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What Birth Control Method Works Best for Your Lifestyle?

What Birth Control Method Works Best for Your Lifestyle?

Jackie Vinyard, M.S. Health Sciences | November 30, 2018 | Women's Health
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By Teena Merlan

Contraception comes in a wide variety of options, from barrier methods and pills to injections and implants. Even the same type of birth control has variations; for example, birth control pills can use progestin only or a combination of estrogen and progestin. How do you sort through them all to find the one that will work best for you? Here, we’ll provide general information for the different types of birth control, including potential benefits and side effects.

Abstinence and Outercourse

Abstinence, not having sex, and outercourse, sexual activity besides vaginal penetration, are 100% effective at preventing pregnancy (Planned Parenthood). These methods prevent pregnancy by preventing semen from entering the vagina. If semen is not inside the vagina, it can’t get to an egg to fertilize it, and pregnancy can’t happen.


  • 100% effective with perfect use (Planned Parenthood)
  • Free of cost
  • No hormones, prescriptions, patches, or foreign objects inserted in the body
  • Immediately effective
  • Immediately reversible


  • No vaginal penetration
  • Requires discipline and participation from both partners

These methods are not possible for those desiring vaginal penetration, but this is the only method that’s 100% effective, so it’s important to mention. If you are using a natural fertility method as birth control, this is also an option to consider during your fertile window.

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods like the male condom and female condom are the only method that protect against sexually transmitted diseases, with the latter thought to be less effective against STDs (Medline Plus).

Benefits of male condoms

  • 80% effective with typical use, 98% effective with perfect use (WebMD)
  • Affordable
  • Widely available, no prescription needed
  • No hormones, prescriptions, or patches
  • Immediately effective
  • Immediately reversible

Disadvantages of male condoms

  • Interrupts foreplay or intercourse
  • Decreased sensation
  • Potential allergies to latex
  • Must be used correctly each time to be effective
  • Low efficacy, relative to the other methods

Other barrier methods include the cervical cap, cervical cap, diaphragm (must be used with spermicide to be effective), but these do not protect against STDs and require a prescription. These barrier methods are an option for those who want to avoid hormones and having to remember to take daily pills.


Birth control pills, commonly referred to as simply “the pill,” are available in with progestin only or a combination of progestin and estrogen.


  • 99% effective with perfect use (Planned Parenthood)
  • Affordable
  • Regulate menstrual cycle
  • Less painful cramps
  • Lighter periods
  • Fewer symptoms of PMS
  • May provide protection against pelvic inflammatory disease, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer


  • 9% failure rate with typical use (Planned Parenthood)
  • Need a prescription
  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Increased risk of stroke if you smoke
  • May cause spotting, breast tenderness, nausea, low sex drive
  • Must be taken at the same time every day
  • Waiting period for effectiveness
  • Some medicines or supplements can interfere with effectiveness

Another benefit of using the pill as birth control is that if you decide you’d like to get pregnant, you can simply stop taking the pill. Most people ovulate about 2 weeks after stopping the pill, and once ovulation occurs, so can pregnancy (Mayo Clinic 2018). Some people do report having negative side effects, but everybody is different; one person may have no problems with the pill, and another person may have many side effects.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped device that is inserted in the uterus to prevent pregnancy by releasing either hormones or copper, making the uterus inhospitable to an embryo, and thickening the mucus. IUDs are available with hormones or without.


  • More than 99% effective (Planned Parenthood)  
  • Affordable
  • Low maintenance -- lasts up to 3-12 years, depending on the type, with a monthly self-check


  • Must be placed by a medical professional
  • Pain during insertion and cramps for a few days afterwards
  • May be expelled from the uterus, leaving you unprotected
  • Must be removed by medical professional
  • Does not prevent ectopic pregnancy

May also cause

  • Spotting between periods
  • Irregular bleeding (may improve after six months of use)
  • Potential uterine perforation during insertion
  • Heavier periods and worse menstrual cramps with copper IUD
  • Headache
  • Acne
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood changes
  • Cramping or pelvic pain

A common misconception about the hormonal IUDs is that the hormones are only local to the uterus and do not enter the bloodstream; in reality, hormones are released into the bloodstream with hormonal IUDs, but the hormone levels are lower than other progestin-only birth control methods (Bedsider 2017). Another misconception about the copper IUD is that it physically prevents implantation and does not secrete anything into the body, but these devices actually continuously release copper into the uterine cavity and bloodstream (ParaGard). Although higher levels of copper have been linked to psychiatric and autoimmune conditions (Tsafrir 2017), the copper in IUDs has not been linked to increased copper in the bloodstream (Wollen 1994).


