Disclaimer: I am not a professional! If you want to find a professional sex educator please look at my "Resources" page. If you have any questions, feel free to ask on my ask site: FYsexeducationquestions, though check out my FAQ first!
What Birth Control Would be Best For Me?
What are you looking for in a birth control method?
- Sterilization, a permanent procedure with less than 1% chance of pregnancy
- The IUD, either copper or hormonal. Lasts for several years, as effective as sterilization
- The Implant. Lasts for several years, just as effective as sterilization
- Long Term
- Sterilization, permanent
- The copper IUD, 12 years
- Hormonal IUD, 5 years
- The Implant, 3 years
- The Shot, 3 months
- Hassle free, simple
- Sterilization, one procedure with some recovery
- The IUD, one procedure every few years with very little recovery
- The Implant, one procedure every few years with very little recovery
- The shot, one procedure every 3 months, some pain at site of the shot
- The nuva ring, insert the ring once a month into your vagina
- the patch, put the patch on your skin once a week
- the pill, take one pill every day
- internal condom, spermicide, sponge, insert into vagina before sex.
- No prescription
- the withdrawal technique
- fertility awareness
- the pill and other forms of birth control*
*in some countries
- No hormones
- The copper IUD
- sponge, diaphragm, cervical cap
- the withdrawal technique
- fertility awareness
- breast feeding
- withdrawal technique, free
- fertility awareness, free
- condoms, free at clinics about $1/each
- breast feeding, free
- spermicide $8/package
- sponge, $9-15/package of 3
- cervical cap, $60-75 (reusable until breaks)
- diaphragm, $15-75 (reusable until breaks)
- the pill, $15-50/mo
- the patch, $15-80/mo
- the ring, $15-80/mo
- the shot, $35-100/3mo
- the implant, $400-800/3yrs
- IUD, $500-1,000/6-12 yrs
*may be able to get some for free depending on your insurance, where you live, or government programs
- Regulate periods
- the combination pill, tends to make periods lighter, can be used to skip periods
- progestin only mini pill, more effective at regulating periods but can’t be used to skip periods although it may cease your periods
- nuva ring, tends to make periods lighter, can be used to skip periods
- the patch, tends to make periods lighter, can be used to skip periods
- the shot, gets rid of periods altogether but can make them worse the first few months
- the implant, tends to make periods lighter, may cease periods altogether
- the hormonal IUD, tends to make periods lighter, may cease periods altogether
- Acne treatment
- Some brands of the pill, usually combination pills.
- Also protects against STIs
- The Condom
(let me know if anything should be added to the list)
Birth Control Series: Part 1 - IUDs
This series of posts on birth control methods will not cover condoms and other barriers to be used during sex. For information on condoms and barriers, see this post. None of the birth control methods discussed during this series are effective at preventing the transmission of STDs and STIs.
An intrauterine device, also known as an IUD, is a small (no thicker than a tampon string), T-shaped object inserted into the uterus to mess with the way sperm moves and intercept it from fertilizing an egg. There are two main types of IUD, Mirena and Paragard. The Mirena IUD is hormone-based, and the Paragard IUD is copper. Once inserted, an IUD lasts for several years (up to 12, depending on the kind) before it will need to be removed and/or replaced.
An IUD is one of the most effective forms of birth control, right up there with sterilization. Less than 1 out of every 100 people using the IUD method of birth control will become pregnant when an IUD has been placed properly. It is also easy to use and maintain. The insertion process takes about 60 seconds and you are protected from pregnancy immediately after insertion. After insertion, assuming that there are not complications, you do not have to worry about the IUD until the point where it needs to be replaced or removed. It is discreet and private, many people who use an IUD say that their partner(s) cannot even tell that it is there. Occasionally, the string that hangs down from the cervix (for removal at a later point) can be felt during intercourse, but this can be trimmed if needed.
The Mirena IUD is hormone based. It works by secreting a small amount of progesterone each day. It contains no estrogen, so there are fewer side effects than other hormone-based forms of birth control, but there are still some hormone-related side effects for certain users of the IUD. The Mirena IUD lasts for 5 years as stated by the manufacturer, but in Europe it is approved for use for up to 7 years. Side effects at first include unpredictable and irregular bleeding, but it is usually only spotting. After the first 6 months, most people’s periods stop altogether, or are much lighter and shorter.
