Birth Control 101

Not ready for a new addition to the family just yet? Follow our handy chart to find out which birth control option is right for you. And have you heard about Essure?

What it is Who it works for

The Pill

Obviously you already know something about the Pill, but let’s recap anyway. Oral contraception is taken daily and contains synthetic hormones that keep the ovaries from releasing eggs. There are several options, including low-dose, three-week, and 24-day “active” pill types, and even a pill with a three-month cycle (meaning just four periods a year!). If you’re good at keeping a schedule (taking a pill around the same time every day is crucial), the Pill might be for you. You get total control and can decide to stop taking it (trying for a baby, perhaps?) at any time. Nothing’s inserted or injected, making it as easy as popping a vitamin.

The Patch

This thin, plastic patch goes on the skin just like a Band-Aid and can be placed on the buttock, upper torso, abdomen, or upper arm. It contains synthetic hormones that are released through the skin into the bloodstream. And no, it won’t fall off -- not even in the shower. The patch needs to be replaced just once a week, so you don’t have to think about your birth control on a daily basis. Something to consider: It may not work as well for women who weigh over 198 pounds, and okay, you might not want a birth control patch on your body during bikini season.

The Ring

This flexible, plastic ring two inches in diameter contains synthetic hormones and works similarly to the patch. Simply insert it into the vagina (yup, you can do this yourself) and keep it there for three weeks. At the end of the three weeks, take it out for seven days before inserting a new one. Okay, so you have some trouble remembering to take a pill every day (major problem!), but an IUD freaks you out. As long as you’re not prone to bacterial infections, the ring might be your perfect fit. Just be sure to talk to your doctor about side effects, especially if you suffer from depression or have diabetes.

The Shot

This hormone injection lasts three months and is usually given in the arm. The synthetic progesterone stops ovaries from releasing eggs and causes cervical mucus to thicken, which prevents pregnancy. Not thinking about having a baby any time soon? Consider the birth control shot. It gives you complete freedom other than scheduling an appointment with your OB/GYN every three months, meaning no stressing about missing a pill. On the flip side, you don’t have the option of going off birth control for at least 12 weeks once the shot is administered, so make sure your body can handle the synthetic hormones before taking the plunge.

The IUD

This T-shaped device is made of plastic and is placed inside the uterus by your doctor. It contains synthetic progesterone or copper, which is released into the uterus, preventing implantation (which is pretty much the whole point). If you don’t mind a small procedure (note: it can be a bit painful) and aren’t skeeved by the thought of having a small piece of plastic in you, the IUD could be the perfect choice. It only has to be changed every 1 to 10 years and has a failure rate of less than 1 percent. Warning: If you have bad periods, you might want to consider another method. Copper IUDs may actually increase cramping.

Natural Family Planning

Natural Family Planning, or fertility awareness, combines the rhythm method, the basal body temperature method and the cervical mucus method. In a nutshell, it’s a way to avoid getting pregnant without using any traditional birth control hormones or protection such as condoms.

This method is the only form of birth control deemed acceptable by the Catholic Church and doesn’t require any invasive procedures or hormones, so it’s good for those who either can’t or don’t want to use other options (like hormones) or those who just want to avoid getting pregnant right away (but wouldn’t be devastated if it happened). Why? It’s a way to prevent pregnancy, but in typical use (which refers to the average use), it fails about 25 percent of the time (making it the least effective form of birth control). Make sure you know all the risks before going with this plan. Visit AmericanPregnancy.org for more information.

See More: Getting Pregnant , Love & Sex , Sex Q&A