Birth Control Method Explorer

The explorer is a place to learn about all your birth control options. We cover every available method, from the IUD (and others on our most effective list) to condoms, the pill, the patch, and more. Click on any method for more details. Want a more apples-to-apples way to compare? View a side-by-side comparison on Bedsider, The National Campaign’s online birth control support network.

IUD

The IUD is a little, t-shaped piece of plastic that gets put in your uterus to mess with the way sperm can move and prevent them from fertilizing an egg. Sounds odd, but it works like a charm.

Read more about the IUD »

Most Effective | Hormone Free

Implant

The implant (Nexplanon is the brand name; previously Implanon) is a teeny-tiny rod that's inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It's so small, in fact, most people can't see it once it's inserted—which means it can be your little secret, if you're so inclined.

Read more about the Implant »

Most Effective

The Shot

The shot is just what it sounds like—a shot that keeps you from getting pregnant. Once you get it, your birth control is covered for three full months—there’s nothing else you have to do. Some people call the shot “Depo,” short for Depo-Provera.

Read more about The Shot »

The Ring

The ring (brand name: NuvaRing) is a small, bendable ring that you insert into your vagina.

Read more about The Ring »

The Patch

The patch is a thin, beige piece of plastic that looks like a square Band-Aid. It's a little less than two inches across, and comes in one—and only one—color.

Read more about The Patch »

The Pill

"The Pill" is a pill. (How's that for stating the obvious?) Some people call it "oral contraception." You take it once a day, at the same time every day. There are lots of different kinds of pills on the market, and new ones come out all the time.

Read more about The Pill »

Diaphragm

A diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped cup made of silicone. (Honestly, it looks like Meg Griffin's hat on The Family Guy. Except it's only a few inches in diameter.) You insert the diaphragm into your vagina.

Read more about the Diaphragm »

Hormone Free

Condom

Rubber. Jimmy-hat. Love sock. Wrapper. However you say it, condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control out there. They slip over the penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of STIs by keeping sperm inside the condom and out of the vagina.

Read more about the Condom »

STI Prevention | Hormone Free

Internal Condom

An internal (a.k.a. female) condom is a pouch you insert into your vagina. It's not the prettiest thing in the world (it looks a bit like a floppy, clear elephant trunk) but it is a method that gives you lots of control.

Read more about the Internal Condom »

STI Prevention | Hormone Free

Cervical Cap

A cervical cap is a silicone cup you insert in your vagina to cover your cervix and keep sperm out of your uterus. The "cap" part of the name is pretty dead on—the thing looks like a little rubber sailor's hat, maybe an inch and a half wide and one inch high.

Read more about the Cervical Cap »

Hormone Free

Fertility Awareness

Fertility awareness-based methods—or natural family planning—are all about tracking your menstrual cycle to determine the days that you can get pregnant. The tricky part is actually knowing when those days are.

Read more about Fertility Awareness »

Hormone Free

Sponge

The sponge is a round piece of white plastic foam with a little dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top that looks like shoelace material. It's pretty small—just two inches across—and you insert it way up in your vagina before you have sex.

Read more about the Sponge »

Hormone Free

Spermicide

“Spermicide” describes a bunch of different creams, films, foams, gels, and suppositories that contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving. You insert it deep in your vagina, so it also keeps sperm from getting through your cervix and into your uterus.

Read more about Spermicide »

Hormone Free

Withdrawal

Withdrawal is the oldest form of birth control on the planet. There's not much to explain, really. The guy pulls out before he ejaculates. End of story.

Read more about Withdrawal »

Hormone Free

Sterilization

Sterilization is a procedure that closes or blocks your fallopian tubes so you can't get pregnant. (Your tubes are where eggs and sperm meet.

Read more about Sterilization »

Most Effective | Hormone Free

"Not right now"

“Not right now” is our way of saying “no vaginal sex.” It’s a great method as far as effectiveness is concerned—if you use it 100% of the time, you’re guaranteed to not get pregnant.

Read more about "Not right now" »

Most Effective | STI Prevention | Hormone Free

Emergency Contraception

Emergency Contraception (EC) can stop a pregnancy before it starts. (That means the EC pills are not the same as the abortion pill.) There are four types of EC to choose from and they all work up to 5 days (or 120 hours) after unprotected sex.

Read more about Emergency Contraception »

IUD

The IUD is a little, t-shaped piece of plastic that gets put in your uterus to mess with the way sperm can move and prevent them from fertilizing an egg. Sounds odd, but it works like a charm.

