Find Your Method - Image

Find Your Method

Power to Decide, the campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy, believes that all young people deserve the opportunity to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant. And that means knowing all there is to know about birth control.

The explorer is a place for you to discover which birth control method is best for you. We’ve included every available method, from the IUD (and others on our most effective list) to condoms and more. Click on any method for more details. Want a more apples-to-apples way to compare? View a side-by-side comparison on Bedsider, Power to Decide's online birth control support network.

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IUD (Intrauterine Device)

The IUD is a little, t-shaped piece of plastic that gets put in your uterus to mess with the way sperm can move and prevent them from fertilizing an egg. Sounds odd, but it works like a charm. IUDs offer years of protection—between three and twelve, depending on the type you get. And if you want to get pregnant, you can have the IUD removed at any time. In the U.S. there are five IUDs: Mirena, ParaGard, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena.

Learn more

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Implant (Nexplanon)

The implant (Nexplanon is the brand name; previously Implanon) is a teeny-tiny rod that's inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It's so small, in fact, most people can't see it once it's inserted—which means it can be your little secret, if you're so inclined. The implant releases progestin, a hormone that keeps your ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens your cervical mucus—which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. It prevents pregnancy for up to four years. Not too shabby.

Learn more

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The Shot (Depo-Provera)

The shot is just what it sounds like—a shot that keeps you from getting pregnant. Once you get it, your birth control is covered for three full months—there’s nothing else you have to do. Some people call the shot “Depo,” short for Depo-Provera. (Pronounced like Johnny Depp-oh.) The shot contains progestin, a hormone that prevents your ovaries from releasing eggs. It also thickens your cervical mucus, which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. Worth considering even if you're afraid of needles... Because what's a little prick compared to a pregnancy?

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The Ring (NuvaRing)

The ring (brand name: NuvaRing) is a small, bendable ring that you insert into your vagina. (It kind of looks like one of those jelly bracelets from the 80s, but it feels a tiny bit stiffer.) You leave it in place for three weeks at a time, then take it out for the fourth week. The ring works by giving off hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.

Learn more

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The Patch

The patch is a thin, beige piece of plastic that looks like a square Band-Aid. It's a little less than two inches across, and comes in one—and only one—color. (Beige.) You stick the patch on your skin and it gives off hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. The brand name Ortho Evra isn't being produced anymore so if you use the patch, ask for the generic, Xulane.

Learn more

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The Pill

"The Pill" is a pill. (How's that for stating the obvious?) Some people call it "oral contraception." You take it once a day, at the same time every day. There are lots of different kinds of pills on the market, and new ones come out all the time. Most work by releasing hormones that keep your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.

Learn more

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Diaphragm

A diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped cup made of silicone. (Honestly, it looks like Meg Griffin's hat on The Family Guy. Except it's only a few inches in diameter.) You insert the diaphragm into your vagina. Then it covers your cervix and keeps sperm out of your uterus. One super important thing to remember: For a diaphragm to work effectively, you need to use it with spermicide.

Learn more

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Condom

Rubber. Jimmy-hat. Love sock. Wrapper. However you say it, condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control out there. They slip over the penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of STIs by keeping sperm inside the condom and out of the vagina. (There are also internal condoms that go inside the vagina.) Condoms come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, with lube and without.

Learn more

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Internal Condom

An internal (a.k.a. female) condom is a pouch you insert into your vagina. It's not the prettiest thing in the world (it looks a bit like a floppy, clear elephant trunk) but it is a method that gives you lots of control. Internal condoms work the same way that condoms do, except that you wear one on the inside instead of sticking it on a penis. They keep the guy's sperm inside the condom and out of your vagina.

Learn more

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Cervical Cap

A cervical cap is a silicone cup you insert in your vagina to cover your cervix and keep sperm out of your uterus. The "cap" part of the name is pretty dead on—the thing looks like a little rubber sailor's hat, maybe an inch and a half wide and one inch high. There's only one brand of cervical cap available in the U.S. today, and it's jauntily named the FemCap. One super important thing to remember: You need to use a cervical cap with spermicide for it to be most effective.

Learn more

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Fertility Awareness

Fertility awareness-based methods—or natural family planning—are all about tracking your menstrual cycle to determine the days that you can get pregnant. The tricky part is actually knowing when those days are. To do that, you'll need to pay very close attention to your body and its patterns. Here we list all the different ways you can monitor your day-to-day fertility.

