Whether you’re (secretly) fucking your best friend, casually giving blowjobs inside the Campanile or simply trying to manage your period, are you informed on the different forms of birth control methods out there?
Here’s a list of birth control methods, from single-use to long-term:
Condoms: Single use
Condoms are commonly made of plastic and latex to cover an individual’s penis. They can be used for oral, anal and vaginal sex. They are also extremely affordable and generally accessible in comparison to other forms of birth control. They also come in a variety of colors, textures and styles to produce a variety of pleasurable sensations. Flavored condoms paired with tasty lube can enhance oral sex while also protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections. Unless you’re allergic to latex, there are no side effects! As a barrier method, they help prevent the transmission of STIs. They’re about 85 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, thus, they’re great to combine with another method.
Internal condom: Single use
These are similar to “regular” condoms, except they go inside an individual’s vagina or anus. They’re also referred to as “female condoms,” which problematically perpetuates gender essentialism. These are about 79 percent effective, so they should be combined with another method to ensure protection against STIs. They can be inserted up to six hours before sex, which gives the individual agency over their body. As a barrier method, they help prevent the transmission of STIs.
Dental dam: Single use
These are small pieces of flexible latex that can be used for oral sex. Dental dams are meant to cover an individual’s genitals when giving oral sex to reduce the risk of orally transmitting an STI. While these have limited accessibility, you can make one by cutting the side, tip and bottom of a condom.
Birth control pill: Take daily
This form of birth control comes in packs of pills that are consumed daily. There are many different options for pills, as some are combination pills of estrogen and progestin, while others are only progestin. Progestin-only pills must be taken within the same three hours daily. In contrast, combination pills must be taken daily but do not have to be taken at the same exact time each day. If taken perfectly, this method is 99 percent effective. Since it’s easy to forget a pill or use it imperfectly, effectiveness in preventing pregnancy can reduce to 91 percent. Here’s an easy pill to swallow, given the different pill combinations and pack amounts — you get the freedom to try different pills to find what’s right for you. The only question is, can you remember to take it daily?
Birth control patch: Change weekly
This method is a patch that you put directly on the skin of your stomach, back, buttocks or upper arm. For three weeks, you put on a new patch every week. For the fourth week, you remove the patch to allow your body to menstruate, and then you repeat the process. For this method, you must remember to exchange the old patch for a new one weekly. In perfect conditions, it’s 99 percent effective, but let’s be honest, no one’s perfect. So taking this into account, it’s about 91 percent effective. So, if taking a pill every day isn’t right for you, this option could suffice. It can make periods lighter and easier to regulate, though it’s important to accurately track your patch use.
Birth control ring: Change monthly
The NuvaRing is a small and flexible ring that sits inside an individual’s vagina. The ring releases estrogen and progestin that are taken in through the vaginal lining, so this might not be the best option for someone with an estrogen sensitivity. To be effective, you have to consistently keep this in your vagina for three weeks, then remove it for seven days to have your period. After seven days, you’ll insert a new ring and voilà, you repeat the process! In a perfect world, the ring would be more than 99 percent effective, but factoring this in, it’s almost 91 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. So that means you should keep it in during sex, as removing it rids its effectiveness. Because of this, this method requires you to keep a monthly calendar to ensure it’s the most effective. You can use this method to skip your period by keeping it for four weeks, then immediately inserting a new one. Thus, you have the ability to plan out your period and your life.
Birth control shot: Receive every three months
This method is a shot that you need to get about every three months. In ideal conditions, the shot is more than 99 percent effective, but let’s be honest — life happens, and people forget to get their shot consistently. Factoring this in, it’s about 94 percent effective. In order to have the highest rate of effectiveness, you need to consistently get your shot when needed. This means committing to a doctor’s appointment about four times a year. Simply put it in your Berkeley Google Calendar or ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable for making your doctors’ appointments. This form of birth control is also private and discreet, as the only evidence is the injection point. For the first year, many people have experienced more bleeding during their periods. After a year, nearly half of users stop having a menstrual period.
Birth control implant: Long term
This is a small, rod-like device, about the size of a match, that is inserted inside your arm. The newest version is called Nexplanon. Unlike other methods, this method releases only progestin to prevent pregnancy. The process of insertion only takes a few minutes and is painless for most people. Before insertion, a medical practitioner will give you a numbing shot to the area of insertion. The implant is then inserted with a special tool. Don’t worry –– for the most part, the device won’t be visible in your arm. The birth control implant is more than 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, making it one of the most effective forms of birth control. It’s also a good alternative for those who have a hard time remembering to take their medication or don’t have a doctor easily accessible every month. There’s no risk of using it incorrectly, as with other methods such as birth control pills or patches that lower effectiveness. It’s also great if you need something discrete and private. While it can last up to five years, it can also be removed at any time by a medical provider. If you have severe period cramps, this device could help. If you have heavy periods, it can help lighten your period –– almost 30 percent of people stop having their period while being on the device for a year.
Intrauterine device, or IUD
These are essentially small plastic T-shaped devices that sit inside an individual’s uterus. They’re also more than 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and can be removed at any time by a health care provider. These are discrete, long-lasting, and highly effective, so what’s not to love?
This IUD doesn’t contain any hormones; instead, it uses copper that prevents pregnancy.
In the United States, there’s only Paragard, which lasts up to 12 years. This is beneficial for those who want long-term birth control without taking hormones. It’s also a good option for individuals with medical conditions who cannot take any hormones. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about taking it daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly.
This form of IUD contains hormones, unlike the copper IUD. In the United States, there are four types of hormonal IUDs: Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta and Skyla. Liletta and Mirena are effective for up to seven years, while Kyleena is effective for up to five years and Skyla for up to three years.
Hormonal IUDs are good if you have heavy periods and cramping, as they can ease these symptoms. Seeing as these are long-term forms of birth control, you won’t have to worry about tracking your period or taking it according to a schedule.
It’s important to remember that not every method works the same for every person. Remember to combine one of these methods with a barrier method to increase their efficiency. Using a condom, dental dam or internal condom helps to protect yourself from giving and spreading sexually transmitted infections. On top of that, always remember to get tested after every new partner!
Ultimately, it’s your body and your choice. You deserve the agency and autonomy to make informed decisions over your reproductive health care. Birth control has become a heated political debate in the United States despite the fact that many people use it for a number of reasons beyond preventing pregnancy. But frankly, your (consensual) sex is no one’s business!
You deserve stigma-free knowledge to have agency over your reproductive health, so ask your medical provider about what’s right for you.
Kaitlyn Hodge is the opinion editor. Contact them at [email protected] .
The infographic credit accompanying a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Ashley Zhang was the artist. In fact, Jenn Zeng was the artist.