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Birth control, or contraception, is any method that is used to help prevent pregnancy. Different types of birth control work in different ways, and can have different side effects.

What contraceptive method is best for me? 

Take this quiz from Planned Parenthood! It takes 10 minutes and offers options based on your preferences.

When it comes to choosing a contraception method for yourself, there are a number of factors to consider.

  • How well does it work: You may want to consider how well the method protects you from pregnancy. IUDs and implants are highly effective methods - fewer than 1 in 100 women get pregnant while properly using an IUD or implant. On the other hand, using just a condom, 18 in 100 women get pregnant every year.

  • Hormones: You may prefer a method that does not have hormones. Or perhaps it doesn't matter to you! Read more about how hormones in contraception works below

  • Menstrual Cycle (your period): You might want a method that does not change your period, or you might prefer a method that actually reduces or eliminates your period.

  • Frequency of Use: You may want a method that doesn't require much upkeep (like an implant or IUD). Or perhaps you're okay with taking something daily (pill) or going into a clinic every few months (shot). 

  • Side Effects: Some methods are linked to more side effects (weight gain, mood swings) than others. 

  • Other medical conditions: Sometimes, birth control may interact with other medical conditions, so talk to a doctor to figure out what may be best for you. You can request an appointment with a Violet provider here.


These are just a few factors you may want to take into consideration when choosing the best method for you.

Categories of contraceptive methods


Hormonal methods are types of birth control that use synthetic hormones to prevent ovulation (the release of an egg), therefore preventing conception. 

These methods are: 

  • The Implant

  • The Shot

  • The Ring

  • The Patch

  • The Pill

  • Hormonal IUD 

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods are methods of birth control that physically prevent sperm from reaching the egg, therefore preventing conception.


CONDOMS are the only contraception that also protect you from the majority of STIs

Male (external) and female (internal) condoms both protect you from STIs. 

Other Methods

Other methods that do not fall into either of these categories include: 

  • Withdrawl

  • Fertility awareness

  • Surgical procedures (vasectomy, sterilization, tubal ligation)

  • Spermicide

  • Abstinence - the only birth control that is 100% effective

You can always use a hormonal method PLUS condoms
to protect you from pregnancy and STIs!

How does contraception work? 

4 different ways

Releases a hormone (progestin): implant, pill, some types of IUDs (Mirena, Liletta, Skyla, Kyleena) 

Releases hormones (progestin and estrogen): patch, pill, shot (Depo-Provera) 

Contains copper: some types of IUDs (ParaGard)

Blocks sperm from reaching egg: condoms

Estrogen prevents pregnancy by: 

  • thickening the cervical mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to reach an egg


Progestin/progesterone prevents pregnancy by: 

  • preventing an egg from being released during one’s monthly menstrual cycle (period)

  • damaging or killing sperm

  • making it harder for a fertilized egg to grow in the uterus by thinning the cushioned lining (menstrual lining)

Copper prevents pregnancy by:

  • creating an inflammatory reaction in the uterus that makes eggs and sperm unable to survive

how does contraceptio work?

Using Condoms

Don't wait until you are in the heat of the moment. 

Have a discussion with your partner and be honest and open about how you feel about using condoms. If your partner is hesitant about using condoms, you can show them this website to share facts about why condoms are important to keep you both safe and healthy.

Could I have a latex allergy?
How to put on a condom: infographic!

If you are a Baltimore resident, you can sign up for free monthly delivery of 10 condoms to an address of your choosing at this link. Alternatively, you can call 443-524-0220 to pick up free condoms from LIGHT Health and Wellness Comprehensive Services, located at 2200 North Monroe Street, Baltimore, MD, 21217.

using condoms

How well does each method work?

These are the number of pregnancies out of 100 women that occurred in 1 year while the woman was on the method. 