The Paragard IUD contains copper and is hormone free. It is the ONLY super-effective hormone-free form of birth control available, other than sterilization. It lasts for 10 years as stated by the manufacturer, but many studies have shown evidence that it is effective for up to 12 years, and many establishments that provide Paragard insertion services (Planned Parenthood being one of them) agree that it is effective for 12 years. Most users of the Paragard IUD experience heavier, crampier periods for the first few months, but most people’s menstrual cycles return to normal after 6 months.
In a healthy person, regardless of age and whether or not one has given birth or had an abortion, IUDs are a viable option. IUDs, however, are not right for every person. An IUD could be wrong for you if you have any of several health conditions. You should not use an IUD if you: have had a pelvic infection following a birth or abortion in the past 3 months, have or might have an STI, have or might have a pelvic infection, are pregnant, or may be pregnant, have untreated cervical cancer, have cancer of the uterus, have unexplained vaginal bleeding, have pelvic tuberculosis, or have a uterine perforation during an IUD insertion.
The Mirena IUD in particular is not for people who have severe liver disease, or who have, or might have, breast cancer.
The Paragard IUD in particular is not for people who have, or might have, an allergy to copper, or who have Wilson’s disease, an inherited disease that blocks the body’s ability to get rid of copper.
If you are interested in using an IUD as a method of birth control, see your doctor - either a OB/GYN or your general practitioner should be equipped to discuss it with you.
To the anons who asked;
- Douching with Mt. Dew and/or bleach WILL NOT be an effective method of preventing pregnancy or STDs. You can make yourself at risk for infection and throw your ph levels off, not to mention the bleach alone will cause burns. Spermicides are not such effective methods of birth control. Douching at all is actually pretty bad. A vagina is naturally equipped to keep itself clean. Look into condoms (male or female), birth control pills/patches/shots, or a IUD.
- Wearing two condoms is not much more effective at preventing pregnancy. If anything, you’re putting yourself at risk of both of them breaking from the friction.
- Birth control in pill form is to be taken everyday at the same time for it to work. Unlike how some politicians think it works, you don’t take it right before sex. You should have a set time to take it every day. If you have problems remembering to take it every day or have too many side effects I suggest looking for another contraceptive method.
There are two main types of condoms, internal and external. External are the most common ones, those that cover the penis. Internal condoms are inserted in the vagina/anus, one ring holds it down and another outside of the vagina keeps it secure. It is less common and more expensive but because it covers part of the vulva and is bigger and latex free it is preferred by many who use it. External condoms can be used with vaginal sex, anal sex and oral sex. The reasons why condoms are so popular is because they are less expensive and they’re the only forms of contraception that protect against STIs. Now you might think that you don’t need to use condoms if you or your partners have never had sex before, say that they’re STI free, or if you’re monogamous but that’s not true. Many STIs can be gotten from non sexual means, and some can be asymptomatic. You or your partner might not even know they have an STI. That’s why it’s important to get frequent STI tests. However, not all tests test for everything and even then Herpes and HPV are incredibly difficult to test for and you might come up negative for them when you actually do have it and can pass it. That’s one of the reasons why internal condoms are popular, because it covers part of the vulva it protects more from STIs that are passed through skin contact like HPV and Herpes. Using condoms also decreases your chance of infections like yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and UTIs. They also usually provide shorter clean up time as the sperm is contained. They provide good protection from unwanted pregnancy, especially if used with other methods.
The most common reason of condom failure is not using it every time you have sex and not using it throughout sexual activity. You must put the condom on before sexual activity where you come in contact with the penis begins and you must use it without taking it off until either you switch from anus to vagina, you’re done with sex, or ejaculation occurs. If you wish to continue on with sexual activity after ejaculation put on a new condom. EVERY TIME. Another huge cause of condom failure is not using lube. Using lube on the outside of the condom reduces the chance of the condom breaking. Even if you think there is enough vaginal lubrication it’s best to use lube. Any time you have a problem with a certain kind of condom; doesn’t feel good, it breaks, it slips off, try a new condom! You’re probably going to have to try different sizes and brands of condom to find what works (or you can use the internal condom). It should be tight enough it doesn’t slip and it’s not baggy, but loose enough it doesn’t cut into the skin or feel uncomfortable.
