Birth Control

There are many safe and effective methods to prevent pregnancy. Without birth control, more than eight in 10 sexually active women will get pregnant.

Condoms are the only birth control method that can reduce your risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV. For protection against STIs, use either a male condom or an internal condom (FC2) every time you have sex. Do not use both types of condoms together.

No birth control method will stop you from being able to get pregnant in the future, except female sterilization, which is permanent.

Get Birth Control

You can get birth control at health centers, family planning clinics or through your health care provider.

Health insurance plans are required to cover birth control with no copay. If you are considering an IUD or implant, ask your insurance about costs for insertion and removal. You also may be eligible for the Medicaid Family Planning Benefit Program, a public health insurance program for New Yorkers that pays for family planning services. Call 800-541-2831 to find a place to enroll.

If you are looking for free or low-cost birth control:

Birth Control Options

When deciding which birth control to use, you should consider several factors, including how it works and its side effects. Other than sterilization, you can stop using, remove or switch any of the methods below at any time.

Cervical Cap

The cervical cap is a silicone cup you insert into your vagina before having sex. It needs to stay in place for at least six hours after you have sex.

Women who are allergic to silicone or spermicide should not use a cervical cap.

Effectiveness

  • For women who have never given birth vaginally, the cervical cap is about 86% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • For women who have given birth vaginally, it is about 71% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Side Effects

Condom

Male Condom

A male condom is a thin covering placed over the penis to keep sperm out of the vagina before having sex.

If you are allergic to latex, you should use a non-latex condom.

Effectiveness

  • 82% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Side Effects

  • None

Internal Condom (FC2)

An internal condom (FC2) — also known as a female condom — is a pouch with a ring on each end that you insert into your vagina.

Effectiveness

  • About 79% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped cup made of silicone that you insert into your vagina before having sex. It needs to stay in place for at least six hours after you have sex.

Women who are allergic to silicone or spermicide should not use a diaphragm.

Effectiveness

  • About 88% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Side Effects

  • Vaginal irritation
  • Urinary tract infections

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy after you have unprotected sex. It is not an abortion pill and will not work if you are already pregnant.

There are two available methods — a pill and a non-hormonal IUD.

For the pill, you do not need a prescription and you can get it no matter your age. You can get the pill at a pharmacy or online, or for free at some clinics. The hormonal IUD is inserted by your provider and lasts for up to 10 years.

Effectiveness

  • The pill is about 89% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • The non-hormonal IUD is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

For either method, the sooner you take it, the better it works. For the pill, you need to take it three to five days after you have unprotected sex. The non-hormonal IUD must be inserted by your provider no more than five days after you have unprotected sex.

Side Effects

Pill:

  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Irregular bleeding

Non-hormonal IUD:

  • Spotting between periods, especially during the first few months
  • Cramps and increased bleeding during periods

Fertility Awareness

Fertility awareness, or natural family planning, is a form of birth control based on tracking your menstrual cycle to determine the days you can get pregnant. You need to have a regular monthly menstrual cycle for this option to work.

Fertility awareness requires planning, monitoring and record-keeping. Also, you must not have sex for at least a week during each menstrual cycle.

Effectiveness

  • About 76 to 88% effective at preventing pregnancy.

There are three main methods, and combining all three is most effective.

  • Standard days: Tracking your periods.
  • Cervical mucus: Observing your cervical mucus every day.
  • Basal body temperature: Taking your temperature every day.

Side Effects

  • None

Implant

The implant is a plastic rod — about the size of a matchstick — that contains a hormone. It is inserted under the skin of your inner upper arm by your health care provider.

Effectiveness

  • More than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Lasts up to three years.

Side Effects

  • Irregular bleeding, including spotting between periods, longer periods or no periods at all. These side effects are more likely in the first year.

IUD (Hormonal)

The hormonal IUD is an inch-long plastic device containing a hormone. It is inserted into your uterus by your health care provider.

Effectiveness

  • More than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Lasts three to five years, depending on the type.

Side Effects

  • Spotting between periods or irregular bleeding for the first three to six months
  • Decrease in menstrual bleeding
  • For some women, periods will stop entirely

IUD (Non-Hormonal)

The non-hormonal IUD is an inch-long device made of plastic and copper. It is inserted into your uterus by your health care provider.

Effectiveness

  • More than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Lasts up to 10 years.

Side Effects

  • Spotting between periods, especially in the first few months
  • Cramps
  • Increased bleeding during period

Patch

The patch is a thin, plastic square adhesive containing two hormones. You must place a new patch on your skin each week for three weeks. You do not wear a patch during your period in the fourth week. After your period ends, you must put on a new patch.

Effectiveness

  • About 91% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Side Effects

The side effects listed below usually go away within the first three months.

  • Spotting between periods
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Lighter, short periods

Pill

The birth control pill is an oral tablet that contains one or two hormones. You must take a pill every day at the same time.

Effectiveness

  • About 91% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Side Effects

The side effects listed below usually go away within the first three months.

  • Spotting between periods
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Lighter periods

Ring

The ring is a soft, flexible round piece of plastic containing two hormones. You can insert the ring into your vagina and leave it in for three weeks. You must then remove it and insert a new ring.

Effectiveness

  • About 91% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Side Effects

The side effects listed below usually go away within the first three months.

  • Spotting between periods
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Lighter, short periods

Shot

The Depo-Provera shot is a hormone injection given by your help care provider. You must receive it every three months.

Effectiveness

  • About 94% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Side Effects

  • Irregular bleeding in the first year
  • Weight gain in the first year
  • No period after a year
  • After you stop the shot, it may take several months before you are able to get pregnant.

Sponge

The sponge is a round piece of plastic foam containing spermicide that you insert into your vagina before having sex. It needs to stay in place for at least six hours after you have sex.

Do not use the sponge if you are allergic to sulfa drugs, sulfites or spermicide.

Effectiveness

  • For women who have never given birth vaginally, the sponge is about 88% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • For women who have given birth vaginally, it is about 76% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Side Effects

  • Vaginal irritation

Sterilization

Sterilization for women means a health care provider closes or blocks the fallopian tubes, preventing the egg and sperm from meeting. For men, sterilization (vasectomy) means a provider blocks the vas deferens, preventing sperm from being present in the semen.

Sterilization is permanent. Once sterilized, you will not need to use any other form of birth control.

Effectiveness

  • More than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • In rare cases, fallopian tubes can reconnect themselves, resulting in a pregnancy.

Side Effects

  • Complications from surgery, including bleeding, infection or a reaction to anesthesia

Withdrawal

Withdrawal is when a person pulls their penis out of a vagina and ejaculates away from the vulva.

Effectiveness

  • About 78% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Side Effects

  • None

Additional Resources

More Information