Birth Control Options

Please note: the rates of effectiveness used here explain how effective a birth control method is in actual use. Most methods can be higher than this if used perfectly. However, the numbers we use take into account imperfect circumstances and human error, and so are more accurate indications of how effective each method is. For example, theoretically birth control pills can be as high as 99.7% effective. In actual use – because, for example, of errors such as forgetting pills – this number goes down to 92%.

Hormonal IUD (Mirena / Jaydess/Kyleena)
How effective is it?
Over 99%
What is it?
Plastic device containing progestin
How do you use it?
A doctor inserts the IUD into your uterus. Can be left in place for 3-7 years.
Other information:
Makes periods much lighter with less cramps (especially Mirena). May cause spotting for the first few months.
Cost:
$300 -$400 (covered under some health plans)

Copper IUD
How effective is it?
99%
What is it?
copper “T” shaped device
How do you use it?
A doctor inserts the IUD into your uterus. Can be left in place for 5-10 years.
Other information:
Often makes period bleeding heavier and may cause more cramps. This can sometimes get better after the first 3-4 months. Is the most effective emergency birth control if inserted within seven days of unprotected sex.
Cost:
$75-$90

Depo Provera Shot
How effective is it?
97%
What is it?
Progestin injection
How do you use it?
A doctor or nurse gives you an injection every 3 months.
Other information:
Often makes periods much lighter with less cramps after irregular bleeding at first. May take 6-8 months or longer for effects to fade and/or for fertility to return.
Cost:
$25-$45 every three months

Birth Control Pills
How effective is it?
92%
What is it?
Progestin and Estrogen tablets
How do you use it?
You take one pill every day at around the same time each day.
Other information:
Most people do not have side effects. When there are side effects, they usually go away within three months or are lessened by going on a different brand of pills.
Cost: $15-$30 per month

Evra Patch
How effective is it?
92%
What is it?
Plastic sticker with Progestin and Estrogen
How do you use it?
You wear a sticker on your skin and change it every seven days.
Other information:
Most people do not have side effects. When there are side effects, they usually go away within three months.
Cost:
$15-$30 per month

NuvaRing
How effective is it?
92%
What is it?
Plastic ring containing Progesterone and Estrogen
How do you use it?
You insert a plastic ring inside your vagina and change it every month.
Other information:
Often has less side effects than pills or patches. When there are side effects, they usually go away within three months.
Cost:
$15-$30 per month

Condoms
How effective is it?
85%
What is it?
Usually latex with alternatives available like polyurethane and polyisoprene
How do you use it?
You cover the penis with a condom before having sex.
Other information:
Use non-latex condoms for latex allergy or sensitivity. Use with water-based lubricant every time and right from the beginning of intercourse to be most effective. Protects against sexually transmitted infections.
Cost:
$0.50-$2 per condom

Female/Internal Condoms
How effective is it?
79%
What is it?
Nitrile
How do you use it?
You insert it inside the vagina before having sex.
Other information:
Use with lots of lubricant. Open end stays outside the vagina. Insert right before or up to 6 hours before intercourse. Protects against sexually transmitted infections.
Cost:
$1.50-$2 per condom

Cervical Cap
How effective is it?
68-84%
What is it?
Silicone
How do you use it?
You insert it inside the vagina to cover the cervix before having sex.
Other information:
Must be used with spermicide.
Cost:
$85-$120

Spermicides
How effective is it?
71% on their own, 95.65% with condoms
What is it?
Film, foam, gel, cream, suppository or sponge
How do you use it?
You insert it inside the vagina before having sex.
Other information: More effective if used with a barrier method like condoms.  Condoms that come with spermicide on them are less effective than a separate spermicide used with a condom.
Cost:
$15-20 for several uses

Withdrawal/Pull Out Method
How effective is it?
73%
How do you use it?
The penis is taken out of the vagina before ejaculation.
Other information:
Sometimes sperm can come out before ejaculation or withdrawal doesn’t happen soon enough.
Cost:
Not applicable

Rhythm/Calendar Method/Counting Days
How effective is it? 75%
How do you use it?
You avoid intercourse on the days of the cycle where a woman is most likely to get pregnant.
Other information:
It is difficult to tell for sure when the “safe” times are, especially if you have irregular periods. Things like stress, illness, travel and aging can cause your cycle to change. It is most effective to use condoms during the safer times and have no sex during the unsafe times.
Cost:
Not applicable

Vasectomy
How effective is it?
99.8%
What is it?
A doctor performs a minor procedure to prevent sperm from being ejaculated. This is a permanent method.
Other information:
There is a “scalpel free” vasectomy procedure that only takes 5 minutes to do. Has no effect on the mechanics of sex (semen will still be present).
Cost:
Covered by MSP

Tubal Ligation
How effective is it?
99.5%
What is it?
Surgery to close the fallopian tubes to prevent sperm from reaching the eggs. This is a permanent method.
Other information:
Sometimes it takes a very long time to get an appointment for this surgery. Requires general anesthetic and is less effective than a vasectomy.
Cost:
Covered by MSP

Plan B Emergency Pills
How effective is it?
50%
What is it?
Levonorgestrel (Progestin) tablets
How do you use it?
Take within 5 days after sex. It is most effective to take it as soon as possible because if you already become pregnant it will not work.
Other information:
You do not need a prescription to buy this medication. May be less effective for women who weigh 165-176lbs (75-80kg) and not effective for women who weigh more than 176lbs (80kg).
Cost:
$20-$40 per use

Ella Emergency Pills
How effective is it?
60%
What is it?
Levonorgestrel (Progestin) tablets
How do you use it?
Take within 5 days after sex. It is most effective to take it as soon as possible because if you already become pregnant it will not work. Doesn’t lose effectiveness as quickly as Plan B.
Other information:
By prescription. May also be less effective for women who weigh over 165 lbs, but probably less so than Plan B.
Cost:
$30-$40 per use

No Method
How effective is it? 15% (or in other words, without using a method, 85 out of 100 women will get pregnant in a year)
Cost:
Not applicable

Combining methods
How do you use it? Some people like to use more than one method together to increase their effectiveness.
How effective is it? To see an estimate of how effective methods are in combination, please take a look here.