CondomsA trusty classic. 98% effective at preventing pregnancy and also the best option for preventing STIs. They may be fiddly, desensitizing, and slightly awkward, but they’re the best way for both partners to know that they’re protected, especially if they have other partners. There are a few types to choose from:
- Latex is the most common (e.g. Durex, Trojan). Some people find latex irritates their skin, though, so you can use non-latex ones made out of polyurethane or polyisoprene, like SKYN. A lot are pre-lubricated.
- There are also natural lambskin condoms, like Trojan Naturalamb, literally made from lamb intestines (which may sound a little medieval). They look and feel like regular condoms, but without plastic or latex. They prevent pregnancy but not STIs, so they’re best for regular monogamous partners.
The PillThis little pill revolutionized sex for everyone when it was introduced in the ‘60s. When taken correctly, it is up to 99.9% effective at preventing pregnancy. This hormonal contraceptive introduces hormones like estrogen and progestin into the body to create changes that prevent pregnancy. There are a variety of pills available, all working in different ways:
- The combination pill uses estrogen and progestin to stop your ovaries from releasing eggs. It’s the most popular, partly because it has other benefits like regulating your period, reducing cramping and clearing acne. It’s also easy to reverse – if you stop, it’s possible to get pregnant right away if you want to (but this also means you need to be careful and take them properly!). There are low dose and high dose pills, so you can try different ones.
- The minipill only uses progestin, causing changes that keep sperm from reaching eggs. These are good for people who are breastfeeding, have nausea, or have developed side effects from estrogen. They’re a little less effective – about 95%.
- The extended-cycle pill is a combination pill that reduces the number of menstrual periods from 13 periods a year to only four a year, which can be a huge relief for some people.
Birth Control ShotDepo-Provera is a 99% effective hormonal injection that you can get every three months. It works just like the pill, except you don’t have to worry about remembering to take it every day. The potential side effects are a bit more intense than the pill, including nervousness and fatigue, so it’s not advised for people with depression. It can also increase the risk of osteoporosis (especially if it runs on your family), so talk to your doctor.
Birth Control ImplantAka the contraceptive implant or "arm bar." This small device is inserted under the skin and works for 3 years, using the similar hormones to the pill and the shot. It’s 99% effective, and often has extra benefits like lighter or less frequent periods. However, like the shot, it can cause mood swings and fatigue, so again, not advised for people with mental health issues. There’s also a small chance of developing non-cancerous ovarian cysts. The implant is easy to insert and remove – an injection to numb the area, and then a quick procedure to place it under the skin. You’ll just be left with a small lump, quietly taking care of business.
IUD (Intrauterine Device)This 99% effective T-shaped device is inserted into the uterus, preventing sperm from reaching your eggs. Like the implant or injection, you can just insert it and forget about it, often for years. There are two kinds, hormonal and non-hormonal:
- Hormonal IUDs release small amounts of progestin (same as the pill) into the body and can make your period lighter. It can last up to five years depending on the type.
- The non-hormonal copper T IUD alters how sperm cells move so they can’t reach an egg during ovulation. This one can cause heavier periods, especially at the beginning. It can last up to 10 years.