Other than the popular birth control pills and condoms, there are numerous other birth control methods for you to choose from.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing the best birth control method for yourself. This includes efficacy, accessibility, safety, benefits, and convenience.

Best Contraceptive Method

Birth control pills might be incredibly effective. However, in real-life scenarios, it’s efficacy can drop due to error in use. [1

Plus, if efficacy is the only thing you prioritize, you are missing out on the bigger picture. You need to consider the price and availability (or accessibility) of the contraceptive method. Also, take note of the safety, so let your doctor know if you have any medical conditions or take any medications, including supplements and herbal products. [2

You may also want to factor in your comfort and preferences. Because each birth control option works via differing mechanisms, they can bring about different side effects. Additionally, consider their non-pregnancy-related benefits. For example, some contraceptive types will prevent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but others won’t. [2

Understandably, figuring out the best birth control with the least side effects is a huge dilemma. To help you with that, we have done all the research for you and compared the different popular birth control methods with regard to each factor above. 

A birth control comparison chart is attached at the bottom of the article for quick and compact information. 

Contents:

Reversible birth control types || Irreversible birth control types || Efficacy || Convenience || Side effects || Benefits || Accessibility || Bottomline: Best Contraceptive Method || Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the Best Contraceptive Method

What does birth control mean? 

Birth control, or contraception, helps to prevent pregnancy. Each type works via a different mechanism. This includes preventing the sperm from reaching the female’s eggs or hindering the woman’s ovaries from releasing an egg that the sperm could fertilize. [3

Best Contraceptive Method

Types of birth control 

The most simplistic way to categorize contraceptive methods is by grouping them into birth control methods for males and females. However, more commonly, they are classified as either reversible birth control or irreversible (permanent) types of birth control. 

Best Contraceptive Method

Under the reversible category, you will find:  

  • The copper T intrauterine contraception (IUD) and levonorgestrel intrauterine system (LNG IUS)
  • Hormonal methods (pills, injections, patches, implants, and the vaginal ring)
  • Barrier methods (condoms, diaphragm, and spermicides)
  • Natural methods
  • Lactational amenorrhoea method. [2

Under the irreversible category, you will find the male and female sterilization methods. [2

The LNG IUS, copper IUD, and implant are considered long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). 

Reversible birth control methods

Hormonal birth control

Birth control pills

There are two main types of contraceptive pills, namely the combined oral contraceptive pills (COCP) and the progestin-only pills (POP). They differ in terms of the dose and type of female hormones present inside the pills. 

Best Contraceptive Method

COCPs prevent pregnancy by hindering ovulation (release of the eggs by the ovaries). They can also thicken the mucus in the neck of the womb and make it more difficult for sperm to reach the eggs, and thin the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation. [4

Numerous brands generally fall under either one of these three categories; monophasic 21-day pills, phasic 21-day pills, or every day (ED) pills. [4

The 21-day pill packs contain 21 active pills, which you will take for 21 days per cycle, and a 7-day break will commence before you start the next pack of pills. The ED pills contain 28 pills (21 active and 7 dummy), which you will take for the entire 28-day cycle without any breaks in between pill packs. [4

Progestin-only pills work via similar mechanisms to COCPs, but do not prevent ovulation as well as COCPs. However, they have approximately the same efficacy as COCPs. They are sometimes labeled as ‘mini-pills’ and come in packs of 28. One pill is taken each day, and there is no pill-free interval between packs. [5

Birth control implants

A trained healthcare professional will insert a single thin rod under the skin of your upper arm. This rod is designed to release female hormones gradually into the bloodstream. The mechanism of action is similar to COCPs. [6

Hormonal injection 

This injection will release female hormones steadily into the bloodstream. The injection may be given at the upper arm, abdomen, or thigh. Similar to the COCP, it can thicken cervical mucus, thin the womb’s lining, and prevent ovulation. [7

Birth control patch

This is a tiny sticky patch that you can attach directly to your skin at any part of the body. Attach the patch on an area that is clean, dry, and preferably non-hairy. The patch will release hormones that travel past your skin into the bloodstream, and these hormones will prevent pregnancy the same way as COCPs. [8

Best Contraceptive Method

Birth control vaginal ring 

This ring is a soft plastic ring that is inserted into the vagina. It will release sustained doses of female hormones into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy. The contraceptive effect is produced via similar mechanisms to COCPs. [9

IUD birth control 

Levonorgestrel intrauterine system (LNG IUS) 

