Everything You NEED To Know About Birth Control (You're Welcome)

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It's time to learn the FACTS ...

It's startling what we know — and what we don't know — about sex. Sure, we'd like to think that we’ve had the whole "birds and the bees" thing covered since that awkward high school sex ed class, but recent stats show that we don't know as much as we've led ourselves to believe. In fact, research shows that "magical thinking" is a large contributor to unintended pregnancies in the country. What's that, you ask? Oh, just when women don't use birth control simply because they believe that they won't get pregnant.

But even those who do use birth control aren't off the hook either. This study uncovered a startling revelation: Only one in five women know which birth control method is the most effective. And after checking the failure rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), I found out I was guilty of not knowing myself!

So many barriers exist when it comes to consistent birth control use too, such as denial (that “magical thinking” I was talking about), lack of awareness of the many options available, mistrust of pharmaceutical companies, misinformation about side effects and infertility, and a focus on pleasure over protection in the heat of the moment.

It’s easy to be confused with all the methods out there. We’ve researched what information is out there and have partnered with Bedsider to bring you Bedsider’s Method Explorer, which breaks down each type of birth control for you so that you can decide the best fit for your lifestyle.

1. The Rhythm Method

Price: Free

This is often considered the natural means of birth control. It's a calendar-based contraceptive method in which you learn to recognize the days you're fertile, and abstaining from having sex before and during those days. Granted, there are plenty of health-related factors that can affect the exact timing of ovulation, like illness and stress, so it's not always accurate, especially if your cycle is irregular. On its own, it doesn't protect against disease, but it has no side effects and it's a good option for women who would otherwise reject contraception because of their religious or cultural beliefs.

Effectiveness: 24% failure rate.

2. The Pull-Out Method

Price: Free

It's hard to call this a birth control method — being honest, it feels more like a last resort to anything else. Even though pulling out is incredibly risky — can you really trust him? — it's ironically proving to be the most popular one among twentysomethings (dubbed by NYMag as "the pull-out generation"). Withdrawal is obviously cheap, but probably only worth considering if you wholeheartedly trust your partner since you still risk having your timing off and contracting STDs.

Effectiveness: 22% failure rate.

3. The Female Condom

Popular Brands: FC2

Price: $4 each

Female condoms work in a similar way to traditional male condoms, except that unlike his, it can be inserted up to eight hours before sex (so no awkward pausing necessary), it puts you in control, and he doesn't have the typical "sensation" excuse. It also may help prevent STDs.

Effectiveness: 21% failure rate.

4. The Male Condom

Popular Brands: Trojan, Durex, LifeStyles

​Price: $1-$2 each

When worn properly (that's important here) condoms can protect against pregnancy and STDs, including HIV. Worn properly, condoms prevent sperm from entering the uterus. Unfortunately, if you're allergic to latex or polyurethane, you may have to resort to lambskin material which doesn't protect against all STDs. And if you tend to use an oil-based lubricant, you'll want to switch to an oil-free option that doesn't degrade latex like K-Y Jelly.

Effectiveness: 18% failure rate.

5. The Diaphragm

Popular Brands: Koro-Flex, Koromex, Ortho-Diaphragm

Price: $15-$75

Barrier methods — like the diaphragm — block sperm from entering the uterus. The diaphragm specifically is shaped like a shallow cup and should be inserted before sex with spermicide. You have to wait to remove it six to eight hours after sex (but certainly not more than 24). If you're looking for a hormone-free, short-term option, this could be a good fit. And an upside is that unlike some other barrier methods (i.e. condoms) you can clean and reuse a diaphragm, but you should visit your doctor for the right fit since they come in different sizes.

Downsides? If you gain or lose weight (by 10 pounds), you'll need to be refitted.

Effectiveness: 12% failure rate.

6. The Pill

Popular Brands: Nortrel, Yaz, Ocella

​Price: $15-$50 monthly

You know this better as "the pill" but really, it comes as two main types: combined oral contraceptives (which contain both estrogen and progestin hormones), and progestin-only pills. Most pills of both type are usually available in either a 21-day or a 28-day pack, depending on how they're prescribed by your doctor. When taken properly, the effectiveness rate is extremely high, letting you enjoy yourself in bed, worry-free where pregnancy is concerned, at least. (The pill does not protect against STDs). But taking the pill has some other perks: lighter, more regulated periods, improved acne, and a lowered risk of ovarian and uterine cancer. However, the estrogen has been known to cause dangerous blood clots, so if you're prone, you may want to look at the mini-pill instead.

Effectiveness: 9% failure rate.

7. The Mini Pill

Popular Brands: Nor-QD, Ovrette, Ortho Micronor

​Price: $15-$50 monthly

Known as the mini pill, progestin-only meds don't contain estrogen. They're a safer alternative for women who smoke, are over 35 years old or at risk for blood clots. Unfortunately, if you have trouble remembering to take your pill every day, progestin-only pills might not be the method for you. If you're more than three hours late, you'll need a backup method.

Effectiveness: 9% failure rate.

8. The Ring

Popular Brands: NuvaRing

​Price: $15-$50 monthly

The vaginal ring is made of flexible plastic and works by delivering estrogen and progestin (much like the pill). How it works is you place the ring inside your vagina for three weeks, and then remove it for one week for your period. The ring has some of the same downsides as the pill, though. And just like oral contraceptives, the effectiveness can be lowered with antibiotics and medications. Women who nix the idea of the combined pill probably should consider the ring either.

Effectiveness: 9% failure rate.

9. The Shot

Popular Brands: Depo-Provera

​Price: $35-$100 per injection

If you're unfazed by needles, you might want to consider the birth control shot. Like the mini-pill and combined pill, the birth control shot releases progestin into the body. Because you only receive it every three months with a visit to the doctor, you don't have to worry about taking a daily pill or scrambling for a barrier method before sex. However, irregular bleeding is the most common side effect women experience, especially in the first six to 12 months of use.

Effectiveness: 6% failure rate.

10. The Intrauterine Device (IUD)

Popular Brands: Mirena, ParaGard

​Price: $500-$1,000 upon one-time insertion

Surgically implanted intrauterine devices (IUDs) are considered one of the most effective methods for women (besides a hysterectomy) and lasts for 10 years. There are two forms: the copper T intrauterine device (IUD) and the levonorgestrel intrauterine system (LNG IUD), which works to release a small amount of progestin every day to keep you from getting pregnant.

Some doctors warn that this can cause pain in women who haven't given birth yet. That's because when the T-shaped device is implanted, your uterus is expanded, causing pain. The IUD is reversible, but at a high cost — up to $500. So if you're looking to have kids in the next few years, it might not be worth it.

Effectiveness: 0.05 – 0.8% failure rate.



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