7 Birth Control Methods That Are Almost as Easy as Pulling Out

Okay, there’s no equipment required. But the pull-out method can be messy—and you have a one-in-five chance of pregnancy. Luckily, there are other birth control methods that are more effective and almost as convenient. Whether you’re always looking for an excuse to go to the drugstore (where else are you going to find our favorite mascara?), have a memory like whatever the opposite of an elephant is, or want to cancel your tampon prescription, there’s an option for you.

If You Want It On an As-Needed Basis


What could be more convenient than something you can carry in your wallet? (But actually, don’t do that. Store condoms in a cool, dark place, like the drawer of your nightstand. You can pop one in your bag, just don’t keep it there for too long.) Plus, they’re the only form of birth control that protects against STDs, they’re cheap and sometimes even free, and they have no side effects. Just be sure you use a new one every single time you have sex to keep their effectiveness closer to 98 percent (their success rate when used perfectly) than 85 percent, their real-life effectiveness. 


If you can put in a tampon, you can use contraceptive gel, which comes in prefilled applicators you insert into your vagina up to an hour before sex. Made of lactic acid, citric acid, and potassium bitartrate (a byproduct of wine fermentation!), contraceptive gel lowers the pH of your vagina, making it inhospitable to sperm. It’s about 86 percent effective on its own, and you can double up on birth control methods—use it with condoms or diaphragms—for extra protection.

If You Want to Set It and Forget It


A nurse or doctor implants this matchstick-size rod in your arm, where it releases the hormone progestin to stop you from getting pregnant for up to five years. (If you decide you want to get pregnant before that, you can have it removed.). The implant is more than 99 percent effective, and it can make your period way lighter. In fact, one in three women with an implant stop getting their period entirely after a year.


With both hormonal and copper IUDs, your chances of getting pregnant are less than 1 percent. And they prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm from reaching the egg for between three and 12 years, depending on which of the five brands you choose. A nurse or doctor can usually insert it in about as much time as you used to spend in the “feminine care” aisle—which you may not have to do if you get a hormonal IUD. Like the implant, it can lighten periods and even eliminate them altogether.

If You Never Forget a Birthday


Both the patch and the pill keep you from ovulating and, as an extra precaution, thicken your cervical mucus so sperm can’t swim to the egg. The main difference is that instead of popping a daily pill, you stick the patch on your belly, upper arm, butt, or back just once a week. Other benes: You may be able to pick up several months’ worth of patches at once or even get them mailed to you, and if you decide you want to get pregnant, you can do so as soon as you stop using the patch.


So iconic, “the pill” even has its own entry in the dictionary. You have two choices when it comes to birth control pills: combination pills that contain progestin and estrogen, and progestin-only pills, or “mini pills.” The mini pill is slightly higher-maintenance because you have to take it at the same time every day. But it makes more sense for women who are breastfeeding or have a history of migraines or blood clots. And while it has fewer good side effects—the combination pill can make your skin better and even prevent certain cancers—it’s also less likely to cause negative side effects. Either way, birth control pills are 99 percent effective if used perfectly and 91 percent effective if you’re, you know, human.   


There are two types of vaginal rings. One has enough hormones in it to last a year, and you take it out for a week every three weeks. The other has enough hormones to last five weeks, and every three to five weeks you either take it out for a week before reinserting a new one if you want to get your period or skip the week off if you don’t. Because exact placement doesn’t matter, both are easy to put in; you just squeeze the sides together and push the ring as deep as you can into your vagina, where it prevents pregnancy for 91 out of every 100 women.

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