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All Things Birth Control
How to get it, how it works, and how to find the method for you. We're answering all your birth control questions.
How can I know if a condom broke after sex, and how do I know if it was effective?
A broken condom is usually a noticable rip or tear, there shouldn't be any tiny holes unless someone has intentionally damaged them.
When condoms break, it’s usually because:
- Space for semen wasn’t left at the tip of the condom
- The condoms are out-of-date
- The condoms have been exposed to heat or sunlight
- The condoms have been torn by teeth or fingernails
If the condom broke, even if you didn’t feel anything, sperm may have still entered the vagina. If you think you might be pregnant—or if your period is late—be sure to take a pregnancy test or contact a health care professional who can give you one. If it’s early enough after the condom broke, you can use emergency contraception as a backup; emergency contraception or EC is a method of birth control that stops pregnancy from happening. It’s not meant to be used as your primary method of birth control—but we all know that accidents (like the condom breaking) happen, so it's best to know about this method before you need it. Learn more about EC here.I find this helpful
How do you have safe sex (by this I refer to methods to protect from getting pregnant) in the shower or in a pool?
No matter where you’re doing it, if you are having sex you should always protect yourself against STIs and unplanned pregnancy. One problem here is that condoms and water don’t always mix. You should be using a hormonal method of birth control (like the pill, patch, or ring) to protect from unplanned pregnancy, but that doesn't protect from STIs. So along with a hormonal method, use a silicone-based, water-resistant lubricant condom if you're having sex in water—it’s more comfortable and will make it more likely that your condom stays intact.
Remember: Despite the myths, the heat or chlorine in a hot tub or a pool will not kill sperm or make it more difficult for sperm to swim. In fact, having sex underwater can be uncomfortable for some women. First, the water can wash away the natural lubrication that your body produces, which can lead to irritation and discomfort during sex. If you’re using oils and bath salts, that can also irritate some vaginas and may even cause painful UTIs or yeast infections. If sex starts to hurt, you should stop what you’re doing and take a break or try something else. If the pain or irritation continues (or if you often experience pain during sex), you may want to see a health care provider.I find this helpful
What is the best method to have safe sex without getting an STI?
Barrier methods like male condoms and female condoms are the only birth control methods that also provide STI protection (besides abstinence, of course). If you decide that you are ready for sex, use dual protection to prevent STIs AND pregnancy. Dual protection is using a condom AND another form of birth control–like the pill, patch, or a long-acting birth control method like an implant or IUD. Visit our Birth Control Explorer to check out all of the birth control options available to you—and don't forget to talk to your health care provider about your concerns!I find this helpful
Where can I buy birth control without a prescription?
One of the easiest methods of birth control to obtain privately is condoms, because there are no age restrictions and they require no prescription.
If you’re interested in hormonal birth control (like the pill, patch, ring, shot, implant, and IUD), those usually require a visit to a health care provider for a prescription. (Though some states are starting to allow pharmacists to prescribe some hormonal methods) Each state makes its own laws about confidentiality for patients under 18. When calling to make an appointment, tell your age, ask if you need parental consent for your visit and the method you want, and ask whether the clinic guarantees confidentiality. If you’re visiting your usual health care provider’s office using health insurance under a parent’s name, try calling your insurance and doctor’s office to ask about confidentiality.
Need help finding a clinic? Use our clinic locator; just type in your zip code for all the info you’ll need to find a health center nearby.
Is the birth control shot more effective than birth control pills?
The shot (a.k.a. Depo Provera or the depo shot) is pretty effective—about 94% with typical use. For the shot to be most effective, you have to stay on top of getting your shot on time every three months. Getting your shot late increases your chances of getting pregnant, even if your periods haven’t returned to normal. Compare this to birth control pills— they're 91% effective with typical use—that's because it's more difficult to remember to take a pill everyday.
No matter which method you use, it’s a good idea to use a condom along with a hormonal method. Condoms offer STI protection (and extra pregnancy prevention), so using them with hormonal birth control really covers all the bases!I find this helpful
How safe is it really for young girls to be on the birth control pill just for the sake of not having heavy periods or cramps or should they learn just to deal with it?
