Barrier types of birth control places a physical impediment to the movement of sperm into the female reproductive tract. The most popular barrier method is the male condom, a latex or polyurethane sheath placed over the penis. The condom is also available in a female version, which is made of polyurethane. The female condom has a flexible ring at each end - one secures behind the pubic bone to hold the condom in place, while the other ring stays outside the vagina. Read how to use a female condom here.
Cervical barriers are devices that are contained completely within the vagina. The contraceptive sponge has a depression to hold it in place over the cervix. The cervical cap is the smallest cervical barrier. Depending on the type of cap, it stays in place by suction to the cervix or to the vaginal walls. The diaphragm fits into place behind the woman's pubic bone and has a firm but flexible ring, which helps it press against the vaginal walls.
Spermicide may be placed in the vagina before intercourse and creates a chemical barrier. Spermicide may be used alone, or in combination with a physical barrier. Condoms are the most common types of birth control using barrier.
Hormonal types of birth control include all contraceptives that use synthetic female hormones as birth control. The oldest of these is the pill, which includes combined oral contraceptive pills and the newer estrogen-free mini-pill. These same hormones used to create the pill are also used in the OrthoEvra patch and the Nova vaginal ring. Lunelle, a monthly injectable form, is another type of hormonal birth control.
The different hormonal types of birth control are comparable in that they are all highly effective and all are reversible. However, none of the hormonal methods of birth control protect a woman against sexually transmitted infections.
Long Term Birth Control
Long term types of birth control, including the intrauterine device (IUD), contraceptive implant, and sterilization.
IUDs are inserted by a doctor or nurse through the vagina and cervix, into the uterus. Most are made of molded plastic and have a string that you can feel in the vagina.
An IUD is an ideal method if you do not plan to become pregnant for at least one year (or longer) or you want a method that is highly effective and does not require daily or weekly attention. IUDs are also appropriate for women who do not want to or cannot use estrogen.
IUDs have relatively few side effects, and are reversible. If you decide you want to become pregnant, you can do so by having the IUD removed. IUDs do not affect your chance of becoming pregnant after the IUD is removed.
A single-rod progestin implant, is available in the US and elsewhere. A doctor or nurse inserts a small device under the skin in the upper inner arm. It is effective for up to three years, and can be removed sooner if you want to become pregnant.
The implant protects you from pregnancy within 24 hours of insertion. Irregular bleeding is the most bothersome side effect. You can become pregnant quickly after the implant is removed.
Sterilization is a types of birth control that permanently prevents a person from becoming pregnant or able to have children. Tubal ligation (for women) and vasectomy (for men) are the two most common sterilization procedures. Sterilization should be considered permanent, and should only be considered after a careful discussion of all available options with a healthcare provider.
Behavioral types of birth control involve regulating the timing or methods of intercourse to prevent the introduction of sperm into the female reproductive tract, either altogether or when an egg may be present. The methods include withdrawal, fertility awareness (also known as the Rhythm Method), outercourse, and continuous breastfeeding.
Withdrawal (also known as pulling out) is the behavioral action where a man pulls his penis out of the vagina before he ejaculates. Withdrawal is not as reliable a method because a male ejects pre-ejaculate fluid while he is aroused and still inside the vagina - this fluid can contain at least 300,000 sperm (and it only takes 1 to fertilize an egg)! Plus, the withdrawal method relies on complete self-control. Finally, even if the man ejaculates outside of the vagina, sperm can swim, so semen anywhere near the vagina can still lead to pregnancy (this also means that you can still get pregnant even without penile penetration if a male ejaculates on or near the vagina).
Fertility awareness involve a woman's observation and charting of her body's fertility signs, to determine the fertile and infertile phases of her cycle. Charting may be done by hand or with the assistance of software. Most methods track one or more of the three primary fertility signs: changes in basal body temperature, in cervical mucus, and in cervical position. If a woman tracks both basal body temperature and another primary sign, the method is referred to as symptothermal. Other bodily cues such as mittelschmerz are considered secondary indicators.
Outercourse is any type of sexual play without vaginal intercourse. This includes kissing, erotic massage, manual stimulation (with one's hands), masturbation, frottage (rubbing against each other), oral sex, fantasy, anal sex, and/or using sex toys (like vibrators). Although this method is usually 100% effective, pregnancy can occur if semen or pre-ejaculate fluid gets into the vagina (by the man ejaculating too close to the vagina or the woman rolling onto it). Plus, this method may not fully protect against STD's due to there being skin-to-skin contact or the exchange of bodily fluids during oral and/or anal sex.
Continuous breastfeeding is a method of avoiding pregnancies which is based on the natural postnatal infertility that occurs when a woman is amenorrheic and fully breastfeeding.