0.05 pregnancies

Implant (Nexplanon)

0.2 pregnancies

Hormonal IUD

0.8 pregnancies

Copper IUD

0.15 pregnancies


0.5 pregnancies

Tubal Ligation

6 pregnancies

Shot (Depo-Provera)

9 pregnancies

The Pill

9 pregnancies

The Patch

9 pregnancies

The Ring

18 pregnancies

External Condom

21 pregnancies

Internal Condom

22 pregnancies


24 pregnancies

The Sponge

24 pregnancies

Fertility Awareness

28 pregnancies


how well does it work

How often do I have to use the method?

The Pill

Fertility Awareness



Diaphragm or Cervical Cap

Sponge and Spermicide


The Patch

The Ring

The Shot





Use everyday
Use every time you have sex
Every week
Lasts 3+ years 
Every month
Every 3 months
how often do you use

All about the methods

For more information about all of the below, check out this Hopkins page
the methods
nexplanon example_edited.png
The Implant


iud example_edited.png
iud example in uterus_edited.png
The Shot
The Shot.png


The Ring
The Ring inside Vagina.png
The Ring.png
The Patch
The Pill.png
The Pill
External Condom
The Condom.png

"Male condom"

internal condom
Internal Condom

"Female condom"

Spermicide .png
Spermicide +
& Phexxi!
Diaphragm/Cervical Cap
Fertility Tracking.png
Fertility Awareness

"Rhythm method"


"Pulling out"


"Male sterilization"

Tubal Ligation

"Female sterilization"

dental dam.png
Dental Dam

Abstinence means refraining from sex. Abstinence can mean different things to different people. Abstinence is the only method of contraception that is 100% effective. For some people, refraining from sex can be challenging, so it takes careful consideration and self awareness to know if this method will be right for you. 

To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of abstinence take a look this page from Planned Parenthood.

decision tool.png

Accessing Contraception

Over the Counter

Most over the counter options are barrier methods, which prevent pregnancy by blocking the sperm from entering the egg. These include: 

  • Internal & external condoms 

  • Spermicide 

  • Sponge 

Emergency contraception is birth control that can be used to prevent pregnancy for up to 5 days after having unprotected sex. Some forms of emergency contraception are also available over the counter. One form of emergency contraception is the morning-after pill, and many brands of the pill (such as Plan B) can be purchased at a drug store or grocery store. It’s important to know the following information: 

  • Sometimes these pills are kept behind the register or in a locked box, so you may need to ask an employee for help finding it and checking out.  

  • Not all drug stores or grocery stores stock over the counter morning-after pills, and you may need to visit a different store or call a few stores to find it. 

  • Plan B pills and its generic options (pills with the same ingredients but a different name, including AfterPill and Next Choice) may not work if you weigh over 165 pounds—read the packaging carefully. There are other forms of emergency contraception that are effective regardless, explained below. 

You can buy and store Plan B before you need to use it, which can reduce the risk that you won’t be able to find it within that 5 day window of time. Some websites and organizations offer delivery options for Plan B through the mail; however, there is not a guarantee that it will arrive within the appropriate window of time, so the best option is always to find it in person as soon as you can. You should visit a local health clinic such as Planned Parenthood or reach out to your primary care provider if you can’t find it at a store near you. 

Prescription Options 

Birth control pills are available with a prescription from your doctor or a healthcare provider. You can set up an appointment with your primary care provider or go to a health clinic such as Planned Parenthood to get a prescription.  

Some forms of emergency contraception require a prescription and/or appointment. This includes: 

  • The ella pill, which is a form of the morning after pill and should be taken within 5 days of unprotected sex. The ella pill is more effective for people weighing over 165 pounds, but still may not work if you weigh 195 pounds or more. You can access a prescription rapidly through your primary care provider or through health clinics such as Planned Parenthood. 

  • A copper IUD is a form of emergency contraception that works for people of any weight. It is the most effective form of emergency contraception if put in within 5 days of unprotected sex. You should set up an appointment with your primary care provider or through a health clinic such as Planned Parenthood. 

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