Although internal condoms come in pretty much one kind, external is limitless. The first differentiator is material. There are latex condoms and non latex condoms. Non latex condoms of course can be used if you have a latex allergy, but some people prefer them because they are thinner and less likely to decrease sensitivity. They can be more expensive though. There are two main types, polyurethane and lambskin. There are some other synthetic materials like AT-10 resin and polyisoprene though these are less common. Lambskin does not offer protection from STIs so if that is one of your reasons for using it I would choose something else. However, out of all condoms these usually are said to feel the most natural. The reason why people sometimes prefer non-latex condoms is it conducts heat better (which makes it feel more natural), it has a longer shelf life, it can be used with oil based lubricants (although you should never use oil based lube in the vagina), and it doesn’t have an odor. You do have to be more careful because sometimes they are more apt to break. Be sure to use lube and put it on correctly, as this decreases that chance.
The next type is size and shape. External condoms come in all shapes and sizes! Every brand has different sizing so be sure to try out different brands to find what fits you. If it slips, it’s too big. If it feels uncomfortable or tight or digs in to your penis it’s too tight. The main sizes are small, regular, large, and Extra Large. Don’t feel like this is calling your penis any specific size, because really every brand is different. You may be small on one brand and regular in another, or large on one brand and extra large on another. If it still feels uncomfortable or too tight or doesn’t quite fit right you may need a different shape. Especially if you have your foreskin, you may need a wide or extra wide head. If the problem is that it’s too loose on the bottom and/or too tight on top, you may need a tapered condom. I wouldn’t suggest getting a condom without a reservoir tip. Although this can make a better fit of the condom, without the reservoir tip you’re more likely to break the condom when you ejaculate.
Now you can go for some extras. They do make extra thin condoms, which despite popular belief, are just as effective as regular and no more likely to break. It may also feel more natural. Textured condoms are very good if the person with the vagina wants more stimulation or if you find that with a condom there’s too much lubrication and not enough friction. Some people have the opposite problem, with a condom there’s not enough lubrication. You can get lubricated or extra lubricated condoms. You can also use lube with the condom (water or silicone based is best). In fact it’s suggested to always add a little lube at the tip of the penis and on the outside of the condom to promote sensitivity. Some people don’t have good reactions to lube. I’d suggest getting all natural lube, or at least making sure it doesn’t have glycerine or parabens as those are irritants commonly found in lube. You can get condoms with spermicide, but this offers no extra protection and since it’s more expensive I wouldn’t suggest it. Some people have good things to say about “pleasure enhancing” lubrications, but some people have bad reactions so be wary of it. Condoms also come in a lot of fun types. You can get colored or glow in the dark condoms. You can get flavoured condoms, but only use that with oral sex as it can cause infections in the anus or vagina. Using a condom during oral sex can be great. Not only does it protect against STIs passed through oral sex, if you don’t like getting semen in your mouth it makes for quicker clean up. Another good condom use is to cut the tip and base and down the side to make a dental dam. This you can use during oral sex with a vagina or anus to ensure no STIs are passed. Dental dams don’t come in many different kinds so it can be fun to use a ribbed, colored, flavored, or glow in the dark condom. Just make sure the flavored side is facing away from the vagina. It’s a good idea to use a condom with toys as well, especially if it’s not pure silicone or you share it.
Here are some common problems with condoms, and the advice I’d give:
It’s uncomfortable for my penis/I can’t hold an erection/can’t ejaculate
This is probably a size issue. Either look for a larger size, or try a wide/extra wide head or tapered condom. An internal condom may also help. It could also be an allergic reaction to the condom or lube
It’s uncomfortable or hurts my vagina
It’s either an allergic reaction to the condom or lube, or it could be you don’t have enough lubrication. Try either an extra lubricated condom and/or some water based lube. You may need a lot but you should get there! Also, be sure to use extra foreplay. Internal condoms can also cut down on friction that causes pain.
It doesn’t feel as good/decreases sensitivity
Try an extra thin condom, non latex condom, or internal condom. Be sure to use a little lube inside the condom as well as outside.
It lubricates too much
If you’re using lubricated condoms try unlubricated. Or you could try ribbed or textured condoms.
Price, it’s way too expensive
Many health clinics (Planned Parenthood included) offer free condoms in many different kinds. There are also commonly free condom drives online
Many condom websites also do give aways.
This is a good guide: http://std.about.com/od/prevention/qt/freecondoms.htm
Now that you’ve picked out what condom to use, time to put it on. See this link for details
The IUD is the most effective form of birth control, along with the Implant and sterilization. It also has the highest rate of user satisfaction. It is a small T shaped device inserted into the uterus. There are two types; hormonal and copper. The copper IUD is the only form of non-hormonal birth control. It can cost quite a lot, up to 1,000 dollars but the hormonal form lasts around five years and the copper lasts 12 years so it’s worth it.
