Birth Control

Choose a birth control method that works for you. Know your options and pick one that fits your lifestyle.

There are many safe and effective methods you can use to prevent pregnancy. Without birth control, more than 8 in 10 sexually active women will get pregnant.

Condoms are the only birth control method that helps prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Use a condom and another birth control method every time you have sex to prevent pregnancy and STIs.

If you are at risk for exposure to HIV, learn about PrEP and PEP.

Are you an NYC family planning provider? Learn about our resources.

When can I start using birth control?

You can start or switch at any time, including any time during your menstrual cycle, and right after giving birth or having an abortion.

Where can I get it?

You can get birth control at health centers, family planning clinics or through your health care provider. Health centers and family planning clinics also provide free condoms. Teens do not need permission to get birth control and other sexual health services. Call 311 to find out where to get free or low-cost birth control. Review our provider list (PDF) or the NYC Health Site Locator (click on sexual health service) to find out where to get free or low-cost birth control. For teen-accessible clinics, check out our Teens in NYC app (iOS or Android) or NYC Teen website.

How much will I have to pay for birth control?

Many health care providers offer birth control for free or at low cost. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans are required to cover birth control with no copay - check with your insurance to see what's covered. If you're considering an IUD or implant, ask about costs associated with insertion and removal. You may also be eligible for the Medicaid Family Planning Benefit Program, a public health insurance program for New Yorkers that pays for family planning services. Call 1-800-541-2831 to find a place to enroll.

What if I decide I want to get pregnant?

No birth control method will stop you from being able to get pregnant in the future, except female sterilization, which is permanent. With most methods, you could get pregnant right away once you stop using them. When you stop using the shot, though, it may take several months or longer to get pregnant.

What are my birth control options?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a birth control, from using hormonal methods to intrauterine devices (IUDs). Read the list below:

Non-Hormonal IUD

The non-hormonal IUD is a small (about an inch long) device made of plastic and copper that a health care provider inserts into the uterus. It is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? Once your health care provider inserts it in your uterus, you won't need to do anything else. It can last up to 10 years, but can be removed by your provider at any time if you want to switch to another birth control method, if you want to try to get pregnant or if you no longer want it. Learn about cost options.

Side effects? Some women may experience spotting between periods (especially during the first few months of use), cramps and increased bleeding during their period.

STI protection? The IUD does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom. Learn more about IUDs.

Hormonal IUD

The hormonal IUD is a small (about an inch long) plastic device containing a hormone that a health care provider inserts into the uterus. There are currently 3 different types of hormonal IUDs on the market - Mirena (works for up to 5 years), Skyla and Liletta (both work for up to 3 years). They're all more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? Once your health care provider inserts it in your uterus, you won't need to do anything else. It can last up to 3-5 years (depending on which one you get), but can be removed by your provider at any time if you want to switch to another birth control method, if you want to try to get pregnant or if you no longer want it. Learn about cost options.

Side effects? Some women may experience spotting between periods or irregular bleeding for the first 3-6 months. This usually goes away. Most women will notice a decrease in their menstrual bleeding each month, and some women will stop getting a period entirely (which some women may like).

Does it protect against STIs? The IUD does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom.

Implant

The implant is a small plastic rod (about the size of a matchstick) containing a hormone that a health care provider inserts under the skin of the inner upper arm. The implant is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? Once your health care provider inserts it, you won't need to do anything else. Most people can't see it once it's inserted. It lasts up to 3 years, but can be removed by your provider at any time if you want to switch to another birth control method, if you want to try to get pregnant or if you no longer want it. Learn about cost options.

Side effects? Some women may experience irregular bleeding, especially for the first 6-12 months. This could mean spotting between periods, longer periods, or no period at all (which some women may like).

Does it protect against STIs? The implant does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom.

Shot

The shot is an injection containing a hormone given by a health care provider. It is about 94% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? You will need to visit your health care provider to get a shot every three months. Learn about cost options.

Side effects? Some women may experience irregular bleeding within the first 6-12 months. Some women may gain a few pounds in the first year. After a year, about half of women using the shot will stop getting a period altogether (which some women may like).

