Birth Control

What is contraception?

 Contraception is any device or method used to prevent pregnancy. Contraception’s not only necessary for birth control, but depending on the type you use, it may provide a host of other sexual and general health benefits as well, from clearing up acne to preventing STDs.

How do I choose?

 There are several factors for you to consider when choosing the best method of birth control for you, including:  

  • Your health 
  • Frequency of sexual activity 
  • Doesn’t make you feel sick/have negative side effects 
  • Doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable 
  • Easy for you to remember to take 
  • Effectiveness  


What: a thin sheath made of latex or polyurethane, placed on/over the penis before intercourse to prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of STDs.
How they work: Condoms prevent pregnancy by covering the penis and keeping semen from entering the vagina when a man ejaculates.

  • inexpensive and easy to get
  • safe, simple, and convenient
  • lightweight and disposable
  • do not require a prescription
  • can help relieve premature ejaculation  
  • may help a man stay erect longer
  • are a means of effective pregnancy prevention
  • reduce risk of STDs

Risks/Side Effects: 

Condoms have no side effects except for people who are allergic to latex. If you are allergic to latex, you can use condoms or female condoms made of plastic instead.

Female condoms

What: a thin polyurethane pouch that is inserted into the vagina before having sex. Like a male condom, the female condom prevents pregnancy by covering the vagina and keeping the semen from entering the vagina during ejaculation. It can also reduce the risk of STDs.
How it works: The female condom has flexible rings at each end of the pouch. Before having sex, the ring at the closed end of the pouch is inserted into the vagina, while the other end stays outside the vagina.

  • allow women to share responsibility for preventing infection
  • easy to get — can be purchased in drugstores and some supermarkets
  • can be used by people who are allergic to latex
  • can be used with oil-based as well as water-based lubricants
  • do not have an effect on a woman's natural hormones
  • may enhance sex play — the external ring may stimulate the clitoris during vaginal intercourse
  • stay in place whether or not a man maintains his erection
  • Reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infection
  • Can be used for vaginal and anal intercourse 


  • cause irritation of the vagina, vulva, penis, or anus
  • slip into the vagina during vaginal intercourse, or into the anus during anal intercourse
  • reduce feeling during intercourse
  • Can’t use at the same time as a male condom 


The Ring, a.k.a. NuvaRing

What: also known by its brand name, the nuva ring is a small, flexible ring inserted into the vagina once a month. It works to prevent pregnancy much like the pill, by releasing estrogen and progestin hormones on a continual basis until a new ring is inserted.

  • Only needs to be replaced once per month
  • Highly effective
  • Easy to get with a prescription
  • Reduce and regulate periods
  • Reduce bad menstrual cramps
  • Reduce acne
  • Reduce PMS symptoms

Many of the same benefits of the pill, including protection against:

  • bone thinning
  • breast growths that are not cancer
  • cysts in the breasts and ovaries
  • ectopic pregnancy  
  • endometrial and ovarian cancers
  • iron deficiency anemia
  • pelvic inflammatory disease, which often leads to infertility when left untreated
  • serious infection in the ovaries, tubes, and uterus 

Risks/Side Effects: 

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Vaginitis
  • Irritation
  • Spotting
  • Potential increased risk of blood clots, heart attack and stroke. 


What: a shallow, silicone/rubber dome with a flexible rim inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. It prevents pregnancy by blocking sperm from entering the uterus and joining with an egg. In order to be as effective as possible, it should be used with spermicide. 
How it works: After being filled with spermicide, the diaphgram is inserted as far up and back into the vagina as possible, in a motion similar to inserting a tampon. A properly placed/fitted diaphragm blocks sperm from reaching the uterus because it covers the cervix, the narrow opening that connects the uterus to the vagina. Note: Diaphragms often require a prescription and initial fitting by a health care professional.

  • Can be carried in your pocket or purse.
  • Generally cannot be felt by you or your partner. (not your words)
  • Has no effect on a woman's natural hormones.
  •  Is immediately effective and reversible.

