The ABCs of Birth Control

Photo: (Getty)

Photo: (Getty)

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and today is clearly the last day of the month, so to celebrate, or, uh, more like help out, we’ve compiled an ABCs of Birth Control. It’s kinda like the ABCs of STDs we did before, but this time we’re focusing on preventing unintended and unwanted pregnancies with eye-opening facts. All from A to Z. Your minds will be blown.

Few things for ya to keep in mind:

+ The choice is yours. Deciding if and when you are ready to have sex is a big decision to make. And one that only YOU can make. So whether you’ve decided you are ready, are not ready or you have had sex but want to hold off in your next relationship, it’s YOUR decision to make. Taking control of your sex life means waiting until you are ready.

+ There are many different birth control options. If you do decide that you are ready, there are a lot of protection methods to choose from. Different forms of birth control work for different people so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about what works best for you and your body. And don’t give up on your birth control. If one method doesn’t work so well — be sure to try another.

+ Condoms FTW. On this list — other than not having sex at all (abstinence), the only form of birth control that prevents pregnancy AND STDs is the condom (male and female). So if you’re sexually active, remember that in addition to any other form of birth control you are using, you must use a condom each and every time to keep yourself safe in more ways than one.

OK, without further ado, here’s our ABCs of Birth Control …

A Abstinence. Abstinence means no sex at all, and this is the only foolproof way to make sure you don’t get pregnant or an STD. And waiting to have sex is totally OK. More than half of teens in high school have never had sex. Only you can decide if and when you are ready. But if you do decide to have sex … Well, let’s move on to the rest of the ABCs…

B Birth control pill. The pill is one of the most well-known forms of birth control and one of the most effective. Make sure you take it daily and at the same time every day. Skipping days or mixing up times lessens its effectiveness. Used perfectly, the pill is almost 100% effective.

C Cervical cap. The cervical cap sorta looks like a little hat. How do you use it? A woman puts spermicide on it and places it into her vagina. In terms of effectiveness, the cervical cap is kind of in the middle when it comes to birth control options. If 100 couples use it perfectly, nine women will still get pregnant.

D Diaphragm. Like the cervical cap, a woman puts spermicide on the diaphragm and places it in her vagina, covering the cervix. It is more effective than the cervical cap — if 100 couples use a diaphragm perfectly, six will end up pregnant.

E Emergency contraceptive. Emergency contraceptive, or EC, is around if your initial form of birth control failed or if you had unprotected sex. You need to take it within five days of having sex (within three days or sooner is better), and it will help prevent pregnancy. But if you’re already pregnant by the time you take it, it won’t do anything.

F Female condom. What’s cool about female condoms (and their more famous counterparts, male condoms) is that they also protect against STDs. If couples use female condoms perfectly, five couples out of 100 will get pregnant.


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G Get Reminders. Okay, so with a lot of different birth controls, you have to remember to take or update them. That means take the pill daily, get the shot every three months, etc. If you miss, you’re more likely to get pregnant. But if you sign up for Get Reminders, you can get helpful texts or emails to help you make sure you don’t miss anything.

H Hormones. Some forms of birth control, like the pill, have hormones in them. Others, like the copper IUD or condoms, don’t. Some people are just fine with the hormones (in fact, they can give other health benefits, like less painful periods). However, some people don’t tolerate these hormones well and may want to stick with non-hormonal birth controls.

I IUD. An IUD is a little T-shaped object that’s placed into the uterus by a doctor and is almost 100% effective. The copper (non-hormonal) IUD lasts for twelve years, and the progestin (hormonal) IUD lasts for five years.

J Junel. We call it “The Pill” as if there’s only one, but the truth is there are a number of different versions of the birth control pill. Junel is one of the numerous versions of the pill that’s available. Keep in mind if you take one form of the pill and don’t like it, another type might still be right up your alley.

K Kinds of birth control. There are many different kinds of birth control, as you can see on this list. It’s good to research what’s available so you can find what’s best for you. Just because one kind works for your BFF doesn’t mean it’s going to be right for you, and vice versa. Sometimes a person might have to try a few different kinds of birth control before they find their perfect match. Talk to your doctor about what works best for you and your body.

