Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, all American health insurance providers are required to cover various types of contraception with few exceptions. Because of the Affordable Care Act, if you have health insurance, you can get various contraceptive methods like “The Pill” or an IUD for free! If your insurance company or employer is one of those who is exempted from this provision of the Affordable Care Act because of their religious beliefs, don’t fret! Contact your local title X health clinic (we recommend Women’s Health Center of West Virginia), and they can help you access various birth control methods at a reduced cost.
Continuous Abstinence: Abstinence is not engaging in sexual intercourse with your partner. Other forms of erotic and sexual play can be enjoyed by people choosing to remain abstinent as long as sperm is kept away from the vagina. Continuous abstinence is 100% effective.
Fertility Awareness Method: The Fertility Awareness Method is a practice whereby a woman carefully observes two or three primary fertility signs to determine when she is fertile. The three primary fertility signs are: (1) basal body temperature (taken first thing in the morning), (2) cervical fluid (sometimes called mucus, observed throughout the day) and (3) the position of the cervix (optional). By charting these signs on a daily basis, a woman can then interpret when she is fertile and decide when to have intercourse in order to prevent pregnancy. For maximum effectiveness, the woman must be very committed to tracking these observations and either does not have any vaginal intercourse or uses a barrier method while she is fertile.
These methods are available for purchase without a prescription at most pharmacies or supermarkets.
Male/External Condom: A latex or plastic sheath that fits over the erect penis and collects semen preventing sperm from entering the vagina. Latex condoms are highly effective at preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV. Lambskin condoms protect against pregnancy but not STIs. Read the instructions included in the package before use. Male condoms are between 85 and 98% effective.
Female/Internal Condom: A plastic pouch worn inside the vagina during intercourse. The pouch collects semen, preventing sperm from entering the vagina. Female/internal condoms can be inserted up to 8 hours prior to penetrative vaginal sex. Female/internal condoms are not as widely available as the male/external condom and are more expensive. Condoms are highly effective at preventing STIs, including HIV. Read the instructions included in the package before use. Female/internal condoms are between 79 and 95% effective.
Vaginal Spermicides: Vaginal spermicide can come in various forms such as creams, foams, gels, and films. Spermicide is inserted deep inside your vagina before intercourse preventing sperm from meeting an egg. It is best used in combination with another barrier method such as a condom. Vaginal spermicides do not protect against HIV. Spermicides are between 71 and 82% effective.
These methods require one or multiple visits to a healthcare provider and/or pharmacy.
Hormonal methods contain synthetic hormones that are similar to estrogen and progesterone, the natural hormones produced by a woman’s body. These synthetic hormones prevent ovulation and sometimes thicken the cervical mucus, which prevents sperm from meeting an egg. Combined hormonal methods contain both synthetic estrogen and progesterone, called progestin. Progestin-only methods only contain progestin.
Birth Control Pill (“The Pill”): There are combined hormonal pills (combined oral contraceptives) and progestin-only pills. Birth control pills are taken every day in four week cycles. Three weeks of pills contain hormones followed by one week of inactive pills when most women will menstruate. Two brands of pill, Seasonale® and Seasonique® enable women to only have four periods per year. Birth control pills are between 92 and 99.7% effective.
Depo-Provera®: Depo-Provera® is taken by injection every three months. It is a progestin-only method and requires a visit to your healthcare provider every three months to receive the injection. Depo-Provera® is between 97 and 99.7% effective.
Nuvaring® Vaginal Ring (“The Ring”): A flexible vaginal ring that is self-inserted into the vagina where it stays for three weeks and is removed on the fourth week when most women will menstruate. It is a combined hormonal method that releases a steady low-dose of hormones to prevent pregnancy for one month. Nuvaring® is between 92 and 99.7% effective.
Ortho Evra® Transdermal System (“The Patch”): A Band-Aid™-like square that slowly releases hormones through the skin. It is a combined hormonal method that is changed weekly for three weeks and skipped on the fourth week when most women will menstruate. Ortho Evra® is between 92 and 99.7% effective.
Need help remembering to take your pills or make a doctor appointment? Our friends at Bedsider can help! Visit Bedsider.org for more information on birth control and reminders.
These methods do not contain hormones but still require a visit to your healthcare provider to determine the proper size for your body. Once you have been fitted and have a prescription for the device, you can pick it up at a pharmacy.
Cervical Cap: A cervical cap is a small latex or silicone thimble-like device used in conjunction with spermicide and inserted into the vagina before intercourse. Cervical caps are between 68 and 91% effective.
Diaphragm: A dome-shaped flexible latex or silicone barrier that is used in conjunction with spermicide. The diaphragm is inserted into the vagina before intercourse to cover the cervix. Diaphragms are between 84 and 94% effective.
INTRAUTERINE DEVICE (IUD)/INTRAUTERINE SYSTEM (IUS)
These devices are inserted into your uterus by a health care provider and work by preventing fertilization of an egg. The ParaGuard® IUD is effective for up to twelve years. The ParaGuard® is 99% effective. The Mirena® IUS contains progestin and is currently approved for up to five years. Mirena® is 99% effective. Skyla® also contains progestin, and is currently approved for up to three years of use. The IUD/IUS requires a visit to a healthcare provider for insertion and removal.
EMERGENCY BIRTH CONTROL
If you recently had unprotected sex you may still be able to prevent pregnancy with emergency birth control. For more information about emergency birth control, click here.
Non-reversible methods that provide permanent protection against pregnancy.
Tubal Ligation (Female Sterilization): Surgery performed by physician to block the fallopian tubes preventing sperm and egg from meeting. Requires a hospital visit or an extended visit with your physician. Tubal ligation is 99.5% effective.
Vasectomy (Male Sterilization): Surgery performed by physician that blocks the vas deferens (male organ) so that sperm is kept out of the ejaculate. Requires a hospital visit or an extended visit with your physician. Vasectomy is between 99.85 and 99.9% effective.
Contraceptive efficacy rates adapted from: Robert Hatcher et al. Contraceptive Technology—18th Revised edition, New York: Ardent Media, 792.