Understanding the Different Contraceptive Options Available to You


Our safety and protection are our responsibility alone, and it's our right to demand safe sex. There are more choices out there today than ever before, making it easier to find a means of contraception that suits your body, needs, and lifestyle.

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Our safety and protection are our responsibility alone, and it's our right to demand safe sex. Whether it's because a pregnancy is not in the plans, or because you are seeing a new or more casual partner, the first step is to understand the options that are available to you. There are more choices out there today than ever before, making it easier to find a means of contraception that suits your body, needs, and lifestyle. 

Some contraceptives are designed to prevent pregnancies only, while others serve to protect against STIs. Some are made to be taken daily, while others are administered monthly. There's no one-size-fits-all, so we encourage you to explore and find what works best for you. 

We advise that you consult your healthcare provider to discuss your options. 

*All effectiveness percentages are based on FDA estimates. 

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Illustration for Mauj by Pamela Mansour @lustrations

1. Hormonal Contraceptives

a) Contraceptive Injection

94% effective

The contraceptive injection is a progestin-based shot that requires a quarterly visit to your doctor. 

b) Contraceptive Implant

91% effective 

The contraceptive implant is a small plastic rod that’s inserted into your arm and prevents pregnancy for 3 years by releasing progestin.

c) Hormonal IUD

99% effective 

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped piece of plastic that is inserted inside the uterus. 

Hormonal IUDs release progestin, are effective for 3 to 12 years, and can be removed at any time. 

d) The Pill 

91% effective 

The pill, also known as the birth control pill or the combination pill, is a hormonal contraceptive that delivers both estrogen and progesterone (two types of hormones) into the female body to prevent ovulation.

While on the pill, your monthly bleed is not a "real" period. It's known as breakthrough bleeding and is caused by the sudden drop in hormones that happens when you stop taking the pill or replace it with the placebo pill, as instructed, for seven days. 

The pill is one of the most effective contraceptives when it comes to preventing unwanted pregnancies, when taken correctly and as instructed.  There are several side effects to the pill, and it’s important for you to educate yourself on them before deciding on this form of contraceptive.

e) Contraceptive Patch

91% effective 

Composed of the same hormones as the pill (estrogen and progestin), the patch is like a sticker that is placed on an approved part of your body and needs to be replaced once a week. 

f) Vaginal Ring

91% effective 

This is a small, flexible ring placed inside the vagina that releases estrogen and progestin and needs to be replaced monthly.

2. Hormone-Free Contraceptives

a) The Male Condom

This is the only form of contraceptive listed here that protects against both unwanted pregnancies and STIs if used correctly.

Used alone, condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. However, the reality is that they are not used correctly all of the time, which reduces their effectiveness to about 85% in real life.  

b) Copper IUD

99% effective 

A copper intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped device that is inserted inside the uterus. It’s made of plastic and copper, which is toxic to sperm. It can be effective for 3 to 12 years and can be removed at any time.

A copper IUD can also be used as an emergency contraceptive. 

c) Fertility Awareness Method

Also called “natural family planning”, the fertility awareness method involves tracking your menstrual cycle and specifically ovulation, developing a better awareness of your body, and using a variety of non-pharmaceutical methods to detect ovulation. 

This method is used to avoid pregnancy or to conceive, based on where you are in your cycle. The most effective one is called the Symptothermal Fertility Awareness Method. This daily practice requires women to monitor and chart their primary fertility signs – cervical mucus, basal body temperature (waking temperature), and cervical positioning – and is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when done correctly and ideally with the help of a qualified instructor.

3) Emergency Contraceptives

Morning-After Pill

There are currently two pills available on the market, Levonorgestrel and Ulipristal Acetate, that are used for emergency contraception, i.e. to prevent a pregnancy after unprotected sex has happened. The morning-after pill needs to be taken within 72 hours after intercourse, but the earlier you take it, the more effective it is.     

Emergency contraceptives are not as effective as regular contraception and shouldn’t be used as a form of birth control. They do not protect you against sexually transmitted diseases. 

A final note

This resource serves as an overview of the options that are available today. We recommend that you check out our other resources on the pros and cons of each of the listed contraceptives to gain a deeper understanding of each. We also recommend that you read this resource on how to choose the best contraceptive for tips and questions to help you make this decision.

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