Choosing the Right Birth Control for You

Birth Control has come a long way since Federal Drug Association (FDA) approval of “the pill” in 1960. Since then, women have gained access to a multitude of birth control methods with varying degrees of effectiveness, ease of use, access and side effects.

Since not all birth control methods are created equal, below is a basic guide to start to help you understand the differences between the many options now available.

Birth control methods come in two forms, hormonal and non-hormonal.

Hormonal birth control methods typically contain estrogen and/or progestin, which work by preventing the ovary from releasing an egg, thickeningcervical mucus to make it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg, and changing the lining of the uterus in order to make it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant. Non-hormonal birth control methods do not contain hormones, and include common methods such as condoms. Condoms are the only method that also protects the user against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Hormonal MethodsEffectiveness (%)How to use it
Oral contraceptive (pill)91Take pill daily, at same time
Contraceptive patch91Change patch weekly
Vaginal ring91Change ring every 3 weeks
Contraceptive injection 94Receive shot every 3 months
Intrauterine device (IUD that 99Replace IUD every 3-5 years
releases hormones)  
Birth control implant100Replace implant every 3 years
Non-Hormonal Methods  
Male condoms82Used at beginning and in every instance of sexual activity
Female condoms79Placed in female, used in every instance of sexual activity
Fertility awareness method76Predict ovulation 2 weeks before start of next period, monitor changes in cervical mucus, remain abstinent up to six days in a cycle
(predicting ovulation)  
Copper intrauterine device99Replace up to every 10 years
Tubal ligation ("tubes tied")99Permanent surgical procedure that blocks the release of an egg
Withdrawal ("pull out method")75Male partner must predict ejaculation and withdraw


Source: Effectiveness rates are typical use according to Contraceptive Technology, 20th Edition, 2011.

If you or anyone you know is in need of birth control or you would like to learn more about which method might be right for you, Westside Family Health Center (WFHC) is here to help. WFHC’s had its start as a women’s clinic in the 1970s and has been doing comprehensive reproductive health care and education ever since. WFHC now sees women, men and children for all of their primary care needs and offers many birth control methods at free or low-cost. Depending on income, birth control can be provided for free by the Family Planning Access Care and Treatment (F-PACT) program, Medi-Cal, or your insurance provider. Please call (310) 450-2191 to make an appointment. All visits are confidential. Additional family planning providers can be found at