or silicone. It needs to be inserted into the vagina and spermicide must be applied on it before use. It can be placed inside the vagina for not more than 24 hours and must remain inside for 6 hours after sex. It may cause toxic shock syndrome in some women.

·         Cervical Cap

Efficiency: 80 percent

Cervical cap is a small plastic dome-shaped birth control device. It is inserted into the vagina by a medical practitioner. It covers the cervix tightly using suction pressure and has to be used with a spermicide. It can be placed inside the vagina for not more than 48 hours and must remain inside for 6 hours after sex. It may cause toxic shock syndrome in some women.

Long-acting reversible contraception

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) are highly effective birth control methods. They provide contraceptive measure for several years and can be withdrawn anytime for future pregnancies or for other reasons.

·         Copper Intrauterine Device

Efficiency: 99 percent

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are small, T-shaped plastic devices that are implanted into your uterus by an OB, after a pelvic examination. Copper IUDs release copper into your uterus which interferes with the movement of sperms and prevents them from reaching the egg. It must be replaced after 10 years of use.

·         Hormonal Intrauterine Device

Efficiency: 99+ percent

Hormonal IUDs are similar to copper IUDs. They release a hormone called as progestin into your uterus. Progestin makes your cervical mucus thicker, thus preventing the sperms to easily flow through up the reproductive tract. It also makes the uterine lining thinner, preventing conception. It needs to be replaced every 3-5 years.

IUDs are safe but is commonly associated with heavy menstrual bleeding and abdominal pain in the first few months. The symptoms gradually fade out after the initial use. There are also rare risks of pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancy while using IUDs. 

·         Birth Control Implant

Efficiency: 99 percent

The birth control implant is a small plastic rod, of the size of a matchstick. Your OB will insert it on the inside of the skin on your upper arm after applying medicine for local numbness. The implant releases progestin in your body which stops ovulation, but not regularly, and makes your cervical mucus thicker for sperms to reach the egg. It is removed by an OB after making a small incision on the area.

Similar to IUDs, implants can interfere with your normal menstrual patterns.

Progestin-only hormonal birth control pills and Injection

Progestin is a hormone, a version of progesterone which plays important roles in pregnancy and menstrual cycle. Progestin is an effective birth control hormone which can be taken as a pill or injection.

·         Hormonal Pill

Efficiency: 91 percent

Progestin-only pills are to be taken once a day at exactly the same time everyday for 28 days, following which a new pack of 28-day pills must be taken. Progestin stops ovulation, but not consistently, and makes your cervical mucus thicker for sperms to reach the egg. Side effect of using hormonal pills is that it can make the menstrual cycle irregular. On some days, you may have heavier bleeding while you may not get your periods for several months.

·         Shot

Efficiency: 98 percent

Shot is a birth control injection that contains the hormone depot medroxyprogesterone acetate. It acts exactly like progestin. It prevents for 3 months after which the injection must be repeated. Risk of bone loss in women is associated with shot.

Combined hormonal birth control options

The combined birth control pills, patch and rings release both the hormones estrogen and progestin into your body. The usage of each varies as below:

·         Combination Pill

Efficiency: 91 percent

The combination pill is available as a 21-day, 28-day, 90-day and 365-day pills packs. The combined pill provides other benefits to women in addition to contraception including reducing the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers and making menstrual cycles more friendly.

·         Patch

Efficiency: 92 percent

The contraceptive skin patch is small and sticky, measuring around 1.75 square inches. It can be worn on the bottocks, abdomen, arms or upper back for 3 weeks (one patch a week). After a gap of 7 days (when you’ll have your period), a new patch is worn continuing for the next 3 weeks. The patch releases the two hormones into the skin which is transported to the body. Side effects of using birth control patch include skin irritation, breakthrough bleeding and headache.

·         Vaginal Ring

Efficiency: 92 percent

Vaginal ring is a plastic ring that is to be placed in the vagina for 21 days. It releases estrogen and progestin into the vagina which prevents conception. Post 21 days, it is removed and after a gap of 7 days (for period), a new ring is inserted.

Emergency Contraception ·         Morning-after Pill

Efficiency: 98 percent

Emergency contraception is used when you have had unprotected sex without using a birth control. Taking the morning-after pill soon after sex (up to 72 hours) prevents pregnancy by not allowing the egg to implant on to the uterine lining.

Sterilization methods of birth control

Sterilization is a permanent birth control method which can be done on both men and women. It is irreversible and once done, you will not be able to have a baby in the future.

·         Tubal Ligation in women

Efficiency: 99+ percent

The fallopian tubes are sealed in tubal ligation which prevents the egg from passing through the fallopian tube into the uterus. As a result, pregnancy is prevented. The woman will still get her period and by chance, a sperm fertilizes the egg, there is a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy, that is, the fertilized embryo attaches and begins to grow in the fallopian tube which is a serious condition.  

·         Vasectomy for men

Efficiency: 99+ percent

In vasectomy, the tubes that carry sperms from the testicles are tied, clipped or sealed. This prevents the release of sperms into the semen. Thus semen ejaculated during sex will not have any sperms to fertilize the egg.


1.       Birth Control (Contraception): Resource Overview. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology (ACOG)

2.       Which Birth Control Is Right For You? Healthline

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