Condoms, IUDs, progesterone, vasectomy, spermicide. . . When it comes to birth control you’ve got options. But with all of the options available, choosing the right preventative measure for you can feel overwhelming.
Not all birth control is created alike. Some have different functions, come with different side effects, and affect the body in different ways. Your lifestyle, your needs, and your gender identity all factor into which option is best for you.
Almost all birth control is intended to be used by people with a uterus. But even if you can’t get pregnant, you could still possibly get someone else pregnant. If that’s not something you’re trying to achieve and your partner isn’t interested in having children at this time, you’ll want to be aware of things you can do to avoid causing pregnancy as well.
Your healthcare provider will be the best source of information on which birth control options are available and which is right for you, but if you’d like to investigate on your own beforehand, keep reading to learn more about what’s on the market.
What is Birth Control?
Birth control, also called contraception, is any method, medicine, or device used to prevent pregnancy. Some forms of birth control work better than others at preventing pregnancy, but these days most birth control is fairly effective.
If you are sexually active and don’t want to have a baby, birth control is for you. Birth control does include methods like the pull-out method (removing the penis prior to ejaculation), or you might choose to have anal or oral sex to try and avoid pregnancy. However, these methods are lower in effectiveness than medicinal or mechanical contraception methods.
A disclaimer about birth control: although birth control is effective at preventing pregnancy, most forms of birth control do not protect against STIs.
Non-Hormonal Birth Control
Non-hormonal birth control is a contraception option that acts as a barrier against sperm. You can get these in the form of diaphragms, vaginal sponges, condoms, or spermicide creams and gels. Most of these methods work by simply blocking sperm from reaching the egg, but spermicide works by chemically killing the stopping the sperm from reaching the egg. All you have to do is apply to the vagina prior to sex.
Condoms can be applied to a penis as well as inserted in the vagina. Internal condoms work much the same way as sponges and diaphragms, both of which are inserted and fit against the cervix to prevent pregnancy.
Non-hormonal birth controls can be purchased without a prescription and will not affect the body’s fertility cycle. However, they do have to be applied/inserted every time you’re about to engage in sexual activity.
Birth Control for Vulva Owners
Most people associate birth control with the “the Pill,” oral contraception. The birth control pill remains one of the most popular birth control options in America and is a form of hormonal birth control.
Hormonal birth control works by changing the body’s natural chemistry to prevent ovulation. Essentially, it turns off your fertility cycle. This means that hormonal contraception can safely put a freeze on your period. If that’s something you’re interested in, something like the pill or the shot might be the most conducive to your lifestyle.
Not all hormonal birth control will stop your period, but many of the options will. If that’s a concern, speak with your healthcare provider.
Hormonal contraception has the added benefit of being fairly low maintenance. Implant options like IUD or Nexplanon are effective for years once inserted, up to seven and three years respectively. They work by releasing hormones into the body over time that prevent pregnancy. These devices can be inserted with minimal discomfort in an outpatient procedure.
Schedule-based hormonal options are very effective but can be stopped easily at any time. These options include the progesterone shot, the birth control patch, and the birth control ring. Their longevity will depend on the method you chose, but their effectiveness typically lasts around a month.
All of the above-mentioned forms of birth control are not permanent and will eventually filter out of your system, allowing you to become pregnant if that’s something you’d like to pursue eventually.
However, if you are looking for a permanent birth control solution, talk with your healthcare provider about tubal ligation. This procedure, also called “getting your tubes tied,” causes permanent sterility by cauterizing the fallopian tubes. This procedure is permanent and difficult to reverse, and should not reverse naturally.
Sterilization is the most serious of the birth control options and can be more difficult to gain access to. Speak with your doctor about tubal ligation if you think it would be the best option for you. They’ll be your best resource for information about this procedure and how to schedule one if it's in line with your wishes.
Birth Control for Penis Owners
At this time, there aren’t many birth control options for people with a male reproductive system. Your best bet is going to be condoms (which also prevent STIs!) or vasectomy.
Even if your partner is using one of the above mentions of birth control, it’s still a good idea to use condoms. No birth control method is 100% effective 100% of the time. Condoms offer extra protection, both from pregnancy and STIs.
If you’re interested in a long-term option for preventing potential pregnancy, vasectomy might be something worth looking into. According to the Mayo Clinic, vasectomy is “a form of male birth control that cuts the supply of sperm to your semen.” It’s usually an outpatient procedure performed under local anesthesia, done by cutting and sealing the tubes that carry sperm.
Not only is it an incredibly effective method for preventing pregnancy that only has to be done once, but vasectomies can also be reversed in almost all cases.
You’ve got plenty of birth control options and we hope this has helped you narrow down what might work best for you.