A trained healthcare professional will insert the IUS, a tiny plastic T-shaped device, into the womb or uterus. The IUS releases the female hormone, levonorgestrel, into the womb. This hormone will thicken cervical mucus or thin the lining of the womb, so an egg is less able to implant itself. It may prevent ovulation for some people, but most will continue to ovulate. [10]

Copper T intrauterine device (IUD)

The IUD is similar to the IUS, but it works via a different method. This IUD is made from copper, and copper alters the mucus at the neck of the womb. This makes it more difficult for any sperm to fertilize the egg. IUDs will also prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. [11

Best Contraceptive Method

Barrier method

Condom

One of the most popular methods of contraception is the male condom. The male will wear this during sexual intercourse to prevent his sexual partner from getting pregnant. This birth control type will hinder sperm from entering the female’s body. [2

Typically, condoms can only be utilized once. Condoms can be paired with KY jelly or water-based lubricants purchased from a pharmacy. Petroleum, baby oil, massage oils, lotions, and oil-based lubricants increase the chances of pregnancy. These lubricants can weaken the condom, increasing the risk of condom tear. [2]

Female condoms are also available, and these hamper the entry of sperm into her body. The user may insert it up to 8 hours before expected sexual intercourse. [2]

Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a shallow cup inserted into a female’s vagina. The diaphragm will cover the cervix and block sperm from entering the womb and fallopian tubes. Pair this with spermicides to increase efficacy, and visit your trusted healthcare provider to find the right size and fit for your body. [2]

Spermicide

This birth control method kills sperms and comes in either foam, cream, gel, film, suppository, or tablet form. The tablet is not administered orally but is inserted into the vagina. Spermicides can be paired with male condoms, diaphragms, and cervical caps. [2

Natural birth control methods

During your menstrual cycle, you may learn how to notice signs and symptoms that you are fertile and plan your sexual intercourse according to your cycle. Generally, you will need to know the average length of your menstrual cycle, observe your daily basal temperature, and look out for any changes in the color and consistency of excreted cervical mucus. [12

Best Contraceptive Method

You can talk to a healthcare professional to devise an individualized plan. Besides that, you may even download a smartphone app that can help you keep track and predict your fertile periods. [12]

Lactational Amenorrhoea Method (LAM)

During post-delivery periods when you are breastfeeding your baby, LAM can be used to prevent pregnancy. Certain conditions must be met to ensure the sufficient efficacy of this method. It must be less than six months post-delivery. You must not have any menstrual periods. Lastly, you must be wholly or almost exclusively breastfeeding your baby. [2, 12]

Best Contraceptive Method

As the post-delivery period extends, this method will become more and more unreliable. It is not recommended for you to go past the six months for most cases. [2, 12]

Irreversible (permanent) birth control methods

Female sterilization (Tubal Ligation)

Also known as tubal ligation, this minor procedure involves tying the fallopian tubes of a female to hinder the egg and sperm from meeting. This ultimately prevents fertilization. This procedure is straightforward, and no overnight hospital stay is required. In a few days, you should be able to resume normal activities. [2]

Male sterilization (Vasectomy)

Male sterilization is also known as vasectomy. This is a minor operation that cuts off the supply of sperm from semen so that any ejaculation will not contain sperm. You should be able to return home from the hospital on the same day as the procedure and recover within a week. A follow-up is commonly performed to test the sperm count in your semen and ensure that it has dropped to 0 (which takes approximately 12 weeks). [2]

Comparing Methods of Birth Control 

Understandably, you may struggle to find the most suitable type for yourself with so many choices and options available. Let’s compare the popular birth control methods in terms of efficacy, convenience, side effects, non-pregnancy-related benefits, and accessibility.

Efficacy

Many factors can impact the efficacy of the contraceptive type. Take, for instance, forgetting to take your pills, fitting on a condom incorrectly, or leaving in a vaginal ring for too long. These events can compromise how efficacious contraception is.

Best Contraceptive Method

You might have heard of the terms typical use and perfect use. The percentage efficacy for perfect use is almost always higher than typical use (for applicable methods) because this percentage is attained when the contraceptive method is used without any error. [1

Typical use more accurately describes the efficacy in real-life situations where you may not be using the method perfectly right. [1

There is no contraceptive method that is 100% reliable, but using it according to the recommendations by the manufacturer or your healthcare professional can increase its ability to prevent pregnancy. [1


COCP: 

The COCP is more than 99% effective with perfect use. It drops down to 91% for typical usage. [1]

Starting between Day 1 to Day 5 of your menstrual cycle will give you immediate contraceptive effects. Starting on any other day means you will have to use another method, such as a barrier method. Use another method for at least 7 days of starting the pills if you plan to have sexual intercourse. [4] This may vary depending on the brand and type. 