Learn more

sponge-main-image

Sponge

The sponge is a round piece of white plastic foam with a little dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top that looks like shoelace material. It's pretty small—just two inches across—and you insert it way up in your vagina before you have sex. The sponge works in two ways: It blocks your cervix to keep sperm from getting into your uterus, and it continuously releases spermicide. Think of it like a bouncer at the nightclub door to your uterus.

Learn more

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Spermicide

“Spermicide” describes a bunch of different creams, films, foams, gels, and suppositories that contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving. You insert it deep in your vagina, so it also keeps sperm from getting through your cervix and into your uterus.

Learn more

withdrawal-main-image

Withdrawal

Withdrawal is the oldest form of birth control on the planet. There's not much to explain, really. The guy pulls out before he ejaculates. End of story. Some people call withdrawal the “pull out method.” Or you may hear people call it “coitus interruptus.” The key thing to remember is this: You've got to do it right—every single time—for withdrawal to be effective. And how many guys do you know with that kind of total control?

Learn more

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Sterilization

Sterilization is a procedure that closes or blocks your fallopian tubes so you can't get pregnant. (Your tubes are where eggs and sperm meet. If they can't meet, they can't hook up.) Guys also have a sterilization option—a vasectomy blocks the tubes that carry a man’s sperm. It's even safer and more effective than female sterilization. Talk to a health care provider to learn more and be sure to ask about state and federal requirements, like age restrictions and waiting periods.

Learn more

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"Not right now"

“Not right now” is our way of saying “no vaginal sex.” It’s a great method as far as effectiveness is concerned—if you use it 100% of the time, you’re guaranteed to not get pregnant. And if you’re avoiding sexual activity altogether, you’ll be safe from STIs too. But it does involve a whole lot of self-control.

Learn more

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Emergency Contraception

Emergency Contraception (EC) can stop a pregnancy before it starts. (That means the EC pills are not the same as the abortion pill.) There are four types of EC to choose from and they all work up to 5 days (or 120 hours) after unprotected sex. But use it sooner rather than later to reduce the possibility of getting pregnant.

Learn more

iud-main-image

IUD (Intrauterine Device)

The IUD is a little, t-shaped piece of plastic that gets put in your uterus to mess with the way sperm can move and prevent them from fertilizing an egg. Sounds odd, but it works like a charm. IUDs offer years of protection—between three and twelve, depending on the type you get. And if you want to get pregnant, you can have the IUD removed at any time. In the U.S. there are five IUDs: Mirena, ParaGard, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena.

Learn more

implant-main-image

Implant (Nexplanon)

The implant (Nexplanon is the brand name; previously Implanon) is a teeny-tiny rod that's inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It's so small, in fact, most people can't see it once it's inserted—which means it can be your little secret, if you're so inclined. The implant releases progestin, a hormone that keeps your ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens your cervical mucus—which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. It prevents pregnancy for up to four years. Not too shabby.

Learn more

sterilization-main-image

Sterilization

Sterilization is a procedure that closes or blocks your fallopian tubes so you can't get pregnant. (Your tubes are where eggs and sperm meet. If they can't meet, they can't hook up.) Guys also have a sterilization option—a vasectomy blocks the tubes that carry a man’s sperm. It's even safer and more effective than female sterilization. Talk to a health care provider to learn more and be sure to ask about state and federal requirements, like age restrictions and waiting periods.

Learn more

not_right_now-main-image

"Not right now"

“Not right now” is our way of saying “no vaginal sex.” It’s a great method as far as effectiveness is concerned—if you use it 100% of the time, you’re guaranteed to not get pregnant. And if you’re avoiding sexual activity altogether, you’ll be safe from STIs too. But it does involve a whole lot of self-control.

Learn more

condom-main-image

Condom

Rubber. Jimmy-hat. Love sock. Wrapper. However you say it, condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control out there. They slip over the penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of STIs by keeping sperm inside the condom and out of the vagina. (There are also internal condoms that go inside the vagina.) Condoms come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, with lube and without.

Learn more

internal_condom-main-image

Internal Condom

An internal (a.k.a. female) condom is a pouch you insert into your vagina. It's not the prettiest thing in the world (it looks a bit like a floppy, clear elephant trunk) but it is a method that gives you lots of control. Internal condoms work the same way that condoms do, except that you wear one on the inside instead of sticking it on a penis. They keep the guy's sperm inside the condom and out of your vagina.

Learn more

not_right_now-main-image

"Not right now"

“Not right now” is our way of saying “no vaginal sex.” It’s a great method as far as effectiveness is concerned—if you use it 100% of the time, you’re guaranteed to not get pregnant. And if you’re avoiding sexual activity altogether, you’ll be safe from STIs too. But it does involve a whole lot of self-control.