The Copper IUD works by keeping the sperm from moving, preventing fertilization. The hormonal forms use progestin, which keeps eggs from being released, stopping ovulation, and thickens the cervical mucus which makes sperm not able to move.
The IUD is relatively controversial when it comes to its safety. Many doctors still prefer not to use it unless the person has given birth, even though new forms of the IUD have proven safe to use even if you haven’t given birth. Yes, some people have bad reactions and intense pain from the insertion, but every form of birth control has its risks and people react differently to every form. There is a new IUD coming out specifically for younger people who have not given birth called Skyla, so keep an eye out for that!
It is best not to use IUDs if you’ve had a recent pelvic infection, think you might be pregnant, have cervical cancer or uterine cancer, have unexplained bleeding in your vagina, or have pelvic tuberculosis. Also, it’s best to not use the copper IUD if you have a metal allergy. Occasionally the IUD can perforate the uterus during insertion but that is rare. Infections are also rare. More likely (although still not common) the IUD can move position or fall out. It has strings that come through your cervix and if everything is okay can be felt in the vagina. If at any point those strings disappear or change at all you should see a doctor. You should especially check after each period as that is when it’s most likely to shift.
Reasons to get IUDs may be sensitivity to hormones (for the copper IUD), bad periods (hormonal IUD), wanting the most effective form of birth control you can get, and not having to worry about birth control again for a long time. It has been used to treat endometriosis. It is thought that the copper IUD protects from cervical cancer and endometrial cancer. The hormonal IUD protects from endometrial hyperplasia, endometrial cancer, and fibroids. Plus, unlike other forms of birth control you can have sex right away. The hormonal kind is effective immediately if inserted within seven days after the start of your period. If it’s inserted at another point in your cycle, use back up for a week. There can be side effects, some people especially at first have irregular menstrual cycles or cramping. The copper IUD tends to lead to more bleeding or cessation of periods. Any time you are in a lot of pain or feel the IUD shift or have major menstrual changes see a doctor.
Of course, the IUD has to be inserted and taken out by a doctor. It’s usually a simple procedure that some people find quite painful but the pain should fade pretty quickly. It is common for cramping and light bleeding to occur for one or two days. You’ll probably be checked for infections before hand. You should also get regular check ups to make sure everything is as it should be. It’s important to use condoms for a few weeks after insertion if there is a risk of STI transmission as there is an increased risk of infection for the first few weeks that can lead to PID.
The copper IUD can even be used as emergency contraception up to five days after risky sex. In fact it’s considered one of the most effective forms of emergency contraception, although it is more expensive than other forms.
It is important to still use condoms and get tested regularly for STIs with the IUD. If at any point you think you may have an infection or think you may be pregnant or have heavy bleeding, see your doctor.
Spermicide Survey Results
I don’t use spermicide 14 41%
suppository 1 3%
jell 2 6%
foam 0 0%
film 1 3%
Condoms with spermicide 18 53%
Other 1 3%
I don’t know 24 69%
nonoxynol9 6 17%
Oxtoxynol-9 0 0%
benzalkonium chloride 0
- Condoms with spermicide: I thought it would be safer, it’s comfortable, it makes the genitals taste bad, it burns, dries out the condoms, it gives me infections, it makes me feel safer
- suppository/condoms w/ spermicide: I tend to be allergic to it
- Jell/ condoms w/spermicide: I’m not comfortable with the effectiveness
- I don’t use spermicide: because of irritation
- To sum up: You may want to read my post on spermicide
- Condoms with spermicide ARE NO MORE EFFECTIVE THAN REGULAR CONDOMS. There is not enough spermicide for that to be true and with it being more expensive it’s probably better to buy regular condoms. You can use another form of spermicide with it if you want more effectiveness, though make sure it’s condoms safe.
- Also, SPERMICIDE DOES NOT KILL SPERM. It makes it more difficult for the sperm to move so that they don’t fertilize any eggs before they die naturally.
- Also, the only person who used non nonoxynol9 spermicide said that it didn’t burn at all so if you have problems with spermicide you may want to find another form.
Myth of the Day, 24
MYTH: A girl only takes birth control pills right before she’s going to have sex.
REALITY: Birth control pills are made up of a series of hormones that must build up in your body to be effective. The pills are meant to be taken in a specific order at about the same time every day. When you skip a day or skip a non-placebo pill, it’ll alter the effectiveness of the birth control.
Myth: not just “girls” take birth control, but yes very important info.
