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Birth Control

Selecting a Birth Control Method

Selecting a method of birth control that is right for you requires accurate information, professional advice, and thoughtful consideration of your birth control goals and options. Some important considerations when selecting a birth control method are:

  • Which one is safe for you
  • Which one you will be able to use correctly and consistently
  • Which one you and your partner(s) will be comfortable using
  • Which one is affordable and easy for you to access.

The experts here at Family Planning can help you select a contraception method from the full spectrum of FDA-approved options. Walk in today or schedule an appointment to find the birth control method that’s right — for you.

Main categories of birth control:

Hormonal Contraception:

Includes birth control pills, the Patch (Evra®), vaginal ring (NuvaRing®), the Shot (Depo Provera®).

Non-hormonal Contraception:

Includes condoms (both male and female), diaphragm, FemCap and “natural” family planning or “rhythm” methods.

Long-Acting Reversible Contraception:

Includes IUD (Skyla®, Paragard® and Mirena®) and Nexplanon®, which can last for 3 to 10 years.

Emergency Contraception (EC):

Birth control which can be used up to 120 hours after unprotected sex to prevent a pregnancy. EC is not intended to be used in place of regular birth control. We offer Emergency Contraception for only $15!

More About Contraception

Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned and about 3 in 10 teenagers will get pregnant at least once by age 20. Birth control allows us to prevent pregnancy and plan the timing between pregnancies. There are a variety of safe and reliable birth control methods.

Birth control isn’t one size fits all so it’s important to talk to a medical provider about what method is best for you. Birth control methods are most effective when used consistently and correctly. Remember, not all methods protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

Have more questions? Read about each method to get more information on the most common forms of birth control:

Abstinence

Abstinence:

Abstinence is the personal decision not to engage in sexual activity. It might mean waiting until you are older, waiting until you’re married, or until you’ve found the right person. People choose abstinence for many different reasons and at different times throughout their lives.

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How does it work?

It’s simple, abstinence works by choosing not to be sexually active.

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How well does it work?

Abstinence is the ONLY 100% effective method for preventing STDs, HIV, and pregnancy.

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Upside?

It’s 100% effective, can be used at any time in your life, doesn’t require a doctor’s visit, is non-hormonal, and it’s FREE!

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Downside?

It may be hard to say no to someone you care about. You and your partner will both need to be committed to practicing abstinence.

Hormonal Methods

1. Birth control pills (oral contraceptives):

Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) are the most common form of hormonal birth control. The pill must be taken at the same time every day. There are a large variety of pills available, some of which have higher or lower hormone levels, or have a different combination of hormones. Talk to your medical provider to decide which one will work best for you.

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How does it work?

The pill works by releasing hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs, which is called ovulation. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg.

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How well does it work?

92-99% effective. The better you are at remembering to take the pill at the same time everyday – the better it works.

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Upside?

The pill can be easy to use because it’s just one pill every day. It can make periods more regular and lessen menstrual cramps. It can be used with a condom as a “backup” method. DOWNSIDE? It might be hard to remember to take a pill at the same time every day. The pill doesn’t protect against STDs or HIV. **Note: Not all women experience downsides when using a hormonal method. Talk to your provider to learn more and keep in mind that if this method doesn’t work for you, there are LOTS more out there.**

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Downside?

You will need to make an appointment at Family Planning of South Central New York to get a prescription. It’s important that you discuss your health history and any questions you have with our health care providers. Different pills will affect women in different ways, and there’s no way to be sure without trying a method. If one pill doesn’t work for you, tell your provider and you can discuss trying a different one instead.

2. Birth Control Patch (Ortho Evra):

The birth control patch (Ortho Evra) is exactly what it sounds like: a patch. It looks like a square Band-Aid. Each patch is kept in place for one week at a time for three weeks in a row. During the fourth week of the month, no patch is worn, and that is when a woman will get her period.

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How does it work?

Each week the patch is placed on a different spot on the body: the lower back, lower stomach, upper back, or upper arm.  The patch works by releasing hormones that prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs, which is called ovulation. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg.

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How well does it work?

92-99% effective. When used consistently and correctly the patch is more effective. This means that it works the best when you remember to change the patch every week.

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Upside?

The patch will stay on until it is actually taken off. It’s easy to use: apply one patch once a week and leave it on all week. It can be used with a condom as a “backup” method. The patch can make periods more regular and may reduce cramping. DOWNSIDE? Sometimes it may cause skin irritation where the patch is placed. The patch does not offer protection from STDs or HIV. **Note: Not all women experience downsides when using a hormonal method. Talk to your provider to learn more and keep in mind that if this method doesn’t work for you, there are LOTS more out there.**

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Downside?

