Birth Control Methods – Pros and Cons

By Julie Henne-Reese, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner

There are many birth control methods to choose from, but they differ in ease of use, cost and effectiveness. Some are available over the counter while others require a prescription or a medical procedure. MPCP offers several products, including birth control pills, implants (Implanon and Nexaplanon) and IUDs (Mirena and Skyla).

The chart below lists some of the most effective birth control methods, with pros and cons for their use. The descriptions are only an overview and do not contain complete information. Talk to your medical provider about these and other methods to determine what works best for you.

Keep in mind, most birth control products don’t prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Your medical provider can advise you on how to stay safe.

Which Method is Right for You?

Method Effectiveness Features Pros Cons
Birth Control Implant 99% Matchstick-sized rod that doctor places under the skin of woman's upper arm. Releases hormone to prevent pregnancy Lasts 3-5 years. You don’t have to think about it More expensive than other methods
IUD (Intrauterine Device) 99% Placed inside the uterus to prevent conception Lasts 5-10 years. Low maintenance More expensive, may cause irregular/heavy periods
Vasectomy 99% For men. Doctor surgically closes the tubes that carry sperm from the testes Does not affect ejaculation May not be reversible, more expensive
Tubal Ligation 99% Surgeon closes off the fallopian tubes, preventing eggs from leaving the ovaries Very effective May not be reversible, more expensive
Tubal Implants 99% Doctor puts a small metal or silicone implant inside each fallopian tube, blocking them and preventing ovulation test Very effective, doesn’t require surgery Not reversible, more expensive
Birth Control Shot 97% Hormonal shot protects against pregnancy for three months. It is injected four times a year Since you don’t have to think about it, is usually better than birth control pills More expensive. May cause spotting and other side effects
Birth Control Pill 92%-95% Uses female hormones estrogen or progestin to prevent ovulation Very effective if used right. May cause more regular, lighter periods, or no periods May cause breast tenderness, spotting, blood clots and raised blood pressure
Vaginal Ring 92%-95% Soft plastic ring goes inside the vagina. It releases the same hormones as the pill. A woman replaces it herself once a month Works as well as the pill. May cause lighter, more regular periods May cause vaginal irritation or other side effects similar to the pill
Male Condom 84-89% Latex condom blocks sperm from entering the woman's body Inexpensive. One of the few birth control methods to prevent sexually transmitted diseases Not reusable. Effective only if used correctly every time
Diaphragm 84-89% Rubber dome that a woman places over her cervix before sex. It is used with spermicide Inexpensive Doctor must initially fit it to ensure proper function
Cervical Cap 84-89% Similar to a diaphragm but smaller. Slips into place over the cervix. Used with spermicide Inexpensive, can stay in place for 48 hours Doctor must initially fit it to ensure proper function
Birth Control Sponge 84-89% Made of foam and contains spermicide. A woman can place it against her cervix up to 24 hours before sex Effective immediately. Works about as well as the cervical cap Can be hard to put in

Julie Henne-Reese, CRNP

Julie Henne-Reese, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center in Family Practice. She sees patients in MPCP’s Queenstown office.