Read more about the IUD »

Most Effective | Hormone Free

Implant

The implant (Nexplanon is the brand name; previously Implanon) is a teeny-tiny rod that's inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It's so small, in fact, most people can't see it once it's inserted—which means it can be your little secret, if you're so inclined.

Read more about the Implant »

Most Effective

Sterilization

Sterilization is a procedure that closes or blocks your fallopian tubes so you can't get pregnant. (Your tubes are where eggs and sperm meet.

Read more about Sterilization »

Most Effective | Hormone Free

"Not right now"

“Not right now” is our way of saying “no vaginal sex.” It’s a great method as far as effectiveness is concerned—if you use it 100% of the time, you’re guaranteed to not get pregnant.

Read more about "Not right now" »

Most Effective | STI Prevention | Hormone Free

Condom

Rubber. Jimmy-hat. Love sock. Wrapper. However you say it, condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control out there. They slip over the penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of STIs by keeping sperm inside the condom and out of the vagina.

Read more about the Condom »

STI Prevention | Hormone Free

Internal Condom

An internal (a.k.a. female) condom is a pouch you insert into your vagina. It's not the prettiest thing in the world (it looks a bit like a floppy, clear elephant trunk) but it is a method that gives you lots of control.

Read more about the Internal Condom »

STI Prevention | Hormone Free

"Not right now"

“Not right now” is our way of saying “no vaginal sex.” It’s a great method as far as effectiveness is concerned—if you use it 100% of the time, you’re guaranteed to not get pregnant.

Read more about "Not right now" »

Most Effective | STI Prevention | Hormone Free

IUD

The IUD is a little, t-shaped piece of plastic that gets put in your uterus to mess with the way sperm can move and prevent them from fertilizing an egg. Sounds odd, but it works like a charm.

Read more about the IUD »

Most Effective | Hormone Free

Diaphragm

A diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped cup made of silicone. (Honestly, it looks like Meg Griffin's hat on The Family Guy. Except it's only a few inches in diameter.) You insert the diaphragm into your vagina.

Read more about the Diaphragm »

Hormone Free

Condom

Rubber. Jimmy-hat. Love sock. Wrapper. However you say it, condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control out there. They slip over the penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of STIs by keeping sperm inside the condom and out of the vagina.

Read more about the Condom »

STI Prevention | Hormone Free

Internal Condom

An internal (a.k.a. female) condom is a pouch you insert into your vagina. It's not the prettiest thing in the world (it looks a bit like a floppy, clear elephant trunk) but it is a method that gives you lots of control.

Read more about the Internal Condom »

STI Prevention | Hormone Free

Cervical Cap

A cervical cap is a silicone cup you insert in your vagina to cover your cervix and keep sperm out of your uterus. The "cap" part of the name is pretty dead on—the thing looks like a little rubber sailor's hat, maybe an inch and a half wide and one inch high.

Read more about the Cervical Cap »

Hormone Free

Fertility Awareness

Fertility awareness-based methods—or natural family planning—are all about tracking your menstrual cycle to determine the days that you can get pregnant. The tricky part is actually knowing when those days are.

Read more about Fertility Awareness »

Hormone Free

Sponge

The sponge is a round piece of white plastic foam with a little dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top that looks like shoelace material. It's pretty small—just two inches across—and you insert it way up in your vagina before you have sex.

Read more about the Sponge »

Hormone Free

Spermicide

“Spermicide” describes a bunch of different creams, films, foams, gels, and suppositories that contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving. You insert it deep in your vagina, so it also keeps sperm from getting through your cervix and into your uterus.

Read more about Spermicide »

Hormone Free

Withdrawal

Withdrawal is the oldest form of birth control on the planet. There's not much to explain, really. The guy pulls out before he ejaculates. End of story.

Read more about Withdrawal »

Hormone Free

Sterilization

Sterilization is a procedure that closes or blocks your fallopian tubes so you can't get pregnant. (Your tubes are where eggs and sperm meet.

Read more about Sterilization »

Most Effective | Hormone Free

"Not right now"

“Not right now” is our way of saying “no vaginal sex.” It’s a great method as far as effectiveness is concerned—if you use it 100% of the time, you’re guaranteed to not get pregnant.

Read more about "Not right now" »

Most Effective | STI Prevention | Hormone Free

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