Take (birth) control


Photo credit: Genevieve Humphreys

Illustration by Genevieve Humphreys

Did you know there are close to 20 methods of birth control? How do you choose the best method? With all of the options out there, it is up to you and your partner to decide what is most important: pregnancy prevention, ease of use, addressing menstrual issues, STD prevention, less/no hormones or level of assistance required or desired from a healthcare provider.

Keep in mind, these methods are primarily for females. The male reproductive system provides unique challenges — while women release one ovum per month and are fertile for about 48 hours a month, men are fertile 24/7, producing sperm through spermatogenesis at a rate of approximately 1,000 sperm per heartbeat! This guide breaks down about eight types of birth control by level of up-keep, effectiveness of preventing pregnancy and cost, plus a quick review of how they work


Category: Scheduled

Effectiveness: 91 percent

Cost: $0–$50

Regimen/Use: Take daily

A once-daily medication with hormones that comes in a monthly pack. The hormones stop ovulation and also thicken the mucus on the cervix.


Category: Scheduled

Effectiveness: 91 percent

Cost: $0–$150

Regimen/Use: Replace weekly

The transdermal contraceptive is worn on the skin of your belly, upper arm, butt, or back. You put a new patch on every week for three weeks, then you get a week off (i.e. your period) before you repeat the cycle. The patch releases estrogen and progestin which is absorbed through your skin. It stops ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens the mucus on the cervix which makes it hard for sperm to swim to an egg.


Category: Scheduled

Effectiveness: 94 percent

Cost: $0–$100

Regimen/Use: Get every three months

The injection (sometimes called Depo-Provera, the Depo shot or DMPA) contains the hormone progestin, which stops you from getting pregnant by preventing ovulation. It also works by making cervical mucus thicker so sperm can’t get through.


Category: Scheduled

Effectiveness: 91 percent

Cost: $0-$200

Regimen/Use: Replace monthly

The flexible ring is placed inside the vagina. It prevents pregnancy by releasing estrogen and progestin into your body to stop sperm from meeting an egg. The vaginal lining absorbs the hormones which stops ovulation and also thickens the mucus that lives on the cervix. Thicker cervical mucus makes it hard for the sperm to swim to an egg.


Category: Low Maintenance

Effectiveness: 99 percent

Cost: $0–$1300

Regimen/Use: Last 3–12 years

IUD stands for intrauterine device (basically: a device inside your uterus). A small piece of flexible plastic shaped like a T, divided into two types: copper or hormonal. IUD’s change the way sperm cells move so they can’t get to an egg.


Category: Low Maintenance

Effectiveness: 99 percent

Cost: $0–$1,300

Regimen/Use: Lasts up to five years

A tiny, thin rod about the size of a matchstick, known as Nexplanon and/or Implanon (older version). A doctor inserts the implant under the skin of your upper arm. It releases the hormone progestin to stop you from getting pregnant.


Category: One-time Use

Effectiveness: 85 percent

Cost: $0–$2/per condom


Use every time sexually active

Condoms are thin, stretchy pouches made of latex (rubber), plastic (polyurethane, nitrile or polyisoprene) or lambskin that cover the penis during sex and collect semen. Condoms stop sperm from getting into the vagina, prevent contact with semen and vaginal fluids, and limits skin-to-skin contact that can spread sexually transmitted infections (this does not apply to Lambskin).


Category: One-Time Use

Effectiveness: 79 percent

Cost: $0-$2/per condom


Use every time sexually active

Nitrile (soft plastic) pouches that go inside the vagina for pregnancy prevention or into the vagina or anus for protection from STDs. For a long time, they were called “female condoms.” However, people of any gender can use them.

Some other forms of available birth control (not mentioned above) are the diaphragm, contraceptive sponge, cervical cap and spermicide. Other birth control methods that do not require medication, devices, etc. are fertility awareness, withdrawal, outercourse and abstinence! Regardless of the birth control method that works best for you and your partner, communication and help from a health care provider is key.

Where can you learn more? You can chat with any of the nurses or Marcy Youngdahl, university physician, in Health Services on campus about these options with the possibility of getting a prescription. (Now is a good time to get familiar with your health insurance card!) Planned Parenthood has tons of info, and you can even book an appointment online! Healthy Futures of Texas and Alamo Area Resource Center are fantastic, especially for LGBTQ+ health resources!

Not having sex? Or only having sex once in a while? Check out: https://tinyurl.com/youngpeoplelesssex.