There's no one-size-fits all answer. So consider ALL your options.
With all the debates about Planned Parenthood, more women are trying to learn about their options for safe sex and contraception. Funny enough, Planned Parenthood (which some see as simply an abortion clinic) has a long list of possible contraceptives to consider, whether your goal is to avoid making a baby, or avoid some tough diseases and just practice safe sex in general.
Yes, there are SO many options it can be overwhelming. The fact of the matter is that choosing the right birth control has a ton of factors to consider from your goal, your abilities, your health, your future plans and so forth. Here's a primer to help you sort through the options and find what's best for you:
Best for the women who crave a schedule:
If you’re the type that likes to stick to a routine so you don’t have to sweat the small stuff, the combination pill (aka The Pill, Combination Oral Contraceptive, or the COC Pill) might be something you want to pencil in to your routine. The pill is composed of two hormones: estrogen and progestin, and together, they mimic the hormones you naturally produce and stop your little eggs from releasing or developing. This form of birth control ranges from 91 percent to 99 percent affectivity, depending on how properly it’s used. So, if you’re going to take this route, be sure to stay on schedule.
The plus and minus: This can be a positive or a negative depending on your end goal: As soon as you stop taking these guys for about a week, you’re back to normal and fertile again. So, if you might want a kid in the near future, but not quite yet, these could be great for you. But if you don’t want a child any time soon, then you better make sure you’re keeping up with them.
Who can take them: The perfect candidate for this method would be a healthy woman younger than 35, doesn’t smoke, isn’t breastfeeding, doesn’t get migraines, and doesn’t hold the risk of blood clots or cardiovascular problems. There are debates on how effective or ineffective The Pill is for overweight women, just considering how many hormones you should/can put into your body, and there are some women over 35 that this could still work for, but of course, you just need to get in touch with your doctor and find out through them, since there are so many possible options and dosages that may or may not work for you.
Best for women who aren’t candidates for the combo pill:
For women who do have some of the concerns listed above, such as risk of blood clots, smoking or are breastfeeding, a progestin-only pill is a much safer option for you!
Best for women who don’t really want to think about it:
So let’s say you’re the forgetful type (no judgment here!). Reminding yourself that you need to take down a little dry pill every day and refill it in good time could pose a problem. What then? There are actually quite a few options, depending on your desired timeline. So, how long before you think you might want kids?
Not for another 10 years: ParaGuard, a type of IUD made of copper that doesn’t use hormones. It’s more than 99 percent effective, and is a T-shaped device that’s inserted into the uterus to block eggs from being fertilized. Think of it as the overprotective father or brother that you actually want around to make “the guys” stay away. No sperm is good enough for these potential babies.
Maybe in 5 years: Mirena, another type of IUD. This IUD is inserted in the same manner as the former, but also releases the progestin hormone. An IUD can be uncomfortable for some women, so be sure to discuss this with your trusted doctor.
Maybe in 3 years: Implant. This is a little match-sized object that is inserted into your upper arm and releases progestin to suppress your ovulation.
Best for women who hate their period:
If you hate all the mess that comes with that big monthly visitor, or have severe PMS symptoms that are essentially crippling, an extended cycle pill would be an angel to you. An extended-cycle pill uses hormones to not only prevent pregnancy, but also limits your periods to only happening one to four times a year. Other hormonal contraceptives can help reduce the effects your period has on your body, but this is for the ladies who are simply fed up with anything that has to do with mother nature’s “gift.” You just have to take these pills every single day for them to be effective.
Best for forgetful women:
If three to 10 years and/or a surgery is too big and too long of a commitment for you, and the pill is just not something your busy mind could keep up with every day, you’re not out of luck. But, if you’re super-duper forgetful, it’s not a bad idea to put an alert on your phone to remind you of when to replace your preferred manner of the following birth control.
Birth control shots last for about three months. You go to the doctor, get the shot, and then you’re covered for about three months (12 weeks). This method is a little more than 99 percent effective, and you don’t have to worry about any variations in how effective it is, because it’s administered by a doctor, and directly injects the contraceptive hormones into your body. So if you’re cool with needles, and don’t want the pressure of how perfectly you administer your birth control, this could be a good option.
