Birth Control Basics: The Pill, The Shot, & The IUD

Birth control, or contraception, is a medicine, a medical device, or a barrier to protect consenting adults from unplanned pregnancies.

on September 8, 2023

Birth control, or contraception, is a medicine, a medical device, or a barrier to protect consenting adults from unplanned pregnancies. The most common form of birth control, condoms, helps create a barrier to keep sperm from entering the uterus. While other birth control methods, like the pill, use the same hormones that our body naturally makes to prevent pregnancy.

Let’s go over the basics of these common birth control methods.

The Pill:

Birth control pills contain hormones, usually estrogen and progestin to prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg (called ovulation). If there is no egg for sperm to fertilize, then pregnancy can’t happen. Taking the pill also creates a layer of mucus over the cervix (opening of the uterus) that makes it difficult for sperm to enter.

Like any medication, the pill works best when it is taken as directed and is about 99 percent effective with perfect use. A package of birth control pills will last a month and must be taken every day at around the same time. Missing even one pill can increase the chances of an unplanned pregnancy.

The Shot:

Depo-Provera, also known as the Depo Shot, is injected every 3 months. Like other hormonal methods of birth control, the Depo Shot releases a hormone into the body to keep the ovary from releasing an egg. The Depo Shot also makes cervical mucus thicker, helping to keep sperm from getting to the egg. This method is over 99 percent effective.

The IUD:

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small piece of flexible plastic shaped like a T. A health care provider inserts the IUD into the uterus. Some IUDs have copper wire, while others release hormones into the body. The hormonal and copper IUD is over 99 percent effective.

IUDs can last for years depending on which one a person has inserted. Some last for up to five years and some for up to 12! When a person is ready to have a baby, the provider can simply take the IUD out.

While these birth control methods are highly effective at preventing pregnancy, NONE of them provide protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So, it’s important to also use a condom and visit your health care provider for routine testing.

Contraceptives Got Talent

Watch this teen-friendly animated video to learn more about contraceptives!

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