Birth Control: Finding the Method That Works for Your Body

Neeru Singh, MD
March 14, 2022
4 mins

When it comes to birth control, finding a method that both feels right and meets your body’s needs can be a process of trial and error. 

Your Carbon Health primary care provider can be a wonderful resource when it comes to navigating the complex world of contraceptives. Whether you’re new to the birth control game or a seasoned vet, your provider can answer any questions or concerns you might have about your overall sexual health and well-being.

Remember, birth control can do more than just prevent pregnancy: Many methods can also help manage periods, balance hormone levels, and provide other health benefits. But keep in mind that most do not offer protection from STIs (sexually transmitted infections) — of the methods listed in this blog post, only condoms do that effectively. 

(For more on preventing and treating STIs, check out our “Carbon Health Sexual Wellness Roundup.”)

Read our guide to learn more about what method might work best for you. 

Barrier Birth Control Methods

Condoms: When used correctly, condoms are 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy (not to mention protecting you and your partner from STIs). Talk about good odds! Other benefits include that they are widely available without a prescription and are typically less expensive than hormonal methods of birth control.

Cervical Caps + Spermicide: A cervical cap is just that: a cap for your cervix. To make it the most effective, you must add spermicide to the cap. Spermicide contains chemicals that kill off the sperm before they are able to implant an egg. Some things to keep in mind when it comes to cervical caps: they are only 86 percent effective and work best on women (and other people who have a cervix) who have never given birth. 

Diaphragm + Spermicide: Just like a cervical cap, a diaphragm covers your cervix during sex to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. However, it’s larger than a cervical cap and has to be bent in half in order to be inserted into the vagina. It also works best when paired with spermicide.

Hormonal Birth Control Methods

Birth Control Pills: A pill a day helps keep pregnancy at bay (and can regulate your periods and help prevent acne, too). When it comes to classic birth control methods, the pill is usually the first thing that comes to people’s minds. For many people, the pill can has many other health benefits as well. However, you do have to take it every day (preferably at the same time each day) for it to work. Also, some pills have estrogen — so if your body doesn’t react well to this, you may be placed on a progesterone-only contraception.

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Birth Control Vaginal Ring: When used correctly, the birth control ring is 91 percent effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy. So how does it work? A birth control ring is a small ring that is inserted into your vagina and releases hormones into your body. These hormones not only stop you from ovulating but also thicken the mucus on your cervix so sperm can’t get to an egg. A ring lasts up to five weeks, so it’s important to talk to your provider about a schedule that works for you. Some side effects of the ring include spotting, period changes, sore breasts, and nausea. You need a prescription for the ring.

Birth Control Shot (Depo-Provera): Like the ring, the birth control shot also stops ovulation. It’s 96 percent effective and lasts for up to three months. Some things to keep in mind: You must schedule follow-up shots for it to continue to be effective, and the hormones in the shot can cause side effects like spotting, weight gain, and depression. Talk to your provider about any concerns before scheduling an injection. 

Birth Control Patch: The patch also releases hormones that prevent the body from ovulating. You stick it on your skin like a bandage, and it lasts for up to one week. As with the pill, it’s important to remember to replace it on time. 

Long-Term Contraception Methods

Intrauterine Device(IUD): A great long-term birth control method is the IUD. This tiny device packs a mighty punch and some can last for up to 12 years. IUDs are inserted into your uterus by a doctor or nurse. Some people feel a pinch or cramp, but the overall procedure is painless for most. 

IUDs are broken into two groups: hormonal and non-hormonal. It’s important to talk to your provider about the pros and cons of each before choosing one. Hormonal IUDs release progestin and can work for up to seven years. Some people choose this option because hormonal IUDs have been proven to help control some people’s periods (or stop their periods altogether). 

Non-hormonal IUDs are wrapped in copper and have been proven to work for up to 12 years. They do not contain hormones and have been known to cause heavier periods. 

Once you remove the IUD, your body will adjust to its previous flow and you can get pregnant right away.

Birth Control Implant (Nexplnaon): Birth control implants are a great alternative to birth control pills. This matchstick-sized rod is 99 percent effective and lasts for up to five years. The implant is inserted into your arm by a healthcare provider and releases progestin, a hormone that stops eggs from leaving the ovaries (and that can also make your period lighter or disappear altogether). You can have a doctor take the implant out at any time and you can get pregnant relatively quickly after you have it removed.

Other Birth Control Methods

Emergency Birth Control (Morning After Pill): This pill can be taken up to 72 hours after intercourse. It should not be used as a regular form of birth control. 

Vasectomy: A vasectomy is a surgery that blocks the tubes in the scrotum so sperm can’t be released. It’s 99 percent effective and, while meant to be permanent, can be reversed.

Tubal Ligation: This is a surgical procedure that permanently blocks the fallopian tubes, preventing eggs from being released. It be highly expensive, and it’s permanent — should it be considered only by people who are certain they will never want to get pregnant. 

Natural Birth Control Methods

Pull-Out Method: The pull-out method involves “pulling out” the penis from the vagina before ejaculation can occur. For maximum efficiency, it’s recommended to keep the condom on even when withdrawing to make sure semen doesn’t make its way into the vagina. This method is about 78 percent effective.

Fertility Awareness (FAMs): Also known as the rhythm method, FAMs involves tracking your menstrual cycles so you know when you’re ovulating or most fertile. There are many ways to track your menstrual cycle. This method is about 76 percent effective.

Find a Primary Care Provider That Is Right for You

A relationship with a trusted healthcare provider is a key resource for sexual (and overall) health. Make an appointment today with your Carbon Health primary care provider to talk about your birth control options, as well as your wellness goals. Book a virtual or in-person appointment today.

Carbon Health’s medical content is reviewed and approved by healthcare professionals before it is published, but it is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition, and before making changes to your healthcare routine.

Neeru Singh, MD

Neeru Singh, MD, is a Medical Director at Carbon Health. As a primary care physician, she enjoys educating and guiding patients on important health decisions.