Center for Young Women's Health

Pros and Cons of Different Contraceptive Methods

 

Here's a list of the many available types of contraception, and the pros and cons of using each.

 

Birth Control Pills
Minimum Effectiveness: 95%
Birth Control Pill Pack
Pros Cons
Very effective against pregnancy if used correctly

Makes menstrual periods more regular and lighter

Decreases menstrual cramps and acne

Makes you less likely to get ovarian and uterine cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, and anemia

Doesn't interrupt lovemaking
Doesn't protect against STDs

Cost or co-pays between $15-$50 per month

Need to remember to take every day at the same time

Can't be used by women with certain medical problems or by women taking certain medications

Can occasionally cause side effects such as nausea, increased appetite, headaches, and, very rarely, blood clots

Need a prescription

Should use condoms to lower the risk of STDs

 

 
Vaginal Hormonal Ring (Nuva-Ring)
Minimum effectiveness: 98%
Vaginal Hormonal Ring (Nuva-Ring)
Pros Cons
Very effective against pregnancy if used correctly

Makes menstrual periods more regular and lighter

Decreases menstrual cramps and acne

Makes you less likely to get ovarian and uterine cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, and anemia

Doesn't interrupt lovemaking
Doesn't protect against STDs

Should use condoms to lower the risk of STDs

Can't be used by women with certain medical problems or by women taking certain medications

Can occasionally cause side effects such as nausea, increased appetite, headaches

Higher risk of blood clots

Need a prescription

Hormone Patch (Ortho-Evra)
91-99% effective in preventing pregnancy
Hormonal Contraception Patch
Pros Cons
Very effective against pregnancy if used correctly

Makes menstrual periods more regular and lighter

Decreases menstrual cramps and acne

Makes you less likely to get ovarian and uterine cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, and anemia

Doesn't interrupt lovemaking
Doesn't protect against STDs

Should use condoms to lower the risk of STDs

Can't be used by women with certain medical problems or by women taking certain medications

Can occasionally cause side effects such as nausea, increased appetite, headaches

Higher risk of blood clots

Need a prescription
 

Depo-Provera Hormonal Injection
Minimum effectiveness: 99%
Depo-Provera Injection Graphic
Pros Cons
Each injection provides 3 months of protection against pregnancy

Very effective against pregnancy

Many women stop getting their menstrual period while getting injections. (This is not a medical problem and menstrual periods usually return 6-18 months after you stop taking injections)

Helps protect against uterine cancer

Doesn't protect against STDs

Need to see your health care provider every 3 months for an injection

Costs $30-$75 every 3 months for 1 injection

May have side effects such as weight gain, tiredness, and possibly a decrease in bone density

Many women have very irregular menstrual bleeding or spotting for the first 3 to 6 months and sometimes longer

Male Condom
Minimum effectiveness: 86%
Male Condom
Pros Cons
Lowers risk of STDs

Effective against pregnancy

Contraception that provides the most protection against sexually transmitted infections (latex condoms are best)

Don't cost much (50 cents each), can buy at almost any drug store (don't need a prescription)

"Last longer" when using a condom

Allow men to have an active part in preventing pregnancy

Have to use a new one every time you have sexual intercourse (can only be used once)

May disrupt/interrupt lovemaking

Can break

Women may be allergic to latex
 

Female Condom
Minimum effectiveness: 79%
Female Condom
Pros Cons
Provide protection against STDs (new product, so not clear how much protection given) and pregnancy

Can be inserted well before intercourse

Male does not need to withdraw right after ejaculation, as he does with a male condom

May move, be noisy, or uncomfortable

Can only use for one act of sexual intercourse

Cost about $2.50 each

Hormonal Implants
Minimum effectiveness: 99%
Hormonal Implant
Pros Cons
Long-term method of birth control (protects against pregnancy from 24 hours to 3 years (or even 5 years) after insertion- can remove whenever you want to or can wait until time for a change of implant

Very effective against pregnancy

May cause light or no menstrual periods

No protection against sexually transmitted infections

Requires minor surgery and insertion of the tiny rod(s) underneath the skin

Requires minor surgery to remove capsules

Can cause side effects such as irregular menstrual periods, depression, nervousness, hair loss, and weight gain

Could have infection at area where capsules implanted

Can't be used by women with certain medical conditions and by women who use certain medications
 

Intra-Uterine Device (IUD)
Minimum effectiveness: 99%
Intra-Uterine Device
Pros Cons
Very effective against pregnancy

Provide protection against pregnancy as long as in place in your uterus- protects as soon as inserted (so don't need to remember to use contraception if you have sexual intercourse)

Doesn't need daily attention- just need to check to make sure in place at least once a month at time of menstrual period

Comfortable- you and your partner cannot feel the IUD, although you partner may feel the string

The levonorgestrel IUD (Mirena) lessens menstrual flow and can be used to treat heavy periods

Can be removed at any time

Doesn't protect against STDs

Needs to be inserted by a health care provider

Should not be used by women who have a high risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection. It is best for women who have already had children and are in a steady relationship with one partner.