The birth control implant is a thin rod that is inserted in your arm by a doctor or nurse. It releases hormones to prevent pregnancy by thickening the mucus on the cervix and may also prevent eggs from being released by the ovaries. The implant lasts for up to 5 years.


  • More than 99% effective (Planned Parenthood)
  • Low maintenance -- lasts up to 5 years
  • Estrogen-free


  • Must be placed by a medical professional
  • May cause irregular bleeding
  • Long-term spotting
  • May cause heavier or longer periods
  • Must be removed by a medical professional

Uncommon side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Breast pain
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pain or bruising where the implant was inserted
  • Infection where the implant is inserted


The birth control ring, brand name NuvaRing, is a small, flexible ring that is inserted in the vagina and releases the hormones estrogen and progestin to stop ovulation and thickens the mucus around the cervix, which prevent pregnancy.


  • 99% effective with perfect use, 91% with typical use (Planned Parenthood)
  • Affordable
  • Latex-free
  • Can regulate periods and reduce menstrual cramps

May help prevent or reduce:

  • Acnes
  • Anemia
  • PMS
  • Bone thinning
  • Cysts in breasts or ovaries
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Serious infections in ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus


  • Requires prescription
  • Must be replaced every month
  • Some medicines or supplements can interfere with effectiveness

The birth control ring is also not suitable for those who have a history of blood clots, an inherited blood-clotting disorder, vein inflammation, breast cancer, stroke, serious heart problems (like heart attacks or angina), migraine headaches with aura (seeing flashing, zigzag lines), uncontrolled high blood pressure, very bad diabetes, or liver disease.


Like the other methods on this list, natural contraception has many different variations. The Rhythm Method, Natural Family Planning (NFP), and Fertility Awareness Based Method (FABM) are among some of the different types of using charting as contraception -- this blog has all the details about these different fertility awareness methods for contraceptive use.

Kindara is based on the FABM called the Symptothermal Method (FACTS), which is  a method  based on the science of our bodies. The symptothermal method is a combination of natural fertility methods. ACOG explains that the two most commonly used for this method include the BBT method and the cervical mucus method. Other methods or signs can be used, such as the Standard Days method, as a double check to identify when the fertile time begins and ends. For more details on using FABM for contraception, check out The 4 Rules of Charting for Birth Control.

Benefits of FABM

  • 99.6% effective with perfect use and appropriate education/training (Frank-Herrmann 2007), 76%* with typical use (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Free except the cost of a BBT thermometer (like Wink!)
  • No hormones, prescriptions, patches, or foreign objects inserted in the bod
  • May help identify other irregularities with cycle or health conditions
  • Gain intimate knowledge and understanding of body
  • Know when your period will start
  • May help with conception if you decide to start a family

*The Rhythm Method is part of this statistic

Disadvantages FABM

  • Requires discipline and participation from both partners
  • Must chart for at least 3 cycles before using it for contraception
  • Requires abstinence or barrier method during the fertile window
  • Needs a certain level of comfort with bodily fluids and self-examination
  • Requires taking temperature daily
  • Requires commitment to consistent record-keeping
  • May not be viable for people who are not able to get at least 4 consecutive hours of deep sleep
  • Proper training needed

FABM is an option for those who want manage their fertility naturally or those who simply want to learn more about their bodies. This method is a great way to learn about your body -- and in some cases, develop a strong appreciation for what our bodies can do! -- but it does require dedication to the method in terms of recording the data, interpreting the information, and using protected sex or abstinence during the fertile window. This method may not work for those who work odd hours, since at least 4 consecutive hours of sleep are needed to get an accurate BBT. When you first start using this method, we recommend finding a practitioner who can provide individual support and review of your charts.


Read everything you can about the method or methods you’re considering, and discuss your options with your doctor; together you can decide on what’s best for you. Regardless of what method you choose, practice safe sex -- none of the methods mentioned above prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, ask your doctor.

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