Free Birth Control Methods

Every body is different. So, it’s important to find the birth control that fits you and your lifestyle best. The information below can help you make an informed decision about which method is best for you. As always, we recommend having a conversation with your health care provider.

Method Choices

Condom

Condom external or internal

Condom external or internal

Condomexternal or internal

Effectiveness
External

85%

Perfect Use: 98%
Internal

79%

Perfect Use: 95%
Lasts Up To

1 Use

How it Works
  • The external condom fits over the penis to catch semen and body fluids after ejaculation
  • Provides a barrier between partners
Types
Pros
  • Protects against STIs
  • Easy to find and affordable
  • Many types and sizes available
  • May help prolong intercourse for some individuals with a penis
Cons
  • Must be used perfectly, every time (pinch, place and unroll). For info on how to put on a condom, visit here
  • May reduce sensitivity
  • May be inconvenient
Possible Side Effects
  • Possible allergies or irritation caused by certain types, brands or lubricants

Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about these methods and which is best for you
Source: Contraceptive Technology, 20th edition

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Diaphragm

Diaphragm

Diaphragm

Diaphragm

Effectiveness

88%

Perfect Use: 94%
Lasts Up To

1 day

How it Works
  • Inserted into vagina
  • Must be used with spermicide
  • Keeps sperm out of the uterus by blocking the cervix
  • Spermicide kills sperm
Pros
  • No hormones
  • Controlled by the user and can be inserted hours before sex
  • Won’t be felt by either partner
  • Reusable
Cons
  • May be difficult to insert
  • Can move out of place during sex
  • Need to remember to remove it and clean it after use
  • Does not protect against STIs
Possible Side Effects
  • Temporary skin irritation due to spermicide
  • May cause urinary tract infections
  • May cause reaction for those allergic to silicone or spermicide

Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about these methods and which is best for you
Source: Contraceptive Technology, 20th edition

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Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Effectiveness

75%

Perfect Use: 89%
Lasts Up To

1 use

How it Works
  • Emergency contraception can stop a pregnancy before it starts by temporarily stopping an ovary from releasing an egg
  • Oral pill taken within 120 hours (5 days) after having unprotected sex
Types
  • Ella, is a pill with ulipristal acetate, that you need a prescription from a health care provider
  • Other pills (Plan B One Step, Take Action, My Way, AfterPill) contain levonorgestrel and can be purchased over the counter without a prescription at most drugstores and pharmacies
Pros
  • Safe way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex
  • Can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex
Cons
  • Over the counter morning-after pills work best within 3 days (the sooner you take them, the better they work)
  • The most effective methods, like ella, can be more difficult to get as you need to order online or have a prescription
  • Plan B is less effective if you take it more than 72 hours after sex or weigh 155 pounds or more
Possible Side Effects
  • Cramping
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting

Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about these methods and which is best for you
Source: Planned Parenthood

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Implant

Implant

Implant

Implant

Implanon

Effectiveness

99%

Perfect Use: 99%
Lasts Up To

4 years

How it Works
  • Releases the hormone progestin
  • Prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs
  • Thickens cervical mucus and prevents sperm from reaching the egg
  • Removed by provider when you want to become pregnant, switch birth control method or when it is time to be removed
Pros
  • Easy to use and totally private – place it and forget it
  • Fewer, lighter periods
  • Can be used while breastfeeding
Cons
  • Bruising or tenderness at insertion site
  • Irregular bleeding that can be unpredictable
  • Does not protect against STIs
Possible Side Effects

Side effects are most common during the first 3 months of use and usually go away.

You may experience some or none of the following:

  • Irregular bleeding or no period at all
  • Acne
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Sore breasts
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain

Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about these methods and which is best for you
Source: Contraceptive Technology, 20th edition

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IUD

IUD hormonal

IUD hormonal

IUDhormonal

Mirena, Kyleena, Lileta, Skyla

Effectiveness

99%

Perfect Use: 99%
Lasts Up To

7 years

How it Works
  • Placed into uterus by provider
  • Releases the hormone progestin
  • Thickens cervical mucus and prevents sperm from reaching the egg
  • May also prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs
  • Makes it harder for sperm to move
  • Removed by provider when you want to become pregnant, switch birth control method or when it is time to be removed
Pros
  • Safe and highly effective
  • High satisfaction rates
  • Easy to use and totally private — place it and forget it
  • Reduces cramps and makes periods lighter or stops them completely
  • Protects against endometrial cancer
  • Can be used while breastfeeding
Cons
  • Insertion can be uncomfortable
  • Irregular bleeding or spotting in the first 3–6 months
  • Does not protect against STIs
Possible Side Effects

Side effects are most common during the first 3 months of use and usually go away.
You may experience some or none of the following:

  • Cramps
  • Back pain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headache
  • Mood changes
  • Hair loss
  • Acne

Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about these methods and which is best for you
Source: Contraceptive Technology, 20th edition

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IUD

IUD non-hormonal

IUD non-hormonal

IUDnon-hormonal

Paraguard

Effectiveness

99%

Perfect Use: 99%
Lasts Up To

12 years

How it Works
  • Placed into uterus by provider
  • Releases copper ions
  • Makes it difficult for sperm to move
  • Prevents sperm from meeting and fertilizing an egg
  • Removed by provider when you want to become pregnant, switch birth control method or when it is time to be removed
Pros
  • Safe and highly effective
  • High satisfaction rates
  • No hormones and no hormonal side effects
  • Easy to use and totally private — place it and forget it
  • Protects against endometrial cancer
  • Can be used while breastfeeding
  • Can be inserted as emergency contraception
Cons
  • Insertion can be uncomfortable
  • Possible irregular bleeding or spotting and heavier, crampier periods for the first 1-3 months of use
  • Does not protect against STIs
Possible Side Effects
  • Longer, heavier periods with more cramps that should subside over time, returning to your regular period

Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about these methods and which is best for you
Source: Contraceptive Technology, 20th edition

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Patch

Patch

Patch

Patch

Ortho Evra, Xulane

Effectiveness

93%

Perfect Use: 99%
Lasts Up To

1 week

How it Works
  • Sticks on skin like a band aid
  • Releases hormones to prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs
  • Thickens cervical mucus and prevents sperm from reaching the egg
Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Does not fall off easily
  • Reduces menstrual cramps and PMS
  • Shorter, lighter periods
  • May be removed for up to 3 hours
Cons
  • Increased risk of blood clots, especially for smokers or individuals with other cardiovascular risk factors
  • Does not protect against STIs
  • Not as effective for individuals who weigh more than 198 lbs.
  • Only comes in one color, light beige
Possible Side Effects

Side effects are most common during the first 3 months of use and usually go away.

You may experience some or none of the following:

  • Skin irritation
  • Irregular spotting or bleeding
  • Headache
  • Sore breasts
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes

Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about these methods and which is best for you
Source: Contraceptive Technology, 20th edition

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Pill

Pill

Pill

Pill

Effectiveness

93%

Perfect Use: 99%
Lasts Up To

1 day

How it Works
  • Releases hormones to prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs
  • Thickens cervical mucus and prevents sperm from reaching the egg
Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Reduces menstrual cramps and PMS
  • Shorter, lighter periods
  • Decreased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers
  • Clears up acne
Cons
  • May be difficult to remember to take on time
  • Increased risk of blood clots, especially for smokers or individuals with other cardiovascular risk factors
  • Does not protect against STIs
Possible Side Effects

Side effects are most common during the first 3 months of use and usually go away.

You may experience some or none of the following:

  • Irregular bleeding, especially with missed pills
  • Headache
  • Sore breasts
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes

Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about these methods and which is best for you
Source: Contraceptive Technology, 20th edition

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Ring

Ring

Ring

Ring

Nuva Ring

Effectiveness

93%

Perfect Use: 99%
Lasts Up To

4 weeks

How it Works
  • Inserted into the vagina
  • Releases hormones to prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs
  • Thickens cervical mucus and prevents sperm from reaching the egg
Pros
  • Reduces menstrual cramps and PMS
  • Shorter, lighter periods
  • May be removed for up to 3 hours
Cons
  • Increased risk of blood clots, especially for smokers or individuals with other cardiovascular risk factors
  • Does not protect against STIs
Possible Side Effects

Side effects are most common during the first 3 months of use and usually go away.

You may experience some or none of the following:

  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Headache
  • Sore breasts
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes
  • Decreased interest in sex

Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about these methods and which is best for you
Source: Contraceptive Technology, 20th edition

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Shot

Shot

Shot

Shot

Depo Provera

Effectiveness

96%

Perfect Use: 99%
Lasts Up To

3 Months

How it Works
  • Can receive shot in upper arm or buttocks
  • Releases hormones to prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs
  • Thickens cervical mucus and prevents sperm from reaching the egg
Pros
  • Totally private
  • Shorter, lighter periods or no period at all
  • Reduces menstrual cramps and PMS
  • Can be used while breastfeeding
Cons
  • Must return to provider for shot every 3 months
  • Unpredictable, irregular bleeding or spotting
  • Weight gain in some individuals
  • May be a delay in return to regular cycle and fertility after last shot (average of 10 months)
  • Does not protect against STIs
Possible Side Effects
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Reversible bone thinning
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Depression
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Rare risk of allergic reaction

Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about these methods and which is best for you
Source: Contraceptive Technology, 20th edition

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Compare Methods

  Condom
Diaphragm Emergency Contraceptive Pill Implant IUD (hormonal) IUD (non-hormonal) Patch Pill Ring Shot
Effectiveness

85%

Perfect Use: 98%

88%

Perfect Use: 94%

75%

Perfect Use: 89%

99%

Perfect Use: 99%

99%

Perfect Use: 99%

99%

Perfect Use: 99%

93%

Perfect Use: 99%

93%

Perfect Use: 99%

93%

Perfect Use: 99%

96%

Perfect Use: 99%
Lasts Up To

1 Use

1 day

1 use

4 years

7 years

12 years

1 week

1 day

4 weeks

3 Months

Pregnancy Risk

12%

12%

25%

>1%

>1%

>1%

6%

6%

6%

6%

STI Prevention Prevents STIs Does not prevent STIs Does not prevent STIs Does not prevent STIs Does not prevent STIs Does not prevent STIs Does not prevent STIs Does not prevent STIs Does not prevent STIs Does not prevent STIs
Hormone-Free Hormone-Free Hormone-Free Not Hormone-Free Not Hormone-Free Not Hormone-Free Hormone-Free Not Hormone-Free Not Hormone-Free Not Hormone-Free Not Hormone-Free
Application You You You Health Care Provider Health Care Provider Health Care Provider You You You Health Care Provider

PREVENT STDs

A condom is the only method above that prevents both STIs and an unintended pregnancy. So, no matter which birth control method you choose, consider a condom, too. You can get them for free at more than 160 locations.