Can fall out or can rarely puncture the uterus

The copper IUD can have side effects such as menstrual cramping, longer and/or heavier menstrual periods, and spotting between menstrual periods

Slightly higher risk for infection in the few weeks after insertion

Contraceptive Sponge
Minimum effectiveness: 87%
Contraceptive Sponge
Pros Cons
Can insert right before or several hours before sexual intercourse and will provide protection against pregnancy for a total of 24 hours

Don't need a prescription

Doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections and may increase the risk of HIV infection with multiple daily acts of sexual intercourse

Can't take out until 6 hours after sexual intercourse

Can't be used by women who are allergic to nonoxynol-9 (in the spermicides)

Can cause increased urinary tract infections
 

Cervical Cap
Minimum effectiveness: 80%
Cervical Cap
Pros Cons
Can insert several hours before sexual intercourse

Can leave in place 24-48 hours, will give protected sex for up to 48 hours

Use less spermicide with the cap than with the diaphragm, no need to apply more spermicide with each act of intercourse

Doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections

Cost $30-$50, plus the cost of spermicidal gel

Need to be fitted by a health care provider and need a prescription

Limited sizes available

Can't take out until 6-8 hours after intercourse

May get moved out of place

Some women may be allergic to material of cap or to spermicide

Need to get a new one every so often

Can't be used by women with a history of abnormal Pap tests

Can cause increased urinary tract infections

 
Spermicide
Minimum effectiveness: 74%
Tube of Spermicide
Pros Cons
Doesn't cost much, available at many drug stores, don't need a prescription

Doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STDs) and may increase the risk of HIV infection in women who have sex multiple times daily because of irritation from the spermicide

Effectiveness usually lasts only one hour (need to reapply each time have sexual intercourse)

Some women and men may be allergic to spermicides

May interrupt lovemaking (some forms need to be inserted at 10-20 minutes before intercourse)

Has a lower effectiveness against pregnancy than many other types of contraception- should use with another form of contraception to increase effectiveness

May change bacteria living in vagina and increase urinary tract infections

 
Diaphragm
Minimum effectiveness: 80%
Diaphragm
Pros Cons
Can be put in place right before intercourse or 2-3 hours before intercourse

Don't need to take out between acts of sexual intercourse (protects against pregnancy for about 6 hours, but need to reapply spermicide)

Doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections

Need to get fitted by a health care provider and need a prescription

Can't take out until 6 hours after intercourse

Cost $25-$45, plus the cost of spermicidal gel

May get moved out of place during sexual intercourse

Some women may be allergic to the diaphragm or to the spermicide

Need to get a new one every so often (need to re-fitted after a 10 pound weight gain or loss and after pregnancy)

Can be messy

Need to reapply spermicide with each act of sexual intercourse

Can cause an increase in urinary tract infections

 
Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) for Women Who are Breastfeeding
Minimum effectiveness: 98%
 
Pros Cons
Natural

Costs nothing

No side effects

Effective against pregnancy during the first 6 months after childbirth in women who have not had their menstrual period after childbirth and are feeding their babies only breast milk

Only can be used by women who have given birth in last 6 months, fully breast feeding, and have not had menstrual period after childbirth

Doesn't protect against STDs

Only effective until menstrual period returns

May need to use a lubricant with sexual intercourse because of vaginal dryness

Natural Family Planning
Minimum effectiveness: 76%
 
Pros Cons
Natural

Approved by many religions

Woman gets to know her body and menstrual cycles

Can be helpful for partners who are very careful and don't have sex during ovulation period and several days before and after

No protection against STDs

Need to figure out when ovulating for each month, since different from one month to the next and young women often have irregular periods

Requires a lot of work- need careful instruction and the woman needs to figure out when ovulating

Can't have sexual intercourse for at least a week each month (during ovulation and several days before and after)

Teens and women with irregular periods should not use- failure rate is high
 

Tubal Ligation
Minimum effectiveness: 99%
Tubal Ligation
Pros Cons
Very effective against pregnancy

One time decision that will provide protection against pregnancy forever

Need to have minor surgery

Permanent (although it is possible to undo sterilization with major surgery, it is not always successful)

Only should be used by women who are absolutely sure that they do not want any or any more children

Expensive- ranges from $1000-$2500- but cost for contraception spread over rest of life

No protection against STDs

Withdrawal
Minimum effectiveness: 72%
 
Pros Cons
Natural, so no side effects

Doesn't cost anything

Allows men to be an active part of preventing pregnancy

Not very effective method of contraception

Doesn't protect against STDs

Difficult for male to always predict ejaculation

May decrease sexual pleasure of woman since need to always be thinking about what is happening during sexual intercourse

No control by women- need to rely completely on men to prevent pregnancy

 

Written and reviewed by the CYWH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital

 

Updated: 1/28/2009

 

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Making Healthy Sexual Decisions

You may be thinking about what it means to be involved in a sexual relationship. As a young adult, it's normal to think about sex, have sexual feelings, and have a desire to learn more about your own body. Deciding to have a sexual relationship is an important decision since it involves both your body and your emotions...

 

Pregnancy

Did you know that about 800,000 teen girls become pregnant in the United States each year, and more than 80% of these pregnancies are unplanned? Dealing with a pregnancy is one of the most important decisions a teen may need to make...

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