Your Guide to Choosing the Right Birth Control for You

Pop your pill without fretting what will happen down the road.Pop your pill without fretting what will happen down the road.By Dana Hudepohl

The pill, the ring, IUDs -- these options will soon be free. (Yep, you read that right!) Check out the latest scoop here, and follow our guide to find the best method for you.

Related: QUIZ: What's Your Birth Control Personality?

The Method: The Pill
Currently $10 to $70 a month
Pros: Can take it continuously to eliminate periods, quickly reversible, benefits of certain types include improved acne, fewer headaches and painful periods, and less heavy bleeding.
Cons: Must remember to take it every day, side effects may include spotting, breast tenderness, bloating, anxiety, nausea, and decreased libido.
Effectiveness: 99 percent with perfect use, 91 percent with typical use.

The Method: The Patch (Ortho Evra)
Stick it on your arm, belly, or butt to deliver hormones that prevent ovulation. You wear one a week for three weeks and then take a weeklong break. Currently $15 to $70 a month.
Pros: Have to remember to apply it only once a week, can take it continuously to eliminate periods, quickly reversible, benefits similar to the pill.
Cons: Not discreet, especially in workout wear and swimwear, can irritate skin, side effects similar to the pill.
Effectiveness: 99 percent with perfect use, 91 percent with typical use.

Related: Need-to-Know Facts About Birth Control


The Method: Vaginal Ring (NuvaRing)
A flexible ring you insert into your vagina; it delivers hormones that prevent ovulation. You wear one for three weeks followed by a weeklong break. Currently $15 to $70 a month.
Pros: Have to remember to insert it only once a month, can take it continuously to eliminate periods, quickly reversible, benefits similar to the pill, and side effects may be milder.
Cons: Must be comfortable with inserting it yourself and leaving it in, can slip out during sex, possible increase in normal vaginal discharge, irritation, or infection.
Effectiveness: 99 percent with perfect use, 91 percent with typical use.

The Method: The Shot (Depo-Provera)
Your doc or a nurse injects the hormonal medicine into your arm to prevent ovulation for three months. Currently $35 to $75 an injection.
Pros: Need to remember to get it only four times a year. Reduces frequency of periods and cramps. An option for breastfeeding women and those who can't take estrogen.
Cons: Weight gain in 25 percent of users, unpredictable breakthrough bleeding, not quickly reversible (may take six to 12 months for it to leave your system), may cause loss of bone density.
Effectiveness: 99 percent without skipped appointments, 94 percent otherwise.

The Method: The Implant (Implanon, Nexplanon)
A rod that your doc inserts under the skin of your upper arm. You wear it for up to three years. Currently $400 to $800; $100 to $300 for removal.
Pros: Reduces frequency of periods (one in three women will stop having periods after one year), quickly reversible, an option for breastfeeding women and those who can't take estrogen.
Cons: Unpredictable spotting or prolonged light bleeding, discoloration or pain at the insertion site, side effects may include acne, bloating, or a dip in libido.
Effectiveness: 99 percent.

Related: Sex Positions That Double as Exercise

The Method: IUD (Mirena, which contains hormones; ParaGard, which is copper)
A small T-shaped device your doc inserts into your uterus during a simple office procedure. Currently $500 to $1,000.
Pros: Can use for five to 10 years, patient satisfaction rates are high. Quickly reversible, Mirena is FDA-approved to treat heavy menstrual bleeding. An option for breastfeeding women and those who can't take estrogen.
Cons: Possible irregular spotting, especially during the first three to six months with Mirena; possible heavier periods or more cramping with ParaGard.
Effectiveness: 99 percent.

The Method: Condoms
They too will be available for free next August with a prescription from your doctor. Currently about $1 each.
Pros: Protection against HIV and STDs, good for backup birth control.
Cons: Need to have one available every time you have sex, not spontaneous.
Effectiveness: 18 percent failure rate in first year due to user error, breakage, and slipping.

Related: An Age-by-Age Guide to Sexual Health (and Satisfaction!)


The Method:
Emergency Contraception (Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, Ella)
These morning-after pills help protect against pregnancy when taken soon after unprotected sex or birth control mishaps. Currently $20 to $60.
Pros: Can buy in advance and keep on hand for emergency use, no prescription needed for Plan B One-Step or Next Choice for women over 17.
Cons: Must take within three to five days after sex, need a prescription for Ella, minor side effects include headache, nausea, abdominal pain, and dizziness. Not ideal for ongoing BC.
Effectiveness: Reduces pregnancy risk by 66 to 89 percent.

The Method: Sterilization
Surgery or a no-incision procedure to block your fallopian tubes. Currently $1,500 to $6,000.
Pros: Permanent, highly effective.
Cons: Reversal not always successful, requires a medical procedure.
Effectiveness: 99 percent.

*All birth control methods have safety risks and possible side effects. Be sure to discuss these thoroughly with your doctor.

Sources: Pamela D. Berens, MD, professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and Abbey Berenson, MD, professor of ob-gyn and director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health at the University of Texas at Galveston.

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