When you think about birth control, chances are your mind jumps straight to two things: condoms and birth control pills. But there are SO many other options out there, and it’s important to know about them all—that way you can choose the method that’s truly best for you. Feeling overwhelmed by all the choices? Don’t sweat it, here’s your cheat sheet:
The Patch. The patch is a thin, plastic, hormone filled patch that you wear on your skin and change once a week. “The patch is great for girls who have liked being on birth control pills because it gives them easier periods and clears up their skin, but don’t want to take a pill every day.” says Dr. Kate White, an OB/GYN and the Director of the Family Planning Fellowship at Boston University. “Many girls find that changing a patch once a week is easier than a daily pill.”
The Ring. The ring is a small flexible ring that you insert into your vagina, leave for three weeks, take out for a week, and then put in a new one. “Similar to the patch, the ring is great for girls who love the benefits of the pill but want something that lasts a while that they don’t have to think about too often.” says Dr. Kate. “Additionally the ring is great for people who want to sometimes skip their periods because you can safely and healthily use two rings back-to-back without a week off, which will help you skip a cycle.”
The Shot. The shot is an injection you get from your doctor once every 3 months. “This method is perfect for girls who are really concerned about privacy.” says Dr. Kate. “No one has to know you’re on the shot but you and your doctor.”
A Hormonal IUD. An IUD is a small T-shaped piece of plastic that a doctor inserts into your uterus and prevents you from getting pregnant for up to 5 years. It can be taken out before 5 years, but your doctor has to be the one who does it. “An IUD is especially good for girls who just don’t want to think about their birth control.” says Dr. Kate. “Plus, since it has hormones it helps girls who have lousy periods because it makes bleeding and cramping better.”
A Copper IUD. A Copper IUD contains copper as well as plastic, and doesn’t contain any hormones. “It’s good for girls who want to go to the doctor, ‘set it and forget it,’ and who don’t want any hormones.” says Dr. Kate.
The Implant. The implant is a tiny rod that contains hormones and is inserted under your skin by your doctor. It can last up to 4 years, but like an IUD, your doctor has to both insert it and remove it. “This is great for girls who want something that lasts a while but are too afraid of a pelvic exam.” says Dr. Kate. “You can also feel for the implant whenever you want, if you need to reassure yourself that it’s still there.”
A Diaphragm. A diaphragm is a small rubber dome you put spermicide on and then insert into your vagina before sex. “It’s great for girls who want to avoid all hormones and also who only want to use birth control when they are going to have sex—instead of being on something constantly.” says Dr. Kate. “But it’s not nearly as effective as the other methods.”
An Internal Condom. An internal condom is a pouch that you insert into your vagina—it’s like a condom that you wear internally. “An internal condom is a good choice if you want to protect yourself from STIs and can’t make your partner wear a condom.” says Dr. Kate.
There is no one type of birth control that is best for everyone. To find the type that works best for you, you may have to try a few and learn what you like and what you don’t. And, says Dr. Kate, “You date your birth control, you don’t marry it—don’t be afraid to make a change if it’s not working for you.”