Common Birth Control and Contraceptive Options

Prescription methods of birth control include medically prescribed hormones, barriers, or devices. There are several prescription birth control options available to women, and most contain some form of hormone (either estrogen and progestin or just progestin). Different types can be taken by mouth, placed on the skin, administered as an injection, implanted, or inserted into the vagina.

All medically prescribed contraceptives require a female to visit a healthcare provider. Typically, prescription birth control options tend to be more effective than over-the-counter methods (such as condoms) and require some degree of medical supervision. These methods are convenient and easy to use as well as reversible—so you can become pregnant after stopping them.​​


Types of Birth Control


The Pill

Contraceptive pill
Image Source / Getty Images

The pill is the common name for oral contraception. It's one of the safest and popular methods of birth control. The pill comes in two forms: combination pills and progestin-only pills.

How to Use

The pill must be taken daily to sustain the hormone levels needed to prevent ovulation.

How It Works

The pill is made up of synthetic forms of the hormones progestin and estrogen. One of the ways the pill works is by stopping the action of the hormones that trigger ovulation.


The Depo Provera Shot

Teenager receiving contraceptive injection.

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

The Depo Provera shot, also known as DMPA, is an injectable form of progestin (medroxyprogesterone acetate), so it is considered to be a progestin-only method (there is no estrogen).

There are two versions available — the Depo Provera shot and the Depo-subQ Provera injection. The Depo-subQ Provera 104 injection is also FDA approved for the treatment of endometriosis-related pain.

How to Use

The shot must be given every 3 months (12 weeks) and will only provide pregnancy protection for that amount of time.


The NuvaRing and Annovera

Gynecology consultation
BSIP / Getty Images

The ring is a small, flexible circle about 2 inches in diameter.

How to Use

You insert it into your vagina once a month and leave it in place for 3 weeks. Then, you take it out for the remaining week of your cycle. When using the Nuvaring, you should insert a new ring each month. With Annovera, the ring is washed and replaced after the week and can be used for 13 cycles.

How It Works

The ring secretes synthetic estrogen and progestin to protect against pregnancy for one month. It works like other combination hormonal methods. This method may be more prone to error than some of the other prescription options (due to misuse, misplacement, and not staying where it should).


The Ortho Evra Patch

The patch on a woman's abdomen

Staff / Getty Images

A contraceptive patch is a thin, sticky patch that is placed on the skin of the stomach, buttocks, upper outer arm, shoulder, or upper torso.

How It Works

The patch releases synthetic estrogen and progestin that provides protection against pregnancy. This method may be subject to user error especially if the patch becomes loose or falls off or if it is not replaced each week.



A diaphragm cup insert for birth control

jenjen42 / Getty Images

The diaphragm is latex or silicone, dome-shaped cup with a flexible rim that does not contain any hormones.

How to Use

A doctor must measure the woman's vagina to determine the correct diaphragm type and size. It is put in place before intercourse and needs to be left there for 6 to 8 hours after ejaculation.

Before insertion, the diaphragm and its ring should be covered with spermicidal jelly or cream. Additional spermicide must be applied before another act of intercourse.

How It Works

The diaphragm is inserted securely in the vagina and becomes a barrier that covers the cervix. It blocks the opening to the uterus while the spermicide hinders the sperm's movement.


ParaGard Intrauterine Device (IUD)

Doctor with IUD

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, plastic device shaped like a T.

How to Use

The IUD is inserted into the uterus by a doctor and has 2 filament strings that hang down into the vagina. A woman can feel the strings to make sure the IUD is still in place. ParaGard can be left in place for up to 12 years.​

How It Works

The ParaGard (Copper T 380A) is the only non-hormonal IUD available in the US. This IUD has copper (which acts as a spermicide) coiled around it. The IUD irritates the lining of the uterus, which makes it harder for implantation. It also serves as an irritant, so white blood cells migrate to the inflamed uterus and can help to destroy sperm.


Mirena Intrauterine Device (IUD)

Doctor in hospital holding IUD
Jasmin Merdan / Getty Images

The Mirena IUD is a small, T-shaped flexible piece of plastic.

How to Use

The Mirena is inserted into the uterus by a doctor and has strings that hang down through the cervix into the vagina. The strings can allow for the woman to check that the IUD is still in place and for the doctor to use to remove the IUD. Mirena is effective for 7 years. Mirena is also the only FDA-approved contraceptive to treat heavy menstrual bleeding.

How It Works

Mirena continuously releases a small amount of progestin. Due to the progestin, it is a little more effective than the ParaGard. Besides changing the lining of the uterus, Mirena also thickens cervical mucus (serving as a barrier to sperm), and in some cases, it may suppress ovulation.


Kyleena and Liletta Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)



Kyleena and Liletta are the newest IUDs available.

  • Kyleena contains 19.5 mg of progestin levonorgestrel and offers pregnancy protection for up to five years. Each day, about 14 mcg of this hormone is released. This rate gradually decreases to 5 mcg per day after three years.
  • Liletta contains 52 mg of levonogestrel and is approved for up to six years.

Phexxi Gel

Phexxi is a new prescription birth control and the first non-hormonal gel option

Ellen Lindner / Verywell

Phexxi is a new prescription birth control and the first non-hormonal gel option.

How to Use

The gel must be inserted vaginally before sex. Phexxi comes in boxes of 12 single-dose, pre-filled applicators that are effective for one sexual episode each.

How It Works

It prevents pregnancy by changing the pH of the vagina, thereby creating an inhospitable environment for sperm. Since it's non-hormonal, it may have fewer side effects than hormonal contraceptive options.



Doctor with contraceptive implant

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Nexplanon is the next generation of Implanon.

How to Use

Insertion into the skin of the upper arm requires a local anesthetic and only takes a few minutes. Nexplanon is radiopaque, so this means that the implant can be seen in an X-ray. It also has a preloaded applicator made to lower the chances of insertion errors. Nexplanon is good for three years of protection and can be removed at any time during that three-year time frame.

How It Works

This progestin-only contraceptive implant is made of soft, medical polymer. If properly inserted, Nexplanon boasts an impressive 99.9 percent effectiveness rate making it one of the most effective long-acting, reversible methods of contraception.


Cervical Caps

Cross section biomedical illustration of cervical cap in position

Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

A Cervical Cap (like FemCap) is a silicone or latex cup. It is similar to a diaphragm but is made to fit onto the cervix.

How to Use

Spermicidal cream/jelly has to be applied to the cp, but in lower amounts than a diaphragm. It needs to be left in place for 6-8 hours after ejaculation and has to be fitted by a doctor. The cervical cap can be left in place for up to 24 hours without additional spermicide.

How It Works

This device blocks the opening to the cervix while the spermicide impedes the sperm's movement. The Lea's Shield (a similar device) is also a silicone cup but has an air valve and a loop to aid in removal.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Birth control.

  2. FDA News. FDA approves new indication for Pfizer's Depo-SubQ Provera 104.

  3. Planned Parenthood. Birth control shot.

  4. NuvaRing. How should I use NuvaRing?

  5. Stoddard A, Mcnicholas C, Peipert JF. Efficacy and safety of long-acting reversible contraception. Drugs. 2011;71(8):969-80.

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.