This is the easiest/cheapest method to perform and the easiest to mess up. If done correctly it’s about 85% effective. It’s great if used with other methods. First off, the person with the penis must be able to tell if they’re close to ejaculation. If they are prone to premature ejaculation or unpredictable ejaculation don’t use it. This is more common in teens, so be careful. If they miss it even a little then it’s ineffective. It’s best if you pull out a while before ejaculation, enough that you need some other form of stimulation to ejaculate like oral, manual, anal or frottage. Secondly, pre-ejaculate can contain sperm from previous ejaculations. To ensure it doesn’t, make sure to urinate at least once and have it be several hours after the previous ejaculation. It’s a good idea to try this method out a few times with a condom so that you get used to pulling out before ejaculation. It’s also important that you are in a position where the person with the penis has control and can move quickly. Them on bottom won’t work well. If you find that this method fails even some of the time stop using it.
Of course it doesn’t protect from STIs, so be wary of that. It’s not the most effective form of birth control, but it’s better than nothing and it can definitely boost other forms.
Spermicide when used by itself is not very effective. We’re talking about 25 pregnancies out of every 100 people. Spermicide can come in different forms; creams, foams, jells, and suppository. It is about $8 per package. It doesn’t kill sperm like some people think, but rather stops it from moving. Usually you insert whatever the method and wait for a while (some take longer than others, up to 10 minutes) and then you continue onto sex. It can be pretty messy which can be helpful for sex. Some people have bad reactions to spermicide, especially if it has Nonoxynol9 in it. If it hurts I wouldn’t suggest using it. In fact, they don’t suggest you use it 2 times a day because it can severely irritate the vagina and can cause infection. To use correctly make SURE you follow the directions on the package. Also, you have to re-insert every time you have intercourse (which as stated before is not recommended with spermicide with Nonoxynol9 in it). They are usually only effective for an hour. When inserting the spermicide it’s important to have clean, dry hands. Exposure to water can decrease effectiveness.
If you want to increase the effectiveness of Spermicide there are many things you can use it with. With condoms, don’t get the kind that has spermicide already on it, these are more expensive and aren’t actually any safer than regular condoms. There is some research that says that spermicide (especially with Nonoxynol9) isn’t good to use with condoms and may cause them to break down so it’s best to buy spermicide that says it can be used with condoms. It’s a good idea to wear condoms with spermicide though, because spermicide can make you at greater risk for STIs. You can also use it with internal condoms, same warnings apply.
You can also use it with either Cervical Caps, Diaphragms and Sponges. Cervical Caps and Diaphragms have to be fitted by a doctor, so sponges are the easiest to get and less expensive. All of those methods can be used with a condom and are as effective as condoms. The Sponge is made of plastic foam and filled with spermicide. You insert it deep into the vagina before intercourse. This blocks the uterus and keeps the sperm from reaching it, as well as killing the sperm. It might not be good for you to use if you’ve been pregnant or had an abortion or miscarriage, are allergic to polyurethane or spermicide, have a reproductive tract infection, a history of Toxic Shock Syndrome, are on your period or otherwise have vaginal bleeding, or have difficulties inserting foreign objects into your vagina (if you can’t use tampons, you can’t use this). Like pads or tampons it does come with the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome so don’t keep it in for over 30 hours. It can be worn for a while before you even see your partner, so that is a big advantage, you don’t have to mess with it while trying to get in a sexy mood. You might have to use a bit of lube with it, it can make the vaginal canal dry. You just use the sponge once and throw it away. If you want to use something that can be reused you should check out Diaphragms or Cervical Caps. Diaphragms are shallow silicone cups inserted into the vagina. Unlike the Sponge, it doesn’t come equipped with Spermicide inside of it. Before you insert the cup you put Spermicide inside it. It pretty much has the same troubles as a Sponge. If you can’t use the Sponge, chances are you can’t use a Diaphragm either (unless your problem is that you’re allergic to polyurethane. It’s fine to use a Diaphragm then). It also can be inserted hours before sexy time. This can be used if you’ve been pregnant or are on your period. Be sure to take good care of your Diaphragm! Wash with warm water and mild soap, air dry and as with anything made of latex don’t use oil based lubricants! It can last up to two years but if there is any damage (holes or cracks) it’s time to get a new one. Cervical Caps are pretty much the same as Diaphragms except that it can’t be used while menstruating and it’s a slightly different shape.
If you or your partner experience any irritation, pain, or discomfort stop using and try another option. Of course with all of these methods you can use the withdrawal method and fertility awareness to up the rates of effectiveness.