If you’re in the market for a new birth control method, all the different options can be dizzying and overwhelming. The method you choose can depend on a lot of things, including your medical history, the number of sex partners, how often you have sex, and even whether you want to be pregnant at all at some point. Some women also take birth control for a medical condition; for example, if they want to regulate their menstrual cycle.

To help you make an informed decision, here is a quick run-down of birth control methods, along with their pros and cons.

Oral Contraceptives (the Pill)

Birth control pills — sometimes simply called the Pill — alter hormones in your body to prevent ovulation and, therefore, pregnancy. Your health-care provider must prescribe them. The Pill may be used by non-sexually-active people to treat health conditions like acne or menstruation problems.

Pros

  • 91% effectiveness; 99% effective if used perfectly
  • Easy to administer — you just have to swallow a pill
  • Can help regulate the menstrual cycle
  • Can treat other conditions like acne and anemia
  • Makes mucus around the cervix thick and sticky, which makes it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus

Cons

  • You have to remember to take it every day
  • Requires prescription, which may bar accessibility
  • There are side effects and risks — discuss these with your doctor
  • Can be expensive
  • Cannot protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Not appropriate for some people with certain health conditions

If oral contraceptives are your birth control method of choice, but money is a barrier, you can access more affordable birth control medication through a pharmacy referral service like Canada Med Pharmacy. You can buy up to three months’ supply of birth control from licensed pharmacies abroad this way.

Condoms

Condoms are a popular form of birth control because they’re easy to get and relatively cheap. There are both external and internal condoms. External condoms (or male condoms) cover the penis and have an 85% success rate — 98% when used perfectly. Internal condoms (or female condoms) fit internally inside the vagina and have a 79% success rate.

Pros

  • Use as needed
  • Convenient and portable
  • Readily available in drugstores and affordable
  • Accessible for teens
  • Latex and plastic condoms protect against STIs
  • Do not affect hormones

Cons

  • Can be uncomfortable and may take time getting used to
  • Some people are allergic to latex, a popular condom material
  • May break or slip off
  • Low success rate compared to other methods
  • May reduce the pleasurable sensation
  • According to Planned Parenthood, internal condoms may require a prescription

Other Barrier Methods

Barrier methods similar to the female condom include the cervical cap, birth control sponge, and diaphragm. These methods are typically used with spermicide, cream, or gel that kills sperm.

Diaphragm Pros

  • Can last up to two years
  • Do not affect hormones
  • Can be inserted up to two hours before sex
  • Convenient and portable

Diaphragm Cons

  • Can be difficult to learn how to insert properly
  • Can slip out of place
  • Some people can get urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Requires personalized sizing and prescription
  • Spermicide may irritate and increase the risk of STIs

Diaphragms can cost up to $75, require a prescription, and are about 88% effective.

Birth Control Sponge Pros

  • Prescription not required
  • Provides 24 hours of contraceptive protection
  • Portable and convenient
  • Often not felt by either partner
  • Does not affect hormones

Birth Control Sponge Cons

  • Must be used every time you have sex for it to work
  • Can be difficult to learn how to use correctly
  • Must be left at least six hours after sex, but not left inside more than 30 hours
  • Spermicide can irritate the vagina and may increase the risk of STIs
  • May cause side effects
  • Non-reusable

Sponges cost about $5 each and are about 76-88% effective.

Cervical Cap Pros

  • Portable, convenient, and reusable
  • Does not affect hormones
  • Usually not felt by both partners
  • Can last up to a year

Cervical Cap Cons

  • Requires prescription
  • Must be used every time you have sex
  • Spermicide may irritate and increase the risk of STIs
  • Can be difficult to learn how to use
  • Can slip out of place

Cervical caps are 71-86% effective and can cost up to $90.

Implants

Implant devices, such as an intrauterine device (IUD) or an implant rod, are reliable, reversible, and effective means of birth control. They involve inserting a device into the uterus (IUD) or in your arm (implant rod). IUDs create an environment that prevents sperm from reaching an egg. Implant rods release hormones that prevent pregnancy.

Pros

  • Very effective — up to 99%
  • Reversible yet reliable
  • One-time solution; low-maintenance
  • IUDs can last for up to 12 years

Cons

  • Can be expensive
  • Can cause side effects
  • Insertion process may be uncomfortable
  • Some people experience unpleasant side effects
  • Cannot protect against STIs

Sterilization

Sterilization means permanently preventing yourself from getting pregnant. Tubal ligation is when fallopian tubes are permanently blocked; this prevents sperm from reaching and fertilizing eggs. Vasectomies are similar in that they block sperm from leaving the scrotum.

Pros

  • Extremely effective: both tubal ligation and vasectomies boast a 99% success rate
  • Permanent — after the procedure, you’re covered for life
  • Doesn’t affect your hormones

Cons

  • Can be very expensive
  • Permanent, so you have to be certain you don’t want biological children
  • Invasive — requires surgery
  • Will not protect against STIs

Some or all of these contraceptive methods, including sterilization, may be covered by your insurance plan, so make sure you double check!

Natural Methods

Methods that don’t require purchasing a separate device include withdrawal (pulling out), breastfeeding (which stops ovulation), and fertility awareness, which involves tracking your ovulation and scheduling sex around it.

These methods may be suitable for people whose religious or moral beliefs do not align with conventional birth control methods. They also don’t require prescriptions and, with the exception of a few supplies for fertility awareness, do not require extra equipment. Hormonal and side effects are also non-issues.

However, these methods do require learning, dedication, and skill. They are not effective for protection against STIs, and difficulty may depend on your biology. Additionally, because human error is a major factor, these methods are typically not as effective as devices.

Find what works for you

If the sheer number of options is overwhelming, don’t hesitate to talk to a professional! Your health-care provider can recommend effective methods that align with your medical history, sexual preferences, and financial or social situation.

Whichever method you choose, take care to spend time learning exactly how to use it! Birth control is only effective if used correctly.

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