Exploring Different Types of Birth Control: Pros, Cons, and Effectiveness

There are several types of birth control methods to choose from, each with its pros, cons, efficacy rates, and ease of use. The following is an overview of some of the most common birth control methods, such as barrier methods, hormonal birth control, permanent methods, and more.

Barrier Birth Control Methods


A condom is a single-use barrier method of birth control. A condom is a latex apparatus that prevents sperm from getting into the vagina. A male condom fits over the penis, and a female condom is inserted into the vagina.

  • Effectiveness: 84 to 89%
  • Disadvantages: may reduce sensitivity during sex; not reusable; not as effective as many other methods of birth control
  • Advantages: easily accessible, protects against sexually transmitted diseases, and prevents pregnancy.

Diaphragm/Cervical Cap

Diaphragms and cervical caps are rubber domes that cover the cervix to block sperm from reaching the egg; they are used with spermicide and inserted into the vagina before sex.

  • Effectiveness: 84 to 89%
  • Disadvantages: must initially be fitted by a healthcare provider, so they are not as accessible as other barrier methods (such as sponge); not as effective as other types of birth control such as birth control pills
  • Advantages: hormone-free; can be used for up to 48 hours.


Sponges are single-use barrier methods consisting of a dome-like device made of foam that covers the cervix; when used with a spermicide, it keeps sperm from entering the cervix and reaching the egg for fertilization.

  • Effectiveness: 84 to 89%
  • Disadvantages: the spermicide can irritate the skin; may be difficult to insert correctly; not as effective as other methods of birth control, such as hormonal methods
  • Advantages: can be placed in the vagina 24 hours before sex; affordable and accessible; as effective as a diaphragm.

Hormonal Methods

Birth Control Pill

Birth control pills are oral pills that contain hormones such as progestin and estrogen to prevent ovulation. There are several different types of birth control pills. Your gynecologist can suggest which birth control pills may be best for you.

  • Effectiveness: 92 to 95%
  • Disadvantages: may cause mild to severe side effects, including breast tenderness spotting, elevated blood pressure, and blood clots
  • Advantages: highly effective when taken as prescribed; often results in lighter periods with less cramping, or no periods

Birth Control Shot

A hormone injection is given four times per year to prevent ovulation.

  • Effectiveness: 97%
  • Disadvantages: may cause side effects including spotting, nausea, weight gain, headaches, sore breasts, and depression; it may take longer to get pregnant once you go off birth control, than other methods
  • Advantages: more effective than birth control pills with the convenience of not having to take a pill every day; doesn’t have some of the severe side effects of the pill, such as high blood pressure

Long-term Birth Control Methods


A small rod-shaped device is implanted in the upper arm, under the skin. The implant releases a hormone to prevent ovulation.

  • Effectiveness: 99%
  • Disadvantages: the implant must be placed by a healthcare provider, so they are not as accessible as other forms of birth control
  • Advantages: lasts for three to five years; you don’t have to do anything; one of the most effective forms of birth control


A device that is placed in the uterus by your gynecologist or other provider to prevent conception.

  • Effectiveness: 99%
  • Disadvantages: may cause side effects such as irregular periods or heavy periods
  • Advantages: lasts three to ten years, depending on the type of IUD; you don’t have to do anything (like take a pill every day); one of the most effective methods of birth control

Permanent Birth Control

Tubal ligation

A surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are closed, preventing the egg from being released from the ovaries so fertilization cannot occur.

  • Effectiveness: 99%
  • Disadvantages: may be irreversible; more expensive
  • Advantages: highly effective

More Information About Birth Control

Choosing a birth control method can be daunting; there are many important considerations and options to choose from. This article provides an overview of some of the more commonly used birth control methods. If you need more information, feel free to schedule a consultation with one of our friendly and knowledgeable specialists at Pacific Women’s Obstetrics and Gynecology. We are happy to provide an in-depth explanation of any birth control method, to help you select the type that best fits your personal needs and lifestyle.

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