You will need to make an appointment at Family Planning of South Central New York to get a prescription. It’s important to discuss your health history and any questions you have with your provider.

3. Birth Control Ring (NuvaRing):

The ring, also known as the NuvaRing, is a small, plastic ring which is placed in the vagina. The ring stays in the vagina for 3 weeks at a time and is taken out the fourth week. That’s when a woman will have a period. Then start the cycle over again with a new ring.

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How does it work?

The ring releases hormones as soon as it’s placed in the vagina, and consistently delivers them for the full three weeks it’s placed there. This prevents your ovaries from releasing eggs, which is called ovulation. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg.

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How well does it work?

92-99% effective. It is more effective when used consistently and correctly. This means that you put it in for 3 weeks, take it out for a week, and start a new ring right after your period.

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Upside?

You have less to do and less to remember since the ring provides pregnancy prevention for one whole month. It is a very private method. The ring can be used with a condom as a “backup” method.

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Downside?

It may cause spotting the first month or two while your body is getting adjusted. The ring doesn’t protect against STDs or HIV.
**Note: Not all women experience downsides when using a hormonal method. Talk to your provider to learn more and keep in mind that if this method doesn’t work for you, there are LOTS more out there.**

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How do you get the ring?

You will need to make an appointment at Family Planning of South Central New York to get a prescription. You insert and remove the ring on your own. It’s important that you discuss your health history and any questions you have with your provider.

4. Birth Control Shot (Depo-Provera):

The birth control shot, also called Depo-Provera, is a shot that a female gets which prevents pregnancy. Each shot prevents pregnancy for 12 weeks.

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How does it work?

The shot works by releasing hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs, which is called ovulation. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg.

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How well does it work?

94% -99% effective It is important to get the shot every 12 weeks on schedule for it to be most effective.

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Upside?

The shot is private, highly effective, easy to use, and longer-term coverage to prevent pregnancy. Some women have lighter periods after several months, and it can often cause women to eventually get no period at all (which is perfectly healthy, if this is something she’s comfortable with).

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Downside?

A medical appointment is needed every 12 weeks to get the shot. Headaches, nausea, sore breasts, irregular bleeding, change in appetite, and weight gain can sometimes happen with the shot. The shot does not offer protection against STD’s or HIV.

**Note: Not all women experience downsides when using a hormonal method. Talk to your provider to learn more and keep in mind that if this method doesn’t work for you, there are LOTS more out there.**

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How do you get the shot?

A medical provider administers the shot and you will have to return to Family Planning of South Central New York to get another shot every 12 weeks. It’s important that you discuss your health history and any questions you have with your provider.

5. Birth Control Implant (Nexplanon):

The implant (Nexplanon) is a small, matchstick-sized rod that is placed in a woman’s upper arm and prevents pregnancy for up to three years.

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How does it work?

The implant works by releasing hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs, which is called ovulation. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg.

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How well does it work?

97-99% effective.

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Upside?

The implant is highly effective and offers longer-term coverage (up to 3 years). It is private and mostly hidden from other people. The implant can be used with a condom as a “backup” method.

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Downside?

Irregular bleeding, spotting, heavy periods, or no period at all are possibilities with the implant. Nexplanon does not prevent the transmission of STD’s or HIV.

**Note: Not all women experience downsides when using a hormonal method. Talk to your provider to learn more and keep in mind that if this method doesn’t work for you, there are LOTS more out there.**

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How do you get Nexplanon?

You will need an appointment at Family Planning of South Central New York. The provider will numb your arm before inserting the Nexplanon. This only takes a few minutes. Nexplanon is also removed by a medical provider. It’s important that that you discuss your health history and any questions you have with your provider.

6. IUDs (Mirena, ParaGard, Skyla):

The IUD (Intrauterine Device) is a small, T-shaped piece of plastic that is placed in the uterus which prevents pregnancy for 3 to 12 years (depending on which IUD is used). There are 3 IUDS available:

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How does it work?

The IUD prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg. If you use an IUD that contains hormones, it also prevents ovulation.

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How do you get an IUD?

A medical appointment is necessary. A medical provider needs to insert the IUD and you’ll have to return to your provider to have it removed. It’s important that you discuss your health history and any questions you have with your provider.

Mirena

This IUD releases progestin (a synthetic hormone) and prevents pregnancy for up to 5 years.

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Upside?

99% effective It may be left in place for up to 5 years and removed at any time before that. Mirena is very private and cannot be felt by you or your partner. It can provide relief for women who experience heavy periods, bad cramps, and PMS. It can be used with a condom as a backup method.

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Downside?

Mirena does not protect against sexually transmitted infections or HIV.

ParaGard

This IUD is made of plastic with a small amount of copper around it. It does not any contain hormones.