It is safe! A recent study found that one in five American girls between the ages of 13 and 18, two-and-a-half million teens in all, are on the birth control. Do some research on your own and then make an appointment with your doctor to talk to them and get a perscription.I find this helpful
My mom is extremely against me being on birth control, but my boyfriend and I will probably have sex at some point in the future. How can I (I'm 19) get birth control without her knowing?
There are few ways you can get birth control, depending on the type. Condoms can be purchased with cash at most pharmacies and grocery stores. Many Planned Parenthoods and student health centers have condoms for either next-to-nothing or free.
If you'd like to get another method of birth control, you can make an appointment with your general doctor or gyecologist (or student health center if your school has one) to talk about birth control and sex. Doctor–patient confidentiality means that no one can talk to your parents about these topics without your permission.
The Pill is covered by your health insurance, but if you are on your parents' plan, they may know if insurance pays for it. If you want to pay for the Pill yourself, it's about $15 to $50 a month, depending on the type. You can even call the pharmacy yourself beforehand to find out which brands (or generics) are cheapest so you can request it specifically from your doctor.
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Is it a good idea to go on a birth control pill even if you don't plan to have sex?
It's your call. If you're not currently sexually active, but want to be prepared for the future then getting on birth control is a great idea. Some people also use birth control to lessen period symptoms such as cramping or to make sure they always know when their period is going to come. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss which option will work best for you and to get a perscription.I find this helpful
Does someone need to go to a gynecologist to receive the birth control implant?
Yep; because the implant is a hormonal contraceptive AND needs to be inserted, you’ll have to visit your medical provider to get one (but you’ll only need to go once to have it inserted and once to have it removed). Learn about the implant and other types of birth control at our Birth Control Explorer.I find this helpful
I'm nervous about taking the Depo shot. What are the most common negatives?
Here are the most common side effects of the shot:
- Changes in appetite, weight, and mood.
- Headache, nausea, and sore breasts.
- Irregular bleeding (getting the shot can cause spotting).
- No STI protection (it’s a good idea to double up with a second method like a male/female condom if you’re using the shot as your primary method).
Learn more about this and other kinds of birth control on our Birth Control Explorer.I find this helpful
What's the best over the counter birth control for someone who is trying to regulate their period & reduce acne?
In the United States, most forms of birth control require a perscription. But there are a number of types that may help with your period and acne. For example, the hormones present in combination birth control pills can combat acne. Check out our Birth Control Explorer to learn more and talk to your doctor about which option may work best for you.I find this helpful
When can I be sexually active after getting my birth control implant??
You can have sex right away after it's inserted, but unless you got the implant during the first five days of your period you'll need to use a back-up method such a condom to protect against pregnancy. If you got your implant outside of this period you should use condoms for seven days to stay safe.I find this helpful
Does it hurt to get an IUD?
Some women report that IUD insertion is painful/uncomfortable. But not every woman experiences pain. Talk to your medical provider to learn more and keep in mind that if this method doesn’t work for you, there are LOTS more out there…but it’s best to wait at least six months to see if things get better before you decide to switch. If it doesn't, or if you just can’t deal with it, talk with your medical provider about finding something that works for you.I find this helpful
Can I use multiple forms of birth control?
You can! And many people recommend using two methods: condoms and some kind of hormonal birth control (like the IUD or the Pill) in combination. Using condoms also has the added benefit of protecting you against STIs. However, it's not recommended to combine hormonal methods as the side effects of these methods can be serious. At the end of the day, it’s a good idea to check out your birth control options and talk to your doctor to get a perscription for birth control.I find this helpful
Nexplanon is a form of birth contorl. It's also called the implant and is a very small rod inserted under the skin of a woman's upper arm to provide birth control. It's invisible and prevents pregnancy for up to 4 years. Learn more about the implant and other types of birth control on our birth control explorer!I find this helpful
Can I have an IUD inserted if I've never had sex?
