How to Choose a Contraceptive Method

Read below about factors that may affect your contraceptive choices, or you can take Planned Parenthood's quiz.


You can compare effectiveness at Contraception Home.  Effectiveness is typically shown as failure rates, that is, the percentage of women who experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use of a contraceptive method. The lower the failure rate, the more effective that method is at preventing pregnancy. The most effective methods are IUD and Implant because they essentially eliminate user error.


  • How important is it that your method is highly effective? The most effective methods are IUD and Implant.
  • Are you willing to talk to and involve your partner(s) in decision making and use of contraception? 
  • To what degree will your partner(s) accept, support and help pay for a method? If you would prefer to to keep your method private from partners, you can talk to your health care provider about options. Or if a partner is unwilling to take an active and supportive role, you may want to reconsider that relationship.
  • Are you willing to take a daily Birth Control Pill, at about the same time every day, and if you miss a pill, use condoms as a back-up method? If considering the Pill, are you able to remember to call in prescription refills and pick them up from a pharmacy regularly, possibly every month? (Some insurances require monthly refills, while others allow you to pick up multiple months of pills at once.)
  • Are you able to insert a barrier such as a Sponge, Diaphragm or Cervical Cap into the vagina before sex, and are you able to remove it after sex?
  • Is controlling your period important to you? Some methods, for example some Birth Control Pills may be used to control when and how often you have your period. The hormonal IUD may reduce or stop bleeding. 
  • For how long do you need to prevent pregnancy? IUD and Implant are very effective for several years if left in place but can be removed if you wish to become pregnant. Sterilization is a permanent option.
  • How will you prevent sexually transmitted infections (STI) including HIV? Most methods provide no protection against STI, but External Condoms or Internal Condoms provide protection and can be used with all other methods.
  • Are you willing to visit a health care provider? Many contraception methods require a health care provider to prescribe or insert it. If you would prefer not to visit a health care provider to get contraception, you may want to explore methods that are available in stores without a prescription (External Condoms, Internal Condoms, Sponge).

Discuss with your health care provider:

Your health care provider can advise you about risks for any method you are considering. For example, they can help you consider pros and cons of Birth Control Pills, which may protect against problems such as acne, some cancers, and migraine headaches but also increase health risks for women who smoke and are over age 35. 

In particular, hormonal methods (Shot, Pill, Patch, Ring, Implant) can cause side effects in some users. Initially, nausea, breast tenderness and irregular bleeding may occur but will probably resolve over the first three months. Other less common side effects such as headaches and increased blood pressure require evaluation by a health care provider. Side effects may be mild and easily tolerated, or they may be a deal breaker. You may not know whether you will have side effects until you actually try a method, or a particular formulation of a method such as the pill.


How much does a method cost, and how will you pay for it?  

Will you need to pay for it as needed (as with External CondomsInternal Condoms, and Sponges), monthly (as with Birth Control Pills) or with a more substantial up-front cost (as with IUD and Implant)? Note that sometimes paying up front for a long-acting method can be more cost-effective than less expensive methods.

Will you pay on your own, with help from someone else and/or through insurance? For privacy, some students choose to pay for contraception themselves rather than use their family's insurance. See also Contraception Cost, Insurance and Payment