What are my other options for birth control?

There are many options available today for birth control. These include:

Abstinence: Not having sex with a man is 100 percent effective at avoiding pregnancy.

Barrier methods: These stop the sperm from reaching the egg, and must be used each time you have sex. Options include condoms, spermicide, diaphragms, sponge, or cervical cap. Diaphragms are about 88 percent effective; condoms about 82 percent. Combining these methods increases their overall effectiveness.

Long-acting reversible contraceptives: These are birth control options that your physician inserts into your body, such as intrauterine devices (often called IUDs) and hormonal implants. They free you up from having to think about birth control for months or even years at a time, and can be removed if you want to become pregnant later in life. When used correctly, long-acting contraceptives are about 99 percent effective.

Short-acting hormone treatments: These are birth control options that you have to take or use daily (or monthly, or quarterly, in some cases), including birth control pills, a patch, a shot, or a vaginal ring. Shots are about 94 percent effective and the pill, the patch, and the ring are about 91 percent effective.

Sterilization: This means the person has a surgical or medical procedure that leaves him or her permanently unable to have children. These procedures include tubal ligation or occlusion for women, or a vasectomy for men. When these procedures are done correctly, they are nearly 100 percent effective.

The rhythm method is about 76 percent effective (see next section).

What if I realize I have made a mistake and had unprotected sex during my fertile time?

Emergency contraception medications are available in most drugstores today. Plan B One-Step® and generic versions do not require a prescription but some other types of emergency contraception do. All types work best if taken as soon as possible, but, depending on the type, may still be effective up to five days after having unprotected sex.

If you are going to be using the rhythm method as your primary source of birth control, you might want to ask your doctor ahead of time about the best emergency conception option for you if a problem arises. Since many women who use the rhythm method are doing so to avoid unwanted side effects of other birth control types, knowing ahead of time about the potential side effects of each of the types of emergency birth control will prepare you to make a good decision if the time comes.

How can I learn more about natural family planning methods?

There are professionals in most communities (often nurses) who can help you learn more about applying the rhythm method or other non-medical birth control methods to your life. Your gynecologist or primary care doctor may be able to recommend someone to you. The more you know about this approach to birth control, the better your results will be.

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