Missing the pill will likely decrease its efficacy, and you should contact your healthcare provider immediately to inquire about what you should do. The following action will depend on which day of the cycle you missed the pill and how many hours have elapsed since you took the last pill. [4]

Best Contraceptive Method

Vomiting or diarrhea after taking the pill will also affect its efficacy. Contact your doctor should this occur. Certain medications may also interact with the pill and lower the effectiveness. Consult your doctor if you are currently taking any other supplements or medications. [4]


Progestin-only pill: 

The POP is more than 99% effective with perfect use. It drops down to 91% for typical usage. [1

Starting between Day 1 to Day 5 of your menstrual cycle will give you immediate protection. Starting on any other day means you will have to use another method such as a barrier method or abstain from sexual intercourse. Do this for at least 2 days after you’ve started the pills. [5] This may vary depending on the brand and type. 

Similar to the COCP, missing the pill, vomiting or diarrhea, or drug-drug interactions can reduce its efficacy. Contact your healthcare professional if this occurs or if you are taking other supplements or medications. [5


Implant: 

With perfect use, it is more than 99% effective. This method has no user failure, so a typical use efficacy percentage is not applicable. [1] The implant can be inserted on any day of your menstrual cycle. [6]

If it is inserted from Day 1 to Day 5 of your cycle, you garner immediate protection from pregnancy. When it is inserted on any other day, you will have to wait 7 days before it is effective enough. Use another method, such as a barrier method for at least 7 days if you plan to have sexual intercourse. [6] This duration may vary depending on the brand and type. 

The efficacy of the implant may be affected by certain medications. Consult your doctor if you are currently on any medications or supplements. [6]


Injection: 

With perfect use, this injection is 99% effective. It reduces to 94% for typical use. [1]

If you get the shot between Day 1 to Day 5 of your menstrual cycle, the injection is immediately effective. If you have the injection on any other day, you will have to use another method such as a barrier method. Do this for minimally 7 days after getting the shot if you plan to have sexual intercourse. [7] This duration may vary depending on the brand and type. 

It is effective for 8 – 12 weeks, depending on the type of injection you get. Being late for the injection will put you at risk of getting pregnant. Ask your healthcare provider regarding when you will need to return for the next shot. [7

Medications are less likely to interact with the birth control injection. [33

Best Birth Control

Patch: 

The patch is 99% effective with perfect use and only 91% effective with typical use. [1

The patch is replaced with a new one every 7 days. Depending on the brand, there will usually be a patch-free interval. [8

You might forget to put on a new patch after this interval or leave the patch on for too long and forget to replace it. In this case, you should consult your healthcare professional immediately to figure out what steps you need to take next. The action you need to take will depend on the duration that has passed. [8

 If the patch falls off, the efficacy may also reduce. The decrease in effectiveness will depend on how long the patch was left out. [8


Vaginal ring: 

The vaginal ring is 99% effective with perfect use and only 91% effective with typical use. [1

You’ll insert a ring in, leave it for 21 days, take it out, and then have a 7-day ring-free interval. After the 7-day break, a new ring is inserted. Generally, you’re protected if you start on the first day of your menses, but this could vary depending on the brand and type. If you insert it on any other day, you require another protection method for at least 7 days. [9

You may fall pregnant if the ring slips out by itself and remains out for too long or if you leave an old ring in for too long and forget to replace it. If these events occur, contact your healthcare provider for advice. [9]

Some medications may also reduce the effectiveness of the vaginal ring. [9]


LNG IUS: 

With perfect use, it is more than 99% effective. This method has no user failure, so a typical use efficacy percentage does not apply. [1

If this is fitted on anytime between Day 1 and Day 7 of your menstrual cycle, protection is immediate. If it is fitted on any other day, use a barrier method for at least 7 days. [10]


IUD: 

With perfect use, it is more than 99% effective. This method has no user failure, so a typical use efficacy percentage is irrelevant.[1

The copper IUD is immediately effective and can be used as a method of emergency contraception (EC). [13

Best Birth Control

Condom: 

The male condom is 98% effective with perfect use and only 82% effective with typical use. The female condom has a lower efficacy percentage. 95% effective with perfect use and 79% effective with typical use. [1]


Tubal ligation (Female): 

In their entire lifetime, approximately 1 in 200 women can become pregnant again after this procedure. This method is more than 99% effective. [1


Vasectomy (Male): 

In their entire lifetime, approximately 1 in 2000 men can become fertile again after a vasectomy. [1

Best Birth Control

Convenience:

Convenience is another major factor to consider. Are you a forgetful person? Do you dislike setting reminders and alarms on your mobile device to help you remember your everyday tasks? 