Great question, you can have an IUD inserted even if you have never had sex. This is a great discussion to have with your healthcare provider though to make sure that it's the best type of birth control for you!I find this helpful
What type of birth control options are there for teenage first time birth control users?
No option is totally off limits for first time birth control users. The type of birth control you choose may change as you get older or try to find the type that works best for you. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss all of your options and to get a perscription. Check out our Birth Control Explorer to do some research on your own. Need help finding a clinic? Use our clinic locator; just type in your zip code for all the info you’ll need to find a health center nearby.I find this helpful
Is the Mirena IUD common with teenagers? I would feel I would be the only one using it.
Common can mean different things depending on what you're talking about. Some survey's suggest that many teens haven't even heard about IUDs and overall we don't know that much about teenage IUD usage. There are so many birth control options, so check out our Birth Control Explorer and have a chat with your doctor to find a method that works for you. Need help finding a clinic? Use our clinic locator; just type in your zip code for all the info you’ll need to find a health center nearby.I find this helpful
What are the 4 most effective methods of birth control?
There are so many birth control options, and everyone's needs are different. So check out our Birth Control Explorer and have a chat with your doctor to find a method that works for you.
- Abstinence is 100% effective.
- Implant is 99% effective.
- IUD is 99% effective.
- Shot is 94% effective.
- Pill is 91% effective.
- Ring is 91% effective.
- Patch is 91% effective.
- Diaphragm is 88% effective.
- Male condom is 82% effective.
- Female condom is 79% effective.
- Withdrawal is 78% effective.
- Sponge is 76%-88% effective.
Do you have to be sexually active to get birth control? Like I'm about to have sex for the first time will the birth control work for me?
If you're not currently sexually active, but want to be prepared for the future then getting on birth control is a great idea. Some people also use birth control to lessen period symptoms such as cramping or to make sure they always know when their period is going to come. It’s a good idea to check out your birth control options, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss which option will work best for you, and to get a perscription. Need help finding a clinic? Use our clinic locator; just type in your zip code for all the info you’ll need to find a health center nearby.I find this helpful
For emergency contraception to work it needs to be used within how many days of having unprotected sex?
A pill that can stop a pregnancy before it starts; it's meant as a backup plan, not regular birth control. It depends on the method that you’re using, but all forms of emergency contraception significantly reduce the chance of pregnancy if taken within five days of unprotected sex.I find this helpful
Can I get pregnant if I had sex and he did ejaculate, but I missed my pill?
As with most methods of birth control, you are able to get pregnant as soon as you stop taking your pill. That's why it's important to use birth control consistently. You may want to check in with a health care provider and get tested for STIs and pregnancy. Better safe than sorry, right? Plus, they can help you decide if there may be a be better method that works for you. Need help finding a health center? We’ve got you covered—just enter your ZIP code in our Clinic Locator.I find this helpful
Am I still covered for that week I don't take my pill?
Yes but... you're only covered if you took the first three weeks of pills right. That means you took all 21 pills, one a day, at the same time every day. That's because the pill works by releasing 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. Remember that the pill doesn't protect you from STIs. It’s a good idea to double up your hormonal birth control method by using condoms too.I find this helpful
Those little pill/tablet things in the back of a pregnancy test. Can you get pregnant if you take it? Does it act like a morning after pill or more like a pregnancy permanent thing? Is it even a pill at all?
Pregnancy tests don't come with pills to make your pregnant or end a pregnancy. If you're referring to the pill like thing on the inside of the test, that is part of the chemical reaction that makes the test work.I find this helpful
How do general spermicides work?
Placed deep inside a woman's vagina before sex, spermicides are a chemical that slows sperm down so it can't reach the egg. A cream, foam, gel, film, or suppositiory, it can be used alone or combined with other forms of birth control.I find this helpful
How does Depo-Provera work?
Depo-Provera (or the shot) is a shot that you receive every three months. It contains the hormone progestin, which stops you from getting pregnant by preventing ovulation and by thickening the cervical mucus. 94% effective at preventing pregnancy, the shot doesn't protect against STIs. So if you're going to use it make sure you double up and use condoms to protect against those.I find this helpful
I am wondering if I can get birth control without my parent knowing?
