Birth Control Comparison Chart

Compare All Birth Control Methods

Birth Control Comparison Chart
Birth Control Comparison Chart. Photo © 2015 Dawn Stacey

Learning about all the available methods of birth control can seem overwhelming at first. But, being informed can help you make a decision about which method of contraception will work best for you. To make this process easier, here is a birth control comparison chart. This way, you can easily compare all your options.

Natural Birth Control Options

  Name                 What it Is  What to KnowEffectiveness
  • Not having any type of sex.
  • A man "pulls out" his penis before ejaculating.
  • → Free
  • → Relies a lot on the man's self control.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) 
  • Fertility awareness methods -- You must understand how your body works and be able to track when you ovulate
Continuous Breastfeeding 
  • Also know as the Lactational Amenorrhea Method -- this methods works because the hormone required to stimulate milk production also stops you from ovulating. 
  • → You must be exclusively breastfeeding your baby.
  • → Only reliable for up to 6 months after baby has been born and if your period has not returned.


OTC Birth Control Options

  Name                 What it Is  What to KnowEffectiveness
Male Condoms 
  • Worn on a man's penis during sex to collect sperm and keep it out of the vagina. 
Female Condoms 
  • A polyurethane "pouch" that is inserted into the vagina to block sperm from entering. 
  • A chemical product that is inserted deep into the vagina  to immobilize and kill sperm. 
The Sponge 
  • A soft, round device that is made of polyurethane foam. It contains spermicide and is inserted into the vagina before sex. 
  • → Can be inserted up to 24 hours before having sex.
  • → Where to buy the sponge.
  • → Must be left in place for 6 hours after having sex.


Prescription Birth Control Methods

  Name                 What it Is  What to KnowEffectiveness
The Pill 
  • A popular and effective hormonal method that contains progestin or a progestin/estrogen combination -- taken by mouth every day. 
IUD    99.2%-99.8%
  • A soft, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina and left in place for 3 weeks (21 days). You take it out during week 4 when you will have your period, then insert a new one after the week is over. 
Depo Provera    94%-99.7%
The Patch 
  • A beige, plastic patch that is slowly releases hormones through the skin -- you stick it on once a week for 3 weeks, and leave it off during week 4. 
  • A soft implant made of medical polymer -- it is inserted into the skin of the upper arm and slowly releases progestin over a period of 3 years. 
  • A dome-shaped cup, made of silicone or latex, that is securely inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. 
Cervical Cap 
  • A device, like a diaphragm, that fits over the cervix. Also known as FemCap and Lea Shield. 
  • → Smaller than a diaphragm and can be difficult to insert.
  • → Can be left in place for up to 24 hours without needing more spermicide.
  • → Must not be removed for 6-8 hours after having sex.

  68%-74%        (for those who have given birth)

  84%-91%    (for those who haven't given birth)


Permanent Birth Control Methods

  Name                 What it Is  What to KnowEffectiveness
Tubal Ligation 
  • A surgical procedure
    where at least one incision is made in a woman's abdomen -- then the fallopian tubes are cut, tied, and/or sealed off. 
  • → Meant to result in permanent sterilization.
  • → Can take place in a hospital or outpatient clinic.
  • → Can be successfully reversed 50%-80% of the time, but tubal reversal is a major surgical procedure.
  • → Mini-laparotomy or laparoscopic sterilization are the two most common tubal ligation procedures.
   Over 99%
  • A male sterilization procedure where an incision is made in the scrotum -- the vas deferens (two tubes) that carry sperm into the semen are cut and then tied off. 
  • → Only requires the use local anesthesia to numb the area.
  • → Does not lower sex drive; you will still be able to have an erection and orgasm.
  • → Semen will still be made, but it will not contain any sperm.
  • → No-scalpel vasectomies are an alternative to tradition vasectomy.
  • → Takes about 3 months (or 10 to 20 ejaculations) after procedure for sperm to no longer be present. Contraception should be used until you have has 2-3 negative sperm count tests.
   Over 99%
  • → Hysteroscopic sterilization.
  • → Quick procedure (you usually go home within an hour) that uses no general anesthesia.
  • → CANNOT be reversed.
  • → It can take three months (or longer) for the tissue to build up and block the tube. Doesn't become effective until you have a hysterosalpingogram (usually 3 months after the procedure) that shows the inserts were correctly placed and your tubes are completely blocked.


Emergency Birth Control Methods

  Name                 What it Is  What to KnowEffectiveness
Plan B One-Step 
  • A type of morning-after pill that consists of one pill that contains the progestin, levonorgestrel. It is most effective the sooner you use it, but can be taken up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex or birth control failure

Several generic alternatives:

  • FDA-approved as an emergency birth control option in 2010. Ella is one pill that contains 30 mg. of ulipristal acetate. Can be used for up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex.  
  • → Non-hormonal.
  • → Not a type of medical abortion, but the risks to an existing pregnancy are unknown.
  • → You need a prescription to buy Ella.
  • A copper IUD that is about 1-1/4 inches wide by 1-3/8 inches long. 
  • → Must be inserted by a doctor.
  99.9%        (if inserted within 5 days)



Hatcher RA, Trussel J, Nelson AL, Cates W, Stewart F, Kowal D, & Policar M. (2011). Contraceptive Technology (20th ed). New York, NY: Ardent Media.

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