Risks/Side Effects:  

  • Must be in place every time a woman has vaginal intercourse
  • May need to be refitted
  • May be pushed out of place by some penis sizes, heavy thrusting, and certain sexual positions
  • May cause frequent urinary tract infections
  • Vaginal irritation
  • May be difficult for some women to insert  


What: a substance that contains chemicals to prevent pregnancy by stopping the sperm from moving (reword) Spermicides are available in many different forms, including foam, suppositories, cream, film, and gel. They can be used alone or along with other barrier contraceptives (i.e., diaphragms).
How it works: To insert, lie down or squat, and gently (not entirely your language). gently insert the spermicide deep into your vagina using your fingers or an applicator. For many types of spermicide, you need to wait 10 minutes after you insert it before having sex.

  • Can be carried in your pocket or purse.
  • Can be used with other birth control methods to increase effectiveness
  • Simple, convenient, and easy to use once you learn how
  • Does not have an effect on a woman's natural hormones.
  • Does not require a prescription.


  • If not used exactly as directed, spermicides may not form a good barrier over the cervix, reducing their effectiveness
  • May be messy, or leak from the vagina
  • May irritate the penis or vagina
  • Typically only remain effective for a brief period of time (about an hour) after insertion   

Cervical Cap

What: A silicone cup/cap fitted over your cervix, it prevents pregnancy by blocking the sperm from joining with the egg. It can be left in place for up to 48 hours.
How it works: Much like the diaphragm, it is inserted into the vagina and over the cervix to block the sperm from reaching the uterus. To be most effective, it should be used with spermicide.

  • It can be carried in your pocket or purse.
  • Generally cannot be felt by you or your partner.
  • It is immediately effective and reversible.
  • No effect on a woman's natural hormones.
  • No interruption of sex play — it can be inserted up to six hours ahead of time.

Risks/Side Effects:  

  • cannot be used during menstruation
  • may be difficult for some women to insert
  • may be pushed out of place by some penis sizes, heavy thrusting, and certain sexual positions
  • must be in place every time a woman has vaginal intercourse
  • Vaginal irritation or infection
  • Pain or discomfort   

The Patch

The Patch a.k.a. OrthoEvra

What: a small plastic patch applied to the skin, it releases estrogen and progestin hormones, much like the Pill, to prevent pregnancy.  
How it works: The patch is applied to skin on the lower abdomen, butt, or upper body once a week. It releases estrogen and progestin to thin the lining of the uterus and thicken cervical mucus, which prevents pregnancy by keeping the sperm from attaching to the egg.

  • Only have to think about your birth control one a week
  • Reduce and regulate menstrual periods
  • Reduce acne
  • No hassle right before sex!!!
  • Reduce bad menstrual cramps
  • May offer protection against:  

Risks/Side Effects: 

  • allergic reaction/irritation at application site
  • nausea
  • upper respiratory infection
  • menstrual cramps
  • abdominal pain
  • higher risk of heart attack, blood clots, and stroke.
  • bleeding between periods
  • breast tenderness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • Risks for problems increase if you smoke, have high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, etc.    

Intrauterine Device

What: a small plastic T-shaped device inserted into the uterus it prevents pregnancy by altering the lining of the uterus and keeping the sperm from joining the egg. Once inserted, it can remain in the uterus for up to 12 years. Note: it must be inserted by a health care provider
How it works: It must be inserted into the vagina by a health care provider, who will ensure that it’s properly placed in the uterus. Mirena IUD releases a small amount of progestin, a hormone, which contributes to the IUD’s ability to prevent sperm from attaching to the egg in the same way as the Pill.  The Mirena IUD is effective up to 5 years.