Learn more

iud-main-image

IUD (Intrauterine Device)

The IUD is a little, t-shaped piece of plastic that gets put in your uterus to mess with the way sperm can move and prevent them from fertilizing an egg. Sounds odd, but it works like a charm. IUDs offer years of protection—between three and twelve, depending on the type you get. And if you want to get pregnant, you can have the IUD removed at any time. In the U.S. there are five IUDs: Mirena, ParaGard, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena.

Learn more

diaphragm-main-image

Diaphragm

A diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped cup made of silicone. (Honestly, it looks like Meg Griffin's hat on The Family Guy. Except it's only a few inches in diameter.) You insert the diaphragm into your vagina. Then it covers your cervix and keeps sperm out of your uterus. One super important thing to remember: For a diaphragm to work effectively, you need to use it with spermicide.

Learn more

condom-main-image

Condom

Rubber. Jimmy-hat. Love sock. Wrapper. However you say it, condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control out there. They slip over the penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of STIs by keeping sperm inside the condom and out of the vagina. (There are also internal condoms that go inside the vagina.) Condoms come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, with lube and without.

Learn more

internal_condom-main-image

Internal Condom

An internal (a.k.a. female) condom is a pouch you insert into your vagina. It's not the prettiest thing in the world (it looks a bit like a floppy, clear elephant trunk) but it is a method that gives you lots of control. Internal condoms work the same way that condoms do, except that you wear one on the inside instead of sticking it on a penis. They keep the guy's sperm inside the condom and out of your vagina.

Learn more

cervical_cap-main-image

Cervical Cap

A cervical cap is a silicone cup you insert in your vagina to cover your cervix and keep sperm out of your uterus. The "cap" part of the name is pretty dead on—the thing looks like a little rubber sailor's hat, maybe an inch and a half wide and one inch high. There's only one brand of cervical cap available in the U.S. today, and it's jauntily named the FemCap. One super important thing to remember: You need to use a cervical cap with spermicide for it to be most effective.

Learn more

fertility_awareness-main-image

Fertility Awareness

Fertility awareness-based methods—or natural family planning—are all about tracking your menstrual cycle to determine the days that you can get pregnant. The tricky part is actually knowing when those days are. To do that, you'll need to pay very close attention to your body and its patterns. Here we list all the different ways you can monitor your day-to-day fertility.

Learn more

sponge-main-image

Sponge

The sponge is a round piece of white plastic foam with a little dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top that looks like shoelace material. It's pretty small—just two inches across—and you insert it way up in your vagina before you have sex. The sponge works in two ways: It blocks your cervix to keep sperm from getting into your uterus, and it continuously releases spermicide. Think of it like a bouncer at the nightclub door to your uterus.

Learn more

spermicide-main-image

Spermicide

“Spermicide” describes a bunch of different creams, films, foams, gels, and suppositories that contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving. You insert it deep in your vagina, so it also keeps sperm from getting through your cervix and into your uterus.

Learn more

withdrawal-main-image

Withdrawal

Withdrawal is the oldest form of birth control on the planet. There's not much to explain, really. The guy pulls out before he ejaculates. End of story. Some people call withdrawal the “pull out method.” Or you may hear people call it “coitus interruptus.” The key thing to remember is this: You've got to do it right—every single time—for withdrawal to be effective. And how many guys do you know with that kind of total control?

Learn more

sterilization-main-image

Sterilization

Sterilization is a procedure that closes or blocks your fallopian tubes so you can't get pregnant. (Your tubes are where eggs and sperm meet. If they can't meet, they can't hook up.) Guys also have a sterilization option—a vasectomy blocks the tubes that carry a man’s sperm. It's even safer and more effective than female sterilization. Talk to a health care provider to learn more and be sure to ask about state and federal requirements, like age restrictions and waiting periods.

Learn more

not_right_now-main-image

"Not right now"

“Not right now” is our way of saying “no vaginal sex.” It’s a great method as far as effectiveness is concerned—if you use it 100% of the time, you’re guaranteed to not get pregnant. And if you’re avoiding sexual activity altogether, you’ll be safe from STIs too. But it does involve a whole lot of self-control.

Learn more

All content from Bedsider.org, a program of Power to Decide.
Fact Sheet
The policies detailed in this fact sheet help expand access to and information about contraception, but none of them alone is a panacea.
Fact Sheet
Birth control is directly linked to a wide array of benefits to women, men, children, and society, including fewer unplanned pregnancies.
View All Birth Control Content