In this blog post, I am going to discuss different types of birth control. While there are numerous choices when it comes to choosing a birth control method, today I’m going to focus on four types. Two types that do not require a prescription and two that do. Some things to consider when choosing a birth control method are effectiveness (how well and often they work), safety, and potential side effects. 

Non-Prescription Birth Control Options  

External Condoms

     External condoms are also known as male condoms and are worn on the penis during intercourse. They are the only form of birth control that can prevent pregnancy and protect against STIs. (1) They are usually made of latex (a thin rubber-like substance) and essentially block the man’s sperm from entering the woman’s vaginal canal. (1) The latex barrier is also what offers protection from skin-to-skin contact which can prevent STIs.  


     External condoms are about 87% effective in preventing pregnancy and 98% effective if used perfectly. (2) This means that 2 out of 100 people will become pregnant in a year when using external condoms. (1) 


     External condoms are generally safe unless one of the partners has a latex allergy. There are condoms that are made of non-latex material, but some people have an allergy to these as well. This is one of the major disadvantages of condoms. 

Potential Side Effects/Disadvantages 

  • Condoms can slip or tear during intercourse which defeats their purpose. (1)
  • They have expiration dates. (1)
  • They are not 100% effective. 

Fertility Awareness/Tracking Your Cycle 

     Fertility Awareness or Tracking Your Cycle is when a woman keeps track of her cycle and is able to tell what phase her cycle is in based on physical symptoms. This requires diligence and consistency by the woman to make sure she is tracking on a daily basis. Some women use a calender method where they will document certain symptoms like cervical mucous consistency, basal body temperature, and/or the day of the cycle (ex. Day 14). (2) Certain symptoms indicate ovulation which is a woman’s fertile window. If you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, this is the time you would avoid unprotected intercourse. (3) For more information on this method, see my first blog post


     This method is 88% effective and 95% effective when used perfectly. (2)  


There is nothing particularly dangerous about this method. 

Potential Side Effects/Disadvantages 

  • It is not as effective in preventing pregnancy if you are not extremely diligent and do not track daily. (4)
  • It’s hard for women with irregular periods. (4) 
  • It takes a few months of tracking to get a clear pattern of your cycle. (4) 
  • It is not 100% effective.   

Prescription Birth Control Options

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)  

     IUDs are t-shaped objects that are implanted into the uterine wall. There are hormonal and non-hormonal options. They can also last for up to 10 years and can be taken out when the woman is ready. (5) 


     IUDs are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. (5)



  • If an infection occurs from an IUD, pelvic inflammatory disease can result (6)
  • IUDs can become dislodged or misplaced. This can cause bleeding, cramping, and discomfort. (7)

Potential Side Effects/Disadvantages 

  • Periods can become heavier and longer. Especially with the hormonal IUDs. (6)
  • There is a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy. (8)
  • They are not 100% effective.    

Birth Control Pills

     While there are many different brands of birth control, they are essentially pills that contain hormones that disrupt ovulation in a woman’s cycle. This makes her infertile while she is taking the pill. 


     Birth control pills are 93% effective with typical use. (5)

Safety/Potential Side Effects 

     The pill is generally considered safe, but there are some serious side effects that can occur. (9)

  • Blood clots
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver cancer
  • Stroke

More common side effects that occur are: (9)  

  • Acne
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain 


     Birth control pills are made up mostly of hormones estrogen and progesterone that change a woman’s natural cycle and stop ovulation from occurring. This disruption in hormones can cause the body to be out of balance resulting in the side effects listed above. The greatest disadvantage to birth control pills is they are not 100% effective. 

     Overall, there are many options when it comes to choosing a form of birth control. They all come with potential safety issues and negative side effects, which is why it’s important to become educated on the options. And most importantly, consult with your healthcare provider before making a decision.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact;

Nurturing Center of Lubbock
3303 66th Street
Lubbock, TX 79413
Phone: 806-780-6853 (available 24 hours)
Text: 806-317-4480

Marlee Henn, RN

Marlee has been a nurse for two years and currently works in a functional medical clinic and part time in a long term acute care center. She has a passion for natural living, women’s health, and education.