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Upside?

99% effective It may be safely left in place for up to 12 years and removed at any time before that. Paragaurd is very private and cannot be felt by you or your partner. It can be used with a condom as a backup method.

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Downside?

Some women get occasional cramps and heavier periods on ParaGard. It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections or HIV.

Skyla

This IUD is made of plastic and releases a small amount of hormones.

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Upside?

99% effective It may be safely left in place for up to 3 years and removed at any time before that. Skyla is very private and should not be felt by you or your partner. It can be used with a condom as a backup method.

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Downside?

Some women get occasional cramps and heavier periods on Skyla. Some pain, bleeding, and dizziness can occur. A small percentage of women using Skyla develop cysts that usually disappear within 1-2 months. It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections or HIV.

Over-the-Counter Methods

Male Condom:

Condoms, a barrier method, are the most common form of birth control. It is a tube-like shape of either latex or polyurethane/synthetic material that slips over the male’s erect penis.

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How does it work?

The male condom is placed over the penis, creating a barrier, and catches any semen he releases. The semen stays inside the condom and out of the woman’s vagina.

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How well does it work?

82% effective. They are more effective when used consistently and correctly.

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Upside?

No medical appointments are needed and there are no hormones in male condoms. Male condoms offer STD and HIV protection. Condoms are FREE at Family Planning of South Central New York! There are a huge variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures, both lubricated and non-lubricated, with spermicide or without spermicide. Nonlatex condoms are also available for people with latex allergies.

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Downside?

A new condom needs to be used each and every time you engage in sexual activity to prevent pregnancy and STD transmission.

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How do you get condoms?

Male condoms are FREE at Family Planning of South Central New York. Ask for them at the receptionist’s window. They can be purchased at many drug stores, grocery stores, and other stores in the Family Planning section (usually near the pharmacy).

Female Condom:

A female condom has a pouch like shape made out of latex that a woman inserts into her vagina.

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How does it work?

Female condoms work like male condoms, but instead of being on the penis, they go inside the vagina and create a barrier so the sperm cannot reach the egg. Do not use male and female condoms together at the same time.

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How well does it work?

79% effective. They can be more effective when used consistently and correctly each time.

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Upside?

Female condoms are easy to use and don’t require a doctor visit. They are non-hormonal and an option if either partner has a latex allergy. They protect against STD’s and HIV.

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Downside?

A new condom needs to be used each and every time you engage in sexual activity to prevent pregnancy and STD transmission.

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How do you get it?

Female condoms are FREE at Family Planning of South Central New York. They can be purchased at drugstores and grocery stores (usually near the pharmacy.)

Back Up Method – Prescription or Over-The-Counter

Morning-After Pill (Emergency Contraception):

Emergency contraception (EC) is used as a back-up method when a woman’s regular birth control method is forgotten, a condom breaks, or when you have sex when you don’t plan to or want to. It is not meant to be used as a routine method and it will not interrupt or terminate a pregnancy. Emergency contraception prevents a pregnancy from occurring.

Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, ONE DOSE, and Levonorgestrel: These types of EC are most effective in the first 12 hours of unprotected sex, but can be effective up to 5 days or 120 hours after unprotected sex. All these options are available over-the-counter. Anyone 17 or over can purchase EC over the counter at a pharmacy. Females 16 or under require a provider visit and prescription to get emergency contraception.

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How does it work?

The hormones in EC work by preventing ovulation, fertilization, or implantation.

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How well does it work?

It is most effective the sooner it is taken after having unprotected intercourse.

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Upside?

Emergency contraception reduces your risk of unplanned pregnancy. You can plan ahead and have an extra box of EC in case an emergency happens.

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Downside?

Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, ONE DOSE, Ella, and Levonorgestrel brands of EC can cause nausea, unexpected bleeding, heavier periods, spotting, or headaches.

**Note: Not all women experience downsides when using a hormonal method. Talk to your provider to learn more and keep in mind that if this method doesn’t work for you, there are LOTS more out there.**

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How do you get it?

Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, ONE DOSE, and Levonorgestrel: If you are a female, age 16 or under, a medical provider at Family Planning of South Central New York can write you a prescription to get EC, which we provide during the visit. If you are male or female, 17 or older, you can get EC at Family Planning of South Central New York for only $15, without a prescription, right at the receptionist’s window. Proof of age is required. You can get EC at a pharmacy without a prescription if you are 17 or older. Anyone 17 and older can get it (male or female). Ella: You need a prescription for Ella brand emergency contraception regardless of age.

Family Planning of South Central New York, Inc. does not offer permanent birth control, such as tubal ligation for women or vasectomies for men. However, we are happy to refer you to local physicians for such care.