Your guide to birth control: Pills, shots, implants, more

Photo of birth control
Brianna Laugher/Creative Commons

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Standing at one of the top reasons to visit your OBGYN, birth control is one of the most important considerations for any young adult, yet it’s the one that is talked about the least. Birth control can be daunting, and there seem to be almost too many options: “The pill is standard and yet you can get something more permanent if you’d like.” And once you think you’ve decided on one, the effectiveness or the side effects may leave you second-guessing. Before you take the step of scheduling an appointment with a doctor — which is a good start — here is a very small intro to the types of birth control. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to birth control, this list is just given to provide some information on birth control options. 

The pill

Type 1: Combination pills 

Effectiveness: 91%

Side effects: Acne, nausea, change in periods, spotting or mood changes.

The pill is great for its ease and availability, and it requires no extra operations outside of picking it up from the pharmacy. The only thing to note is you have to remember to take it every day and it may take your body a few months to adjust. 

Type 2: Single-hormone pill (Progestin-only)

Effectiveness: 91% (slightly less than the two hormone, because they must be taken at the same time)

Side effects: Acne, nausea, decreased libido, headaches, mood changes or irregular bleeding.

Like the two-hormone pill, the single-hormone pill is easy to take and is readily available. However, it’s important to note that with single hormone pills you not only have to take it every day, but at the same time every day.

The shot

Effectiveness: 99%

Duration: 3 months

Side Effects: Weight gain, headaches, nausea, spotting or mood changes. 

For its effectiveness and ease, the depo shot is an excellent choice if you are busy and active, and don’t have the time to remember to take a pill every day. Just be sure to get it every 3 months. 

Birth control implant

Effectiveness: >99%

Duration: Up to 5 years

Side Effects: Weight gain, nausea, irregular periods or mood swings.

The birth control implant is the longest birth control solution with a limited amount of pain or effort required. The procedure is quick (and your arm where they put the matchstick-like device is numbed), easy and lasts a long time. The only thing to be wary of is the insertion and healing process. 


Effectiveness: >99%

Duration: 3-12 years

Side effects: Painful insertion/after insertion, spotting/irregular periods or worse cramping

The best part of the IUD is that there is a hormonal and non-hormonal option, so if you are sensitive to hormones, this is the perfect birth control option for you. IUDs last a long time and are relatively low maintenance with the only downside being the insertion process. 

The patch

Effectiveness: 91%

Duration: 1 week

Side Effects: Skin irritation where the patch goes, headaches, spotting, nausea or irregular periods

For one of the lesser-known methods of birth control, the birth control patch is good for people who are on the go and don’t have time for pills, but also want the freedom to choose when they want their birth control to be effective. 

The ring

Effectiveness: Usually 91%

Duration: 5 weeks-1 year depending on the brand

Side Effects: changes in periods, headaches or nausea. 

When inserted properly, the birth control ring is a great low-maintenance option with limited side effects. The only thing to watch out for is properly inserting it. 

As we reach the end of the list, it’s important to note that everyone’s body is different. The side effects may seem daunting, but they vary from one side effect to none at all. Aside from thinking about your options, it’s important to listen to your body, be open to more than one form of birth control, and ask lots of questions to your doctor or people you who have experience using different types of birth control.

Contact Isabella Carreno at [email protected].