  • Once the IUD is inserted, it requires no care other than checking the strings attached to the IUD to ensure that it remains in place. The strings are fine threads that hang into the cervix.
  • Long-lasting effectiveness for many years
  • Reduce or regulate periods 

Risks/Side Effects:  

  • cramping or backache for a few days
  • spotting between periods in the first 3–6 months 
  • IUDs can rarely slip out of the uterus, reducing effectiveness
  • Infection (rare, happens during insertion)
  • Can push through the wall of the uterus (very rare)
  • Heavier or irregular periods
  • Cost ($500-$1,000), although, it’s actually one of the cheaper forms of birth control when time is factored in
  • Higher risk of pelvic inflammatory disease
  • mild to moderate pain when the IUD is put in   

Standard Days Method

Please note: this is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice or medical direction.  

What: You use a calendar to track your monthly menstrual cycle, which determines when your body ovulates, or releases an egg. Based on your cycle, you only have sex during the days of the month when you’re not fertile and thus least likely to get pregnant. During days when you’re fertile/ovulating, you abstain from having vaginal sex or use other forms of contraception, such as withdrawal, condom, or a cap.
How: Standard Days method works by keeping you from having sex on days near and when your body’s ovulating, or releasing an egg, which is when sperm can join with the egg and fertilize it, causing pregnancy. Everyone’s fertile days, as well as the life spans of eggs and sperm, are different, but knowing when you ovulate can help you avoid a pregnancy. The Standard Days method is most effective if your periods are regular and fall within a 26-32 day cycle. Some people use CycleBeads, necklaces containing different-colored beads to designate “safe” and “unsafe” days, to help track their cycles.


  • Cheap
  • You don’t need medication
  • The stuff you need to track your cycle – calendars, charts, or beads – is easy to get. 


  • Use of other forms of contraception, such as hormonal contraception (i.e., Plan B), or IUDs, may make it less effective
  • If your cycle’s irregular, you risk having unprotected sex on a day that you may be fertile  

Withdrawal (pull-out method): 

What: Also known as the pull-out method, this is a method in which the man pulls his penis out of the vagina before ejaculating.
How it works: The man pulls out when he feels he is about to ejaculate. He ejaculates, or comes, outside the woman’s vagina, making sure his sperm doesn’t spill near or on his partner’s genitals. Keeping the sperm out of the vagina prevents pregnancy.

  • Can be used to prevent pregnancy when no other method is available
  • No medical or hormonal side effects.
  • Safe, simple, and convenient
  • Can increase effectiveness of other types of birth control, such as the condom, diaphragm, or female condom.

The biggest risk is using withdrawal incorrectly. There are several ways this can happen, including:

  • if you ejaculate prematurely
  • if you don’t know when to pull out
  • are inexperienced
  • don’t necessarily know how to gauge or control your level of sexual excitement     

Emergency Contraception

Plan B or the Morning-After Pill

What: an over-the counter pill used only after unprotected sex.
How it works: It contains higher dosages of estrogen and progestin, the same hormones used to prevent pregnancy in ordinary birth control pills. So, it works in the same way as the pill, but its higher concentration means it has a higher immediate effect, thinning the uterus lining and thickening the cervical mucus to keep the sperm from attaching to the egg.  The sooner you start it, the more effective it is.  To be most effective, it should be taken as soon as possible after having unprotected sex. Some forms of emergency contraception can be taken up to 120 hours (5 days) after having unprotected sex.


You may want to use it if: 

  • The condom broke or slipped off, and he ejaculated in your vagina.
  • You forgot to take your birth control
  • Your diaphragm or cap slipped out of place, and he ejaculated inside your vagina.
  • You miscalculated your "safe" days.
  • He didn't pull out in time.
  • You weren't using any birth control.
  • You were forced to have unprotected vaginal sex. 

Risks/Side Effects: 

  • breast tenderness
  • irregular bleeding
  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • no protection against STDs
  • If you don’t have your period within three weeks after taking emergency contraception, or have any pregnancy symptoms, you should take a pregnancy test and consider contacting Student Health Services.
  • Note: emergency contraception should NOT be used as a form of ongoing birth control.   

