The Low Down On Birth Control: 10 Contraception Types

birth control

The Pill, condoms, NuvaRing and more.

When it comes to protecting yourself from unplanned pregnancy, keeping your options open is critical. There are so many contraception choices out there you are bound to find ONE that is right for you. And just in case you haven’t seen the magical graphs and charts posted in your local doctor's office, here are some of the choices you have in birth control.

1. The Pill(s)

When it comes to the originator of female birth control, there are many options. The pill comes in four different types—extended-cycle, low-dosage, combination and the mini-pill. Each version has a different cocktail of hormones.

Pros: The pill is the most popular contraceptive among women in the U.S. Many women who take the pill have lighter, shorter and more regular periods. Other benefits include relieving PMS symptoms like menstrual cramps. It may also help with issues like acne, infections and cancer in your reproductive organs and anemia. 

Cons: The pill may cause irregular periods, especially in the first two months of use, breast tenderness, headaches, vomiting, dizziness or nausea. It might increase risks of blood clots, high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. And also, you have to actually remember to take the darn thing! Maybe they should invent a pill that includes ginkgo biloba for memory loss.

  • Additional cons associated with minipills: You need to be even more careful about taking this pill at nearly the same exact time everyday, which can be difficult. Missing a pill or taking it late can decrease its effectiveness. It is also not as effective as the combination pill and it doesn't regulate periods.
  • Additional pro of extended-cycle pills: Eliminates many, if not all, periods. 

2. The Condom

The hat, the love glove, the rubber or the sock—condoms are generally made of latex or polyurethane and worn on the penis during sex (they make female condoms too).

Pros: They're cheap (only about 50 cents to $1 each and many places, like clinics, even give them out for free), very accessible and there are many different types including ribbed, warming lubricant and ultra thin. Condoms may help prolong sexual intercourse. It can also be used in conjunction with other forms of birth control. It is the only method of contraception that protects against sexually transmitted infections or diseases. It is also the only current form of male contraception

Cons: Some men and women complain it decreases pleasure during sex. Others feel stopping to put on the condom ruins the spontaneity of sex. 

3. The Vaginal Ring

A flexible, 2-inch wide ring that is inserted into your vagina once a month for three weeks. You remove it the last week of the month, when you get your period.

Pros: NuvaRing offers the same health benefits as the pill, minus the necessity to administer it on a frequent basis.

Cons: Besides sticking your finger all the way up your wahoo, some side effects, which usually clear up after about two to three months, include spotting, breast tenderness, nausea and vomiting. It may also cause increased vaginal discharge, irritation, or infection.

4. The Shot (DMPA)

An injection of progestin in the arm or butt four times a year (or every three months).

Pros: It doesn't contain estrogen, which means it can be used by women who are breastfeeding. It is a more "discreet" form of birth control. It can also help prevent cancer of the lining of the uterus. 

Cons: Irregular periods is one of the most common side effects. The shot can cause spotting, the complete disappearance of your period, or longer, heavier periods. However, for most people they will have lighter, less frequent periods. In fact, after a year, 50 percent of women using the shot will stop getting their periods completely. The shot may also cause a weight gain of a few pounds a year. It may increase your risk of osteoporosis when used for longer than two years. A 2010 study linked the shot to bone loss and smokers are at an even higher risk.

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