Types of Birth Control Methods

Types of Birth Control
Types of Birth Control. Charles Thatcher Collection/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Are you aware of your birth control options? With so many types of birth control methods available, you may be wondering where to start. To make it easier, all the available birth control methods fall into five basic categories. Understanding the types of birth control found in each category can be a helpful start in figuring out what contraceptive options you have.

Understanding Birth Control

Learning about the available types of birth control can help you decide on which method may work best for you. It is important to know what contraception actually is and how well each type of birth control works to prevent pregnancy. You may also want to think about your reasons for wanting to use birth control.

Categories of Available Types of Birth Control

  1. Natural Birth Control Methods:These are behavioral methods (also known as natural family planning) and include specific actions that you can naturally take to help prevent an unintended pregnancy. These are some of the oldest types of birth control available. Many are these birth control methods require you to have a good understanding of your menstrual cycle. Natural methods often do not cost anything and usually have no side effects.
  2. Over-the-Counter (OTC) Birth Control Methods:Over-the-counter contraceptives are barrier methods that stop sperm from fertilizing an egg. These types of birth control can be bought without a doctor’s prescription. OTC birth control have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) and are reliable and effective.
  3. Prescription Birth Control Methods:Prescription birth control is for women who wish to avoid a pregnancy by using certain hormones, barriers, or devices that are prescribed by a doctor (since they require some amount of medical supervision). In addition to oral contraceptives like the pill, there are also other hormonal contraceptives which don't have to be taken by mouth. Also included in this category are devices (like a diaphragm) that must be fitted by a doctor, and IUDs that must be medically inserted. Many women prefer prescription birth control methods because they are very effective and reversible. This means that your fertility returns once you stop using these types of birth control methods, and you can become pregnant.
  4. Permanent Birth Control Methods:This type of birth control is also known as sterilization. If you know for sure that you do not want to have any more (or any) children, you may want to choose a permanent birth control method. These tend to be surgical procedures and are extremely effective birth control methods. Permanent sterilization is typically the most popular type of birth control in the United States.
  5. Emergency Birth Control:Emergency birth control is an option to safely prevent getting pregnant if you had unprotected sex or birth control failure. These options are most effective the quicker you use them. Some emergency contraception, like Plan B One-Step, can be bought over the counter. Others, like Ella, require you to have a doctor's prescription.
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