L Lies. We’ve all heard all the myths about birth control. Ever heard of the idea that two condoms work better than one? Nope, they don’t. Heard that a woman can’t get pregnant while she has her period? Sorry, it’s still possible. Be informed and get the facts.

M Male condom. Or just plain condom. Condoms are the ONLY method that protect against BOTH pregnancy and STDs. You don’t need a prescription, either. If used correctly and consistently (you put it on right, you use it each and every time, etc.), two couples out of 100 will get pregnant while using condoms. If not used perfectly, that number increases big-time.


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N Non-hormonal. If you have trouble with hormonal birth control methods, try talking to your doctor about non-hormonal ones. Options include condoms and the copper IUD. Also keep in mind the effectiveness of each form of birth control when you decide.

O Odds of getting pregnant. Every form of birth control has a different level of effectiveness. Only abstinence is 100%, but methods like the IUD are almost 100% effective. When picking a birth control, you want something effective that also works well with your body and your lifestyle. Also remember that it’s super-important to follow the directions with your birth control, and that only condoms, female condoms and abstinence also protect against STDs.

P Patch. And no, not a pirate’s patch! Ladies, slap this baby on your body (like on your upper arm or abdomen) and it works for three weeks if you replace it once a week. After that, you get a week off, then you put on another one. If you use it perfectly, like always replacing it on time, it is about 100% effective.

Q Questions. It’s normal to have lots of questions about sex and lots of questions about birth control. Don’t be shy! It’s good to talk with a doctor you trust to learn more about your options and what options are best for you. You can also check out It’s Your (Sex) Life to get the facts.

RRing. No, not the kind you put on your finger. This pliable ring is put inside a woman’s vagina for three weeks, then she gets a week off before putting another one in. Used perfectly, this is another form of birth control that’s almost 100% effective. When used less-than-perfectly, eight out of 100 women will get pregnant.

S Shot. The Shot, aka Depo-Provera, requires a woman to take a shot every three months. A big bonus is the fact it lasts longer than some other forms of birth control (though it won’t protect you from STDs). But you need to make sure you’re back in time for your next shot. If you always get the shot on time, it’s almost 100% effective.

T Tubes tied. A permanent way a woman can prevent pregnancy is to get her tubes tied. This means that,by way of a surgical procedure, a woman’s fallopian tubes are clamped and blocked, or severed and sealed. This isn’t for women who want temporary birth control, women who want kids in the future or women who aren’t sure whether or not they’d like to have kids. We can’t say it’s impossible to untie tubes, but doctors also can’t guarantee it would work.


Photo: (Getty)

U Unprotected sex. Unprotected sex is the No. 1 way to get pregnant and an STD. While it’s possible to get pregnant on any form of birth control other than abstinence, your chances skyrocket if you’re not using any protection. Teens who are having sex without any form of protection have a 90% chance of getting pregnant within a year.

V Vasectomy. Like a woman tying her tubes, a vasectomy is a permanent way to prevent pregnancy, only this time it’s for men. A man choosing a vasectomy has his tubes (medically known as vasa deferentia) tied so sperm can’t get out. This is not a form of birth control for any man who might want kids in the future.

W Withdrawal. Withdrawal is when a guy pulls out his penis before coming. With perfect execution, four out of 100 women will get pregnant. However, perfection with withdrawal is very difficult, so on average 27 out of 100 women get pregnant using this method. While it is a way of preventing pregnancy, it’s not one that’s recommended.

X Title X. This family planning program began in 1970, and its goal is to offer services having to do with family planning and birth control. These days more than five million people get help with their birth control through Title X.

Y Young people. Young people often have to face unplanned pregnancies — did you know that in America, three out of ten girls will be pregnant before they turn 20? This number can be brought down through better access to birth control, better use of birth control and better education on how birth control works. So tell your friends to read this story!


Photo: (Getty)

Z Zovia. Zovia is another version of the birth control pill, the oral contraceptive you take daily. It’s also a nice little way to finish off our alphabet. From A to Z, what’s the best kind of birth control for you if and when you’re ready to be sexually active? It’s your decision to make.

All facts are from It’s Your (Sex) Life, Bedsider,  Planned Parenthood. the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services or WebMD.

For more info on birth control and help finding the right method for you, head to Its Your (Sex) Life or to Bedsider.

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