Contraception is the process of taking steps to prevent pregnancy during sex. Thanks to modern medicine, you can explore numerous contraceptive methods, each with different levels of effectiveness. Each contraceptive method has its unique advantages and drawbacks, so you must consider all your options to select the ideal method for yourself. Below, we provide an overview of the various contraceptive methods available, arranged from the most effective and permanent to the least effective and temporary.
Birth Control Implant
99% effective | Lasts up to 5 years
The birth control implant is a thin, matchstick-sized rod that releases a steady stream of hormones that prevent pregnancy. This implant releases progestin, which thickens the mucus on the cervix to prevent sperm from meeting the eggs, and it also prevents ovulation. Your nurse or doctor will insert the implant into your arm, which will continue releasing hormones for up to 5 years. When you’re ready for pregnancy, the implant can be removed easily.
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
99% effective | Lasts 3-12 years
An IUD is another small device placed inside the uterus to prevent pregnancies. This is one of the most effective long-term contraceptive options because it changes the way sperm cells travel, preventing them from meeting the eggs. Depending on the type of IUD, they might block and trap sperms or prevent ovulation. IUD is effective for years, but you can have it removed when you’re ready for pregnancy.
Birth Control Shot
94% effective | Lasts up to 3 months
The birth control shot, also known as the depo shot, is an injection you receive every 3 months to prevent pregnancy. This is a safe and convenient means to prevent pregnancies for short periods. This injection contains the progestin hormone, which thickens cervical mucus and prevents ovulation, thereby preventing sperm from meeting the eggs. You must get the shots every 3 months to ensure they remain effective.
Birth Control Ring
91% effective | Lasts one month
The birth control ring, also known as the vaginal ring or NuvaRing, is a safe, convenient, and effective contraceptive method within your control. This technique only works if you use it correctly, so there’s a small risk of human error. This is essentially a small, flexible ring placed inside your vagina — it releases hormones to prevent pregnancy. You must replace the ring every month.
Birth Control Patch
91% effective | Lasts one week
The birth control patch is a transdermal patch that you can place on certain parts of your body, such as the buttocks, belly, or back. It releases the hormones estrogen and progestin to prevent ovulation, i.e., it prevents your ovaries from releasing eggs, so there’s no chance of fertilization. This patch also thickens the cervical mucus to block sperms. However, you have to replace the patch every week and wear it correctly.
Birth Control Pill
91% effective | Lasts one day
The birth control pill is one of the most popular contraceptive methods available. It’s a small pill that releases the hormones estrogen and progestin. These hormones thicken the cervical mucus to block sperms while preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries, thereby negating the risk of ovulation and fertilization. Birth control pills are extremely simple and affordable, but they have to be taken once a day, without fail.
88% effective | Use every time
A diaphragm is a bendable cup placed inside the vagina to cover the cervix and prevent the released sperms from meeting the eggs. The diaphragm is like a shallow cup that’s bent in half and placed inside the vagina. It works best with spermicide gel to kill the sperms it comes in contact with. Diaphragms are one-time use only, so they have to be worn every time you have sexual intercourse.
85% effective | Use every time
Condoms are thin, stretchy pouches worn on the penis during sexual intercourse to prevent sperms from entering the vagina. The pouch essentially catches the sperm to prevent them from meeting the eggs. Condoms can also prevent STDs, so they’re useful for all sexual encounters. Condoms are one-use only, so they must be worn during each sexual encounter.
79% effective | Use every time
Internal condoms are the inverse of traditional condoms. Instead of going on the penile shaft, they’re placed inside the vaginal canal or anus (male or female) to catch the released sperms. They also prevent STI transmissions. However, internal condoms aren’t as effective as regular condoms because there’s a risk of leakage while extracting the condom.
Birth Control Sponge
76% effective | Use every time
A birth control sponge, also known as a contraceptive sponge, is a small sponge made of squishy, soft plastic. It’s placed deep within the vagina before sexual intercourse to cover the cervix and prevent sperms from meeting the eggs. It also contains spermicide to kill the sperm upon contact. The sponge has a fabric loop for easy extraction.
Spermicide & Gel
72% effective | Use every time
Spermicide refers to gels and contraceptive methods that contain certain sperm-killing chemicals. The spermicide gel is placed in the vagina before sexual intercourse to block the entrance to the cervix and prevent sperms from moving well enough to fertilize the eggs. Spermicide isn’t highly effective individually, so it should ideally be combined with other contraceptive methods, like condoms, diaphragms, or sponges.
71% effective | Use every time
A cervical cap is a small, soft silicone cup placed deep within the vagina to cover the cervix. It blocks the cervix to prevent sperms from meeting the eggs. You can also apply spermicide to the cervical cap to increase its efficiency and kill the sperms it catches. Cervical caps are similar to diaphragms, but they’re smaller and shaped differently.
99% effective | Lasts for life
Tubal ligation is a form of female sterilization wherein the fallopian tubes are surgically closed, cut, tied, or removed completely. Blocking or removing the fallopian tubes prevents eggs from meeting the sperms — the eggs and sperms meet within the fallopian tubes. Numerous surgical techniques are used for tubal ligation. You should only opt for this procedure if you’re sure you don’t want to get pregnant in the future.
99% effective | Lasts for life
Vasectomy is a form of male sterilization wherein the tubes in the scrotum are cut or blocked, preventing sperms from leaving the body. Generally speaking, sperms leave your body via the scrotal tubes. As such, when they’re blocked, your sperms remain within the sperm, thereby negating the chance of pregnancy. This is yet another procedure that lasts a lifetime.
As you can see, you have numerous contraceptive methods to choose from, each with different levels of effectiveness and longevity. When selecting the appropriate contraceptive method, please consider your unique goals and lifestyle. And remember, safe sex is the best kind of sex!