If that’s the case, the COCP and POP aren’t the best options for you. You will need to remember to take a pill each day, as missing a pill may decrease the efficacy of birth control. 

Of course, reminding yourself to start on a new pack after a pill-free interval may be challenging as well. For this reason, there are 28-pill packs available containing 7 placebo (non-medicinal) pills. Hence, you won’t have to break the daily pill-taking habit that you form. [2, 4, 5]

You need to replace the patch once a week. The vaginal ring can be left inside for three weeks. [2, 8, 9]

You won’t need to remember to do something every day, but there’s a downside to that as well. When you perform the same task each day, this forms a habit. This habit might help you remember to do the task better. 

Because you won’t need to replace your patches or vaginal rings each day, you might forget and leave the patch on or the ring in for too long! The longer you forget to replace an overdue patch or ring, the more the efficacy decreases. Setting a reminder might help you, so you may still wish to consider these options! [2, 8, 9]

Best Birth Control

The hormonal injection will last for 8-13 weeks, depending on the brand.

Long-acting reversible contraceptives

The hormonal implant is effective for around 3 years! [6, 7]

Other than the implant, long-acting hormonal contraceptives include the LNG IUS and the copper IUD. The LNG IUD can last around 3-5 years, and the copper IUD can last 5-10 years. [10, 11]

Best Contraceptive Method

Sterilization (vasectomy and tubal ligations) is an irreversible and permanent method of birth control. You may consult your doctor if you wish to undergo a procedure to reverse it, but this is not guaranteed to restore your fertility. [14

Lastly, condoms have to be used each time you wish to have sexual intercourse. Condoms are disposed of after one-time use and should not be reused. [2]

Side effects and precautions

Hormonal contraceptives, including the patch, ring, and shots, may lead to side effects such as headache, sore breasts, nausea, acne, and mood changes. Not everyone will experience these side effects, and these side effects differ depending on the type of female hormone present in the contraceptives. [15

Best Birth Control

Some women cannot use hormonal birth control methods containing estrogen. These include women who are very overweight, are over 35 years of age and smoke, and have certain medical conditions such as breast cancer, problems with blood circulation, or experience migraines with aura. [16]

Some of your medications may interact with hormonal contraception, so consult a healthcare provider to determine which birth control type is safest for you. [16]

The LNG IUS may cause similar side effects as the hormonal contraceptive. Still, since it is also a device implanted into your womb, you may experience irregular bleeding for up to 6 months post-implantation. [17

With the copper IUD, you may experience some side effects such as irregular periods, spotting in between periods, heavier or more lengthy periods, or more painful periods. [18]

Best Birth Control

Other than that, you might experience slight bleeding, pain, or bruising at the incision site for tubal ligation and vasectomy. There is a risk of infection or side effects from the anesthesia that was used. [19, 20]

Benefits

Certain contraceptive methods can confer some benefits on the user that are unrelated to preventing pregnancy. 

The benefits of hormonal pills depend on the type of female hormones present in the pill and the dose of the tablet. For example, certain contraceptive pills may help to regulate your menstrual cycles, make your periods less painful, improve acne, reduce bone thinning, and reduce the risk of endometrial or ovarian cancers. [21

Best Birth Control

The copper IUD can also act as emergency contraception as it is almost 100% effective in preventing pregnancy after sexual intercourse has occurred. [22

Using a condom during sexual intercourse can prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). On the other hand, birth control pills, shots, vaginal rings, patches, and IUDs cannot prevent the transmission of STDs. [23

Best Birth Control

Accessibility

It is essential to consider your budget and which methods of contraception you can afford. Some health insurance plans may help you reduce the cost price of specific contraceptive methods. 