Does it protect against STIs? The shot does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom.

Ring

The ring is a soft, flexible ring of plastic containing two hormones that a woman inserts in her vagina. It is about 91% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? You insert the ring into the vagina and leave it for 3 weeks. You remove it for the 4th week and then start again with a new ring. It usually can't be felt by your partner. Learn about cost options.

Side effects? Some women may experience spotting between periods, breast tenderness and nausea. These usually go away within the first three months. Most women experience lighter, shorter periods while on the ring.

Does it protect against STIs? The ring does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom.

Patch

The patch is a thin, plastic square adhesive patch containing two hormones that a woman places on her skin. It is about 91% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? You stick a new patch onto your skin each week for 3 weeks. You wear no patch for the 4th week, during your period, and then start again with a new patch. Learn about cost options.

Side effects? Some women may experience spotting between periods, breast tenderness and nausea. These usually go away within the first three months. Most women experience lighter, shorter periods while on the patch.

Does it protect against STIs? The patch does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom.

Pill

The birth control pill contains one or two hormones that a woman swallows. It is about 91% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? You take a pill every day at the same time. Each pill pack lasts four weeks. Learn about cost options.

Side effects? Some women may experience spotting between periods, breast tenderness and nausea. These usually go away within the first three months. The pill may give you lighter periods.

Does it protect against STIs? The pill does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom.

Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped cup made of silicone that you insert into your vagina (with spermicide) to cover your cervix. It is about 88% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? You'll need to apply spermicide to the inside and rim, then fold it and insert it in the vagina. It may take a few tries to learn to insert it just right. You can insert it just before sex, or up to 6 hours before. It needs to stay in place for at least 6 hours after you have sex. If you're going to have sex more than once, leave the diaphragm in and use a male condom for added protection. The diaphragm can be left in place for up to 24 hours. Learn about cost options.

Side effects? Some women may experience vaginal irritation or urinary tract infections. Also, women who are allergic to silicone or spermicide should not use a diaphragm.

Does it protect against STIs? The diaphragm does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom.

Cervical Cap

The cervical cap is a silicone cup you insert into the vagina to cover your cervix. For women who have never given birth vaginally, the cervical cap is 86% effective at preventing pregnancy. For those who have given birth vaginally, it is 71% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? You apply spermicide to the inside and rim, squeeze the rim together, and insert it in the vagina. It may take a few tries to learn to insert it just right. You can insert it just before sex, or up to 6 hours before. It needs to stay in place for at least 6 hours after you have sex. If you're going to have sex more than once, leave the cervical cap in and use a male condom for added protection. The cervical cap can be left in place for up to 48 hours. You don't need a prescription for it. Learn about cost options.

Side effects? Some women may experience vaginal irritation or urinary tract infections. Also, women who are allergic to silicone or spermicide should not use a cervical cap.

Does it protect against STIs? The cervical cap does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom.

Sponge

The sponge is a single-use round piece of white plastic foam with a dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top that a woman inserts into the vagina. It contains spermicide. For women who have never given birth vaginally, the sponge is 88% effective at preventing pregnancy. For those who have given birth vaginally, it is 76% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? You need to wet the sponge with water, fold it in half and insert it into your vagina. It may take a few tries to learn to insert it just right. You can insert the sponge hours before sex, but it needs to stay in place for at least 6 hours after you have sex. It can be left in place for up to 24 hours. You don't need a prescription for it. They cost between $4 and $8 for a 3-sponge pack and can be found at drug stores and online.

Side effects? Some women experience vaginal irritation. If you are allergic to sulfa drugs or sulfites or spermicide, do not use the sponge.

Does it protect against STIs? The sponge does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom.

Fertility Awareness

Fertility awareness, or natural family planning, is birth control based on tracking your menstrual cycle to determine the days that you can get pregnant. You need to have a regular monthly menstrual cycle for these methods to work. Fertility awareness methods are 76-88% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? There are three main methods you can use, 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

These methods require planning, monitoring and record-keeping, and at least a week of abstaining from sex each menstrual cycle. Except for buying a thermometer, fertility awareness is free.

