Birth control methods are ways to prevent pregnancy when having sex.
For pregnancy to happen from sex, sperm has to get into the vagina* of a person who can get pregnant. From there, it travels through the cervix and uterus into the fallopian tubes. Once each menstrual cycle, the ovaries release an egg (ovulation), which travels to one of the fallopian tubes. If an egg and sperm meet in one of the fallopian tubes, the egg can engulf a single sperm, resulting in fertilisation. The fertilised egg can then travel through the fallopian tube towards the uterus. If the fertilised egg implants in the lining of the uterus and continues to grow, it becomes a pregnancy.
Birth control methods can stop this process from happening in a variety of ways. There are many options, with different benefits and drawbacks. There isn’t one best method that works for everyone. The best method for you will be different than the best method for someone else.
* Not everyone uses these words for their body parts or relates to them in the same way. We have used these words as they are commonly known and encourage you to use the language that feels best for you.
Birth control methods can be divided into the following categories:
- Can often make periods lighter and shorter and reduce cramps.
- You need a prescription to use them and they may have hormonal side effects.
- Some methods can be used for several years like the hormonal IUD and implant.
- Some methods involve doing something every day (the pill), week (the patch), month (the ring), or 3 months (the shot).
- Might have hormonal side effects like nausea, breast or chest tenderness, spotting between periods, mood changes, or decreased or increased acne. Different methods may have different side effects and sometimes side effects go away after a few months.
- Have no hormones and no hormonal side effects but might have other side effects like irritation from methods that use a chemical spermicide or heavier or crampier periods with the copper IUD.
- They include the copper IUD, which can be used for several years, and many methods where you do something every day or every time you have sex that could cause a pregnancy like fertility awareness methods, cervical caps, diaphragms, or condoms.
Permanent methods are small surgical procedures that end a person’s ability to cause a pregnancy or get pregnant.
Emergency contraception offers a back-up plan to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or after a birth control method fails.