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A Guide to Birth Control

What is Birth Control?

Birth control is the use of devices, drugs, sexual practices, or surgical procedures to prevent pregnancy. It allows people to choose if or when they want to have a baby and some methods are more effective than others.


What are the types of Birth Control?

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC):

o LARC prevents pregnancies for years and can be removed if you want to get pregnant in the future. Some LARC methods require the use of hormones.

o Example: intrauterine devices (IUDs) which are placed in the uterus by a doctor. The two major types of IUDs are the copper IUD and the hormonal IUD.

Hormonal methods:

o Birth control methods that contain estrogen and progesterone (or progesterone only) prevent the egg from being released from the ovaries, prevent sperm from entering the uterus by thickening the cervical mucus, and thin the uterine lining to prevent implantation. These methods are typically very good at preventing pregnancies.

o Examples: birth control pills, shots, the implant, the skin patch, and the vaginal ring.

Barrier methods:

o These prevent sperm from entering the uterus and contacting the egg. Barrier methods have fewer side effects than hormonal methods or IUDs but are generally less effective and must be used every time you have sex.

o Examples: condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and sponges.

Natural methods:

o Fertility awareness is based on monitoring the physical signs of ovulation including cervical mucus consistency and body temperature to avoid pregnancy. Having sex 5 days prior to and on the day of ovulation may increase the chances of pregnancy. Ovulation doesn’t occur the same time each month and so this method isn’t most reliable when trying to avoid pregnancy.

o Abstinence is completely avoiding sex.

o Withdrawal, also known as “the pull-out method”, occurs when the penis is removed from the vagina at the time at the time of ejaculation. This prevents the sperm from entering the vagina and therefore preventing fertilization. However, the efficacy of this method relies on how carefully and consistently it is used.

Permanent birth control:

o Sterilization, either through a vasectomy or tubal ligations, gives lasting protection against pregnancy. Since they are surgical procedures, it should only be used by people who are certain they don’t want any or any more children.

Emergency Contraception:

o Emergency contraceptive pills can prevent pregnancy after sex by stopping ovulation, fertilization, and implantation. These can be used up to 72 hours after unprotected sex and become increasingly less effective after that time. Emergency contraception should not be the go-to, but rather a backup when primary methods fail. (


Which method should you pick?

The best mothed protects you every time you have sex. Some things to consider when choosing the right method for you include:

- How well it works.

- How much effort it requires.

- When you want to have children.

- How much does the method cost.

- If it protects you from infections.

- If you’ve had problems with one kind of birth control.

Talk to your doctor or sexual health professional if you have concerns about birth control or to find out more about your options.


About the Author

Trevena (She/Her)

Hello! This is my first year as a Healthy U volunteer and the last year of my BSc Microbiology major with a minor in Biology. I’m very excited to build more connections in the university community, as well as expanding my knowledge on various health topics.

If I’m not studying, you can usually find me watching a new TV series, painting, or hanging out with friends!


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