Side effects? None.

Does it protect against STIs? Fertility awareness does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal is when the man pulls out of the woman's vagina before ejaculating, and ejaculates away from the vulva. Withdrawal is 78% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? Withdrawal requires that a man be very in tune with his body, so that he knows when he is close to ejaculating and can always withdraw in time. Withdrawal is free.

Side effects? None.

Does it protect against STIs? Withdrawal does not protect against HIV or other STIs so always use a condom.

Sterilization

Sterilization for women means closing or blocking the fallopian tubes, preventing the egg and sperm from meeting. For men, sterilization (vasectomy) means blocking the vas deferens, preventing sperm from being present in the semen. It is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? Sterilization is permanent. Once sterilized, you won't need to do anything else.

  • Female sterilization is done in a doctor's office or hospital. There are two types: incision and non-incision. Both methods allow you to go home the same day. With the incision method, sterilization takes effect immediately, though recovery can take up to a few weeks. With the non-incision method, recovery takes only a few days, but you need to use another method of birth control for 3 months - and then have a special x-ray to make sure the tubes are completely blocked.
  • Male sterilization (vasectomy) is done in the doctor's office and is effective immediately. Recovery can take up to a week. Learn about cost options.

Side effects? There is a very rare risk that the tubes may reconnect themselves, resulting in a pregnancy. Also, there could be possible complications from surgery, like bleeding, infection or a reaction to anesthesia.

Does it protect against STIs? Sterilization does not protect against HIV or other STIs, so always use a condom.

Condom

A condom is a thin covering placed over the penis to keep sperm out of the vagina. Condoms are 82% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? Use a new condom every time you have sex. Put the condom on the erect penis before engaging in any sexual contact. Leave enough space at the tip to allow room for semen. After sex, carefully remove the still-erect penis from the vagina, holding onto the base of the condom. Then remove the condom and dispose of it.

You don't need a prescription for condoms. They cost about $1 apiece and are easy to get at drug stores, convenience stores and online. Free condoms are also available.

Side effects? None, unless you are allergic to latex. If allergic, use a non-latex condom instead.

Does it protect against STIs? Yes. Condoms are the only birth control method that can reduce your risk of STIs, including HIV. Use either a male or female condom every time you have sex for protection against STIs. Do not use both together.

Female Condom

A female condom is a pouch (with a ring at either end) inserted into the vagina, instead of putting it on the penis. It is 79% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Effort involved? Use a new female condom every time you have sex. Squeeze the sides of the closed-end ring and insert it into your vagina. Let the outer ring hang about an inch outside the vagina. The penis must go inside the female condom.

You don't need a prescription for female condoms and they are usually easy to get at drug stores and/or online for around $2 to $4 apiece. Free female condoms are also available.

Side effects? None.

Does it protect against STIs? Yes. Condoms are the only birth control method that can protect you from STIs, including HIV. Use either a male or female condom every time you have sex for protection against STIs. Do not use both together.

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception (EC) can be used to prevent pregnancy AFTER having unprotected sex. EC prevents a pregnancy from happening. It is not an abortion pill and will not work if you're already pregnant.

There are two available methods: pills and the non-hormonal IUD. There are several pill brands available. If used within the recommended time period after having unprotected sex, the EC pill is about 89% effective and the non-hormonal IUD is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. The sooner you take it, the better it works.

Effort involved? For the EC pill, you need to take it within 3-5 days of having unprotected sex. You do not need a prescription and you can get it no matter your age. You can get it at the pharmacy or online and it costs between $25 and $60. Or you can also get it free at some clinics. Learn about cost options to find out about insurance coverage.

For the non-hormonal IUD, your provider must insert it within 5 days of having unprotected sex. Once inserted, though, you can use it as your birth control for up to 10 years. Learn about cost options.

Side effects? With the EC pill, some women experience upset stomach, vomiting, dizziness, headaches and irregular bleeding. With the non-hormonal IUD, some women may experience spotting between periods (especially during the first few months of use), cramps and increased bleeding during their period.

Does it protect against STIs? EC does not protect against HIV or other STIs.

Where else can I learn more about birth control?