The Pill

What: a pill taken orally once every day

How it works: The estrogen and progestin hormones in the pill prevent the ovaries from releasing the egg by thinning the lining of the uterus and thickening the cervical mucus, which blocks/makes it harder for/prevents the sperm from joining/attaching to the egg. You take it daily, at the same time every day.


  • Make periods lighter 
  • Simple, convenient, easy to take
  • Reduce/regulate menstrual cramps
  • Reduce acne
  • Reduce PMS symptoms
  • Protects against pelvic inflammatory disease, which often leads to infertility when left untreated

some protection against:

  • bone thinning
  • endometrial and ovarian cancers
  • serious infection in the ovaries, tubes, and uterus
  • iron deficiency anemia
  • cysts in the breasts and ovaries 

Risks/Side Effects: 

  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea
  •  Changes in your cycle (period)
  •  Changes in mood
  •  Weight gain
  •  High blood pressure
  •  Blood clots
  •  Heart attack
  •  Strokes
  • Bleeding
  • Spotting between periods

 Your doctor may advise you not to take the pill if you:

  • Have a history of blood clots
  • Have a history of breast, liver, or endometrial cancer
  • Have certain health conditions, including: heart disease, stroke, liver disease, blood clots, severe or uncontrolled diabetes, certain types of migraines, and severe hypertension
  • Taking antibiotics 

The Shot

What: the shot, also known as Depo-Provera, is an injection of progestin that you get in your arm every three months to prevent pregnancy.
How it works: Progestin, also one of the hormones commonly used alongside estrogen in other forms of contraception, prevents pregnancy by thinning the lining of the uterus, which keeps the sperm from attaching to the egg.

  • Lasts for three months
  • Safe, effective, and convenient
  • Easy to get with a prescription
  • There is no daily pill to remember.
  • Reduces the risk of uterine cancer, anemia, and pelvic inflammatory disease 

Risks/Side effects: 

  • Bloating/weight gain
  • Irregular periods
  • Spotting
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in sex and hair loss
  • Loss of bone density
  • Some less common, more serious side effects include: nausea, depression, headaches, and/or change in appetite. If you experience any of these, or suspect serious side effects stem from your use of the shot, discontinue use and contact your health provider.  

The Sponge

What: A foam sponge inserted into the vagina before having sex, it prevents pregnancy by covering the cervix and releasing spermicide.
How it works: It’s inserted into the vagina before having sex. By covering the cervix, it prevents sperm from reaching the uterus and attaching to an egg.


  • Can be carried in pocket or purse.
  • Generally cannot be felt by you or your partner.
  • Has no effect on a woman's natural hormones.
  • Does not interrupt sex play
  • Safe, easy, and convenient to use
  • Don’t need a prescription
  • Doesn’t need to be fitted by a health care provider 

Risks/Side Effects: 

  • May be difficult for some women to insert
  • May break before being properly removed
  • Vaginal irritation.
  •  Make sex too messy or too dry.   


People define abstinence in different ways – some people think of abstinence as abstaining from certain kinds of sex behaviours, while others define it as not having any type of sexual interaction with a partner.

For the purposes of this website, we will define abstinence as not having any kind of sexual activity with a partner. When abstinence is practiced continuously, it’s 100% effective against pregnancy, STDs, and sexual complications. 

People can choose to be abstinent at any point in their lives, even after they’ve been sexually active. There are many reasons people abstain from having sex, and the reasons may change depending on the situation.
Some of the reasons people choose abstinence include:

  • preventing pregnancy
  • preventing STDs
  • wait until they're ready for a sexual relationship
  • wait to find the right partner
  • have fun with romantic partners without sexual involvement
  • focus on school, career, or extracurricular activities
  • personal, moral, or religious beliefs and values
  • get over a breakup
  • heal from the death of a partner
  • follow medical advice during an illness or infection  


“Birth Control.”  

“Birth Control.” National Institutes of Health. 

Sexually Transmited Diseases. Center for Disease Control.  

“Birth Control FAQ.”