Birth Control 101

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Proper Attire condoms. Photo by: Morgan Knorr

From the most effective to the least, here is a rundown of some of the most common forms of birth control.

The best forms of birth control range from IUDs to implants. With the highest level of effectiveness, these methods will allow fewer than one out of 100 pregnancies each year if used correctly.

iud

An IUD, or intrauterine device, is exactly what the name says. In a little T-shaped form, a physician must insert an IUD into the uterus. Depending on the brand, you can use it anywhere between three and 10 years.

This method can even be used as a morning-after pill if inserted within 120 hours. The initial insertion can cause abdominal cramps, but after that it’s out of sight and out of mind.

implants

Next are implants, which are little matchstick-rods that get implanted into the arm and release the hormone progestin, which prevents ovulation. These last up to three years.

More common but shorter lasting birth control methods are the pill, NuvaRing and the shot. These methods must be taken care of on your own, making it easier to forget to change them or forget to take a pill. If not used as directed, these three methods would fail to prevent nine out of 100 pregnancies per year.

the shot

The shot gets injected into the arm by a doctor or nurse, and similar to other forms of birth control, releases progestin into the body. It prevents ovulation and makes cervical mucus thicker, which keeps sperm from reaching the eggs. The shot lasts for three months.

nuvaring

The ring—a commonly seen one is the NuvaRing—is inserted into the vagina at home and releases both progestin and estrogen over a period of three weeks. It must be replaced once a month.

the pill

One pill is taken every day for a month or for three weeks every month, depending on the brand. The pill is usually either a combination pill (including both estrogen and progestin), or is progestin only. The problem with most women and the pill is that they can be easy to forget, and missing a pill or taking one late can render them ineffective.

condoms

If used properly, condoms will prevent 98 out of 100 pregnancies per year. With how easily they can break or malfunction, 18 out of 100 women will risk pregnancy if the condom isn’t working right.

Condoms do include one thing that other forms of birth control do not, and that’s that they prevent most STIs. Keep in mind this does not mean they prevent all STIs. It is suggested that they be used with other contraceptives for backup.

‘pulling out’

The withdrawal method—also known as pulling out—is the act of pulling the penis out of the vagina prior to ejaculation. Pulling out is one of the least effective forms of contraception and is often done incorrectly. Each year, 27 out of 100 women risk pregnancy while using this method.

spermicide

Spermicide is a gel that works to prevent pregnancy by killing sperm and blocking the cervix so that sperm cannot reach an egg. The gel is usually inserted into the vagina shortly before vaginal intercourse.

Spermicide is often used with a diaphram, which is a barrier placed over the cervix. Used alone, spermicide prevents 75 out of 100 pregnancies per year.

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