Birth Control

Birth control, or contraception, refers to several methods that prevent a woman from getting pregnant.  Some are available over the counter and others are prescription-only.  There are many methods of birth control, including oral pills, vaginal ring, skin patch, condoms, and more.

It is important to choose an option that works with your lifestyle and that you feel comfortable using. Please consult a healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of each method of contraception to determine which option is best for you.

Things to Think About

There are many factors to consider when choosing a birth control method that feels right for you. Some examples include:

Overall Health – Knowing your body and talking with your healthcare provider about potential side effects can help you determine which is best for you.

Frequency of Sex – You may want something that provides continuous protection, like the pill, or choose something that protects for a single encounter, like a condom.

Future Pregnancies – Contraceptive methods provide protection for various durations of time. A condom protects for one encounter; a full dosage of the pill, the patch, and the ring last for 1 month; the shot lasts for 3 months; and the IUD lasts for 5-12 years.  Talk with your healthcare provider about potential health complications.

Efficacy – Different types of birth control have varying levels of effectiveness ranging from 85% to 99% effective. Outside factors such as taking antibiotics may decrease the effectiveness of birth control. Make sure to read all instructions and use birth control correctly each time to maximize effectiveness.

Hormones – Some forms of birth control contain hormones. Your health and lifestyle may have an affect on whether your doctor recommends birth control with hormones. Birth control options with and without hormones are available.

Protection – Most forms of contraception do not protect you from STIs (sexually transmitted infections).  If you are having sex and are unsure about whether you or your partner is infected, it is a good idea to use a barrier such as a condom or dental dam.

Availability – Some methods require a prescription, while others can be purchased OTC (over the counter) at a pharmacy.  Condoms, the pill, the ring and the patch are all methods that you administer to yourself, whereas most other methods need to be administered in a physician’s office.

Additional Resources:

Student Health Services

Go Ask Alice! Health Q&A Internet Service

Planned Parenthood