A vaginal ring, such as NuvaRing works as effective birth control for a month. You just insert the flexible ring in, and in three weeks, take it out, and you’ll have your period. Then you replace it with a new ring. It works by releasing estrogen and progestin into the vagina (the same stuff used in the pill), and also helps thicken the natural mucus on your cervix so sperm as a harder time entering your uterus.
Birth control patches are effective for about a week, and just as effective, or sometimes even more effective than the pill. The patch is like a bandage, and can be stuck to the stomach, upper arm, butt or torso. You just put on a new one every week, and don’t bother putting one on on the week of your period.
Best for cash-strapped women:
Not everyone can afford a birth control that’s administered via surgery or continuously taking prescribed pills. Thankfully, there are quite a few options to keep to your budget.
Male condoms are of the most common forms of birth control, partly because they’re so cheap and easy to get, and partly because they also protect against STDs. Individually, a condom costs between 50 cents to a little over a dollar each, depending on how fancy or exciting of a condom you want (flavored, ultra-thin, non-latex, textured, etc.). Generally a box of condoms is 20 bucks or less, depending on how big of a box it is.
Female condoms are a little more expensive than male condoms, generally ranging from 1-3 dollars each. Like male condoms, they also prevent STDs, and don’t use any hormones. You take it out and dispose like you would a male condom.
Best for the au-natural woman:
If you don’t want any extra hormones or chemicals being put into your body, female and male condoms are your best bet, as well as being aware of your fertility windows and understanding when you are most likely to get pregnant, to be extra safe.
A diaphragm is another option. It’s a dome-shaped object that is placed in your vagina and guards your cervix. You pair this with a spermicide to deter and block out sperm from getting to the uterus. This method is 94 percent to 84 percent effective on its own, and even more effective when paired with other contraceptive methods. You can put it in hours before you expect to have sexual intercourse, so when you’re ready to go, you’re ready to go! By the way, you have to be fitted for one of these at the doctor, so be ready for that.
Best for plus-sized women:
While there are some debates on how effective hormone-based contraceptives work for plus-sized women, there are some birth control methods that are sure to work. However, it should also be noted that hormonal contraceptives might not work very well for you only if you are significantly overweight. Of course, your trusted doctor will let you know what hormonal contraceptives you would or would not be a candidate for. Male and female condoms work just as well for everyone so long as they’re used properly, and you have the condoms that seem to work best for you and your partner.
A diaphragm paired with spermicide, when fitted properly, is a great option for birth control. You stick it in up to eight hours before you’re planning to have sex, and you’re ready to go!
An IUD is another effective option that isn’t impacted by weight. Plus, depending on the kind you get, you’d be set for five to 10 years with a 99 percent effective birth control! Not a bad deal, huh?
Best for women who done screwed up:
If something went awry with your preferred manner of birth control, and you need immediate emergency contraception, you can use the Plan B method (aka the morning after pill, etc). This won’t help you if you’re already pregnant. It’s not an instant abortion pill. This only works if you take it within a week of your sexual-protection mishap, so get to steppin’ if you know some of those pesky sperms invaded your territory.
Best for women who ABSOLUTELY do not EVER want kids (again):
Okay, so this isn't birth control in the standard sense. This is straight up discontinuing your ability to ever have babies. But hey, you're still controlling your (lack of) birth.
There are quite a few permanent sterilization options that you can talk about with your doctor and partner (if you have one). You can get tubal ligation (aka getting your tubes tied), which is an invasive surgery that puts an incision or blockage in your fallopian tubes. There is also the Essure method, which is slightly less invasive, and blocks the fallopian tubes with a small metal object. And of course, there is the Vasectomy. Vasectomies are safer, cheaper and easier than the sterilization options for women by blocking the tubes that release sperm. Essentially, a vasectomy filters out all the little soldiers from the cum, so there’s only a 1 in 1,000 chance that he would ever get your egg-o preg-o.
Best for the women who want to stay in control of their body:
Any birth control you’d like. It’s your body, so it’s up to you what you do with it, and how you want to use it. You can take control of your sexual well-being. Just consult with a doctor you trust, and your partner (if you have a consistent one), and do what you feel most comfortable with.