Many birth control methods are highly accessible. Condoms are sold in pharmacies, supermarkets, and convenience stores. Also, take note that hormonal methods of contraception like pills, rings, and patches all require a prescription from your healthcare provider. Some services even allow you to get the prescription through a phone or online! [24, 25, 26]

For the IUD and LNG IUS, you will need to get it inserted by a nurse or doctor. Getting these devices inserted typically involves a visit to a health clinic or center. Besides that, there will also be a check-up to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for you. [27

Best Birth Control
(EffectivenessConvenienceSide effectsBenefits)
Birth control pills91% (typical use) One pill each day Headache, sore breasts, nausea, acne, and mood changesMay help to regulate your menstrual cycles, make your periods less painful, improve acne, reduce bone thinning, and reduce the risk of endometrial or ovarian cancers
Hormonal injection94% (typical use) One shot every 8-12 weeksSimilar to the above Similar to the above 
Hormonal implant>99% Replaced every 3 years Similar to the above Similar to the above 
Birth control patches91% (typical use) Replaced each weekSimilar to the above Similar to the above 
Vaginal ring 91% (typical use) Replaced every 3 weeksSimilar to the above Similar to the above 
LNG IUS>99% Can last 3-5 yearsSimilar to the above and possibility of irregular bleeding May reduce length and pain experienced during periods
Copper IUD>99% Can last 5-10 yearsIrregular periods, spotting in between periods, heavier or more lengthy periods, or more painful periodsEmergency contraception 
Tubal ligation (female)>99% PermanentSlight bleeding, pain, or bruising at the incision site
Vasectomy (male) >99% PermanentSlight bleeding, pain, or bruising at the incision site
Condom (male) 82% (typical use) Replaced each time Allergic reactionsCan prevent transmission of STDs

Bottomline: Which is the best contraceptive method? 

Each contraceptive method will have its own benefits and risks. 

Other than the points mentioned above, you may also want to consider factors such as the reversibility of the contraceptive methods. Furthermore, take into account how long it will typically take for your fertility to return after ceasing the birth control.

Additionally, your preferences are important as well. Maybe you’re not comfortable fitting a ring into your vagina or have a fear of needles. In that case, oral birth control pills might be a better option for you. 

There might be some undeniable stigma or taboo surrounding the topic of contraception. Despite this, try your best to seek the advice of a trusted healthcare provider should you have any doubts or worries. If you’re not very comfortable talking about this topic face-to-face, there are phone or online services that may help you clarify your questions. 

Whatever you choose, your safety and wellbeing come first!

Best Birth Control

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the Best Contraceptive Method

Which is the best form of birth control? 

Once again, this depends on your personal situation. In general, birth control implants and IUDs are recommended to many women because they are incredibly effective. Furthermore, there is no risk of user failure as both devices will be fitted by healthcare professionals. [28]

Their effect lasts for a few years, so you will not have to worry much about changing them every few weeks or months. Despite this, other methods such as the pill, patch, ring, and injection are also highly effective if you use them perfectly. [28]

The best thing to do is consult a healthcare provider to help you select the best method for your personal situation. 

Best Birth Control

Which birth control pills make you lose weight? 

There is no specific birth control pill that can help you lose weight. Some users have reported weight loss from using the birth control pill Yasmin. This pill is not marketed as a weight loss pill, and the weight loss is attributed to excess water. Your weight might decrease by a pound or two if you’re on the Yasmin. [29]


Which is the best birth control method with the least side effects? 

Condoms are unlikely to cause side effects, except for the possibility of allergic reactions to the latex. However, their efficacy is not as high as compared to birth control implants or IUDs. You may increase the effectiveness of condoms by ensuring proper use each time you have sexual intercourse. [30


What birth controls do doctors recommend? 

Family planning physicians recommend the LNG IUD the most often. Among the general public, sterilization and birth control pills are the most popular methods. [31

If you were to consult a healthcare provider, they would likely ask you questions about your personal case so they can help you select the most suitable birth control for you. 


Which is a 100% effective birth control method?

Abstinence is the only birth control method that is 100% effective and has no side effects. Other than that, the method with the highest efficacy is likely the sterilization method for males. Only 1 in 2000 men who have gone for a vasectomy will ever become fertile again in their lifetime. [1]


Does IUD cause weight gain?

Weight gain is listed as a side effect of some hormonal contraceptives. However, hormonal birth control is unlikely to lead to weight gain. You may gain weight in your reproductive years, but this is unlikely associated with using hormonal birth control. If you experience significant weight gain while on certain contraceptives, reach out to your doctor to discuss this. [32

Best Birth Control

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

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