There are many methods of birth control. Each method has good points as well as side effects. Birth control allows a woman to plan her family - both the number and spacing of children.
The birth control pill, injections, vaginal ring, skin patch, intrauterine device (IUD), diaphragm, Lea's Shield, and cervical cap require a prescription. Condoms and spermicides do not.
More than one method may be used at the same time. For instance, a barrier method may be used with any other method.
Barrier methods include spermicides, condoms (male and female), the diaphragm, the cervical cap, and Lea's Shield.
Barrier methods are effective when used the correct way every time you have sex. Even one act of sex without birth control can result in pregnancy.
The IUD is a small, plastic device that is inserted and left inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Although there have been several types of IUDs, currently only two are available in the United States: the hormonal IUD and the copper IUD.
Natural family planning used to be called the rhythm method or "safe period." It also is called periodic abstinence or, more recently, fertility awareness. It isn't a single method but a variety of methods.
The withdrawal method prevents pregnancy by not allowing sperm to be released in the woman's vagina. This requires the man to take his penis out of the woman before he ejaculates. Drawbacks are that sperm can be present in the fluid produced by the penis before ejaculation and some men fail to withdraw completely or in time.
Women who want a permanent method of birth control now have an option that does not involve surgery. With this method, a tiny springlike device is inserted through the vagina into each fallopian tube. This device causes scar tissue to build up in the tubes. This build-up blocks the fallopian tubes and prevents the sperm from reaching the egg. It takes three months for the scar tissue to grow, so women should use another method of birth control during this period. This device can be inserted in a doctor's office.
At any given time, a couple may find one method of birth control suits their needs better than others. Most women and couples use many methods over their lifetime.
All methods have a chance of failure. When a method is used correctly each time, the failure rates are lower. Choose a method you will be able to use on a regular basis. If your method fails, you may want to consider emergency contraception.