You can! There is no age limit for getting a prescription for and buying birth control. You can go to your doctor or find another clinic (just enter your ZIP code in our Clinic Locator) to get a prescription for hormonal birth control (know all your options by checking out our Birth Control Explorer). If you're on your parents health insurance you may want to pay out of pocket so they don't see the bill, but if you have your own insurance then you're all set.
If you are paying out of pocket and are concerned about the cost of birth control, talk to your doctor before you get your prescription to make sure that what they give you is in your budget.I find this helpful
Can I get pregnant if I am on birth control pills, but they were prescribed for skin problems?
While the hormones in combination birth control pills can help reduce acne, their main purpose is to prevent pregnancy. So yes, no matter why you got a prescription for birth control pills, they'll protect you from getting pregnant.
If you're having sex it’s a good idea to double up with a hormonal birth control method plus condoms, so you’re protected against STIs too!I find this helpful
What is one way to have sex with out getting pregnant or getting STIs or AIDS?
Condoms! Condoms are 82% effective at protecting against unplanned pregnancy and the only method of birth control that will also protect you against STIs and AIDS.I find this helpful
Why would adolescents use or not use the hormonal implant?
There are a lot of birth control options available depending on your preferences. The implant is 99% effective and works for up to 3 years after it's put in. It can be a good option for those who worry about remembering to use birth control every time they have sex. You'll need a perscription, so talk to your health care provider to help make your final decision. Need help finding a health center? We’ve got you covered—just enter your ZIP code in our Clinic Locator.I find this helpful
I'm 16 and on the pill. I get heavy bleeding more than once per month and my periods are very painful. I've also put on about 20lbs since going on the pill. Could another other form of contraception like an IUD or implant work better for me?
Thanks for your question, but since we cannot offer specific medical advice on the internet, we recommend that you talk to your health care provider. There’s a ton of birth control methods out there, so check out our Birth Control Explorer to learn more. If you need help finding a health care provider or someone to talk to, you can check out our clinic finder!I find this helpful
My daughters GP will not authorize this implant in her arm as it may cause infertility and they only advise it for people 25+ ..... they suggest the pill but that's just not secure enough for my liking .... what are my options?
How frustrating! This may be cause to seek a second opinion if you can find someone in network that you trust. If you are interested in learning about different methods check out our method explorer. If you are looking for a method similar to the implant, check out the IUD.I find this helpful
What is the best type of birth control for an 18 year old woman?
The best type of birth control for a person is dependant on a lot of factors, only one of which is your age. Some women prefer to take a pill every day, but others know they'll forget. Some women don't want to take a hormonal method, while for some that doesn't matter. Your personal preferences matter as much as your age when it comes to making a decision. There’s a ton of birth control methods out there, so check out our Birth Control Explorer to learn more. Talk to a health care provider to discuss your personal situation and desired outcome. Need help finding a health center? We’ve got you covered—just enter your ZIP code in our Clinic Locator.I find this helpful
What are the pros and cons of hormonal birth control?
Hormonal birth control methods include, birth control pills, patches, vaginal rings, shots, implants, and some IUDs. These methods require a perscription from your doctor and none protect against STIs. Some may not be as effective when taken with certain medicines (you'd need to talk to a health care provider to be sure) and they may delay your normal cycle.
When used correctly they provide you with contsant protection though. So there's no need to interrupt foreplay to get a condom or use another type of method. And for some women hormonal birth control reduces period cramps or acne. Since we cannot offer specific medical advice on the internet, we recommend that you talk to your health care provider to decide which type of method will work best for you. If you need help finding a health care provider, you can check out our clinic finder!I find this helpful
Do you bleed a lot when you're on the pill?
First, there are a lot of different types of birth control pills and they can work differently for different women. In general, your periods will become lighter, shorter, and include less cramping. Some women have very little bleeding or may skip periods. If you think your period has changed since you started taking the pill, talk to your health care provider about your concerns. If you need help finding a health care provider or someone to talk to, you can check out our clinic finder!I find this helpful