Birth control at a glance:
- Birth control is a safe way to prevent pregnancy.
- Most kinds of birth control don’t protect you from STDs, so also use a condom every time you have sex.
- You can go to your local Planned Parenthood health center for help figuring out which kind of birth control is right for you.
How does birth control work?
There are lots of different kinds of birth control. They all work by preventing a sperm and egg from meeting. Some methods use hormones to prevent ovaries from releasing eggs. Other methods block sperm from getting to an egg. Some methods do both.
What’s the best birth control?
The best way to prevent pregnancy is to use a very effective birth control method PLUS a condom. That way you’re protected from STDs, too, and double-protected from pregnancy.
There are lots of birth control methods available. Try our My Birth Control quiz to help you figure out what might work best for you. You can also go to a Planned Parenthood health center for all things birth control.
How do I get on birth control?
To get on birth control, like the IUD, implant, shot, pill, patch, or ring, you need to see a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider. Usually you don’t need a full exam to get birth control, but what happens at your appointment depends on your personal health, the doctor’s policies, and what type of birth control you want. Here’s some stuff you can probably expect:
Your doctor will want to talk with you about your medical history (ask you questions about your health in the past) and check your blood pressure.
They may ask about your sex life: how many people you’ve had sex with, what kind of birth control you’ve used, etc. Be honest so they can give you the best care.
You can also ask any questions you have about birth control, and what type would work best for you. Ask about more effective and longer-lasting methods of birth control, like the IUD, implant, or shot.
You might get a pelvic exam.
If you decide on a long-lasting method (like the IUD, implant, or shot), your doctor will give it to you in the health care center. If you go with the pill, patch, or ring, you’ll get a prescription. You can pick up your birth control at a Planned Parenthood health center, other health center, or drugstore.
If you have health insurance, you probably won’t have to pay for your birth control. If you don’t use health insurance, you can ask your local Planned Parenthood health center about free or low-cost birth control.
What are the benefits of birth control?
There are lots of benefits of birth control. Most importantly, it prevents pregnancy. Besides that, some methods of birth control can also:
- make your periods lighter, shorter, and more regular (or even stop them completely)
- reduce cramping and PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome)
- clear up acne (pimples or zits)
- reduce your chances of getting certain cancers
Remember that most methods of birth control only prevent pregnancy. So in addition to birth control, it’s a good idea to use condoms every time you have sex to protect yourself from STDs.
Does birth control make you gain weight or make you infertile?
These are two questions we get all the time about birth control. Here’s the deal:
- No, birth control doesn’t make you gain weight (research shows this!). The shot may cause weight gain, but only for some women.
- No, birth control won’t make you infertile, unless you get sterilized. All other methods are temporary – you can absolutely get pregnant and have children once you stop using birth control.
Sometimes in the first couple 2-3 months of using birth control, you might have nausea, bleed between periods (spotting), have late or early periods, or have breast tenderness. BUT, these problems usually go away after 2-3 months, so stick it out and let your body adjust. If you’re still having problems after 3 months (or the side effects are really bothering you), talk to your doctor, nurse, or health care provider about other methods of birth control that you can try.
Not all methods are the same for everyone. Just because your friend didn’t like the ring doesn’t mean you won’t. And just because one brand of pill didn’t work for you doesn’t mean they all won’t. Many people try a few different kinds of birth control before they find one that works best for them.
Is there birth control I can take after unprotected sex?
If you had unprotected vaginal (penis-in-vagina) sex, you can still take Plan B One-Step, also known as emergency contraception (EC) or the morning-after pill. EC helps to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. It is not the same as the abortion pill, and it won’t cause an abortion or work if you’re already pregnant.
EC works better the earlier you take it after unprotected sex. You can take EC up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
People of any age can get brands like Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, and others in the family planning aisle of many drugstores without a prescription (it may be behind the counter, so just ask a store employee if you can’t find it). Both girls and guys can buy these kinds of EC. A few brands of EC that come with two pills instead of one are available without prescription at many pharmacies for anybody 17 or older. Teens under 17 can still get these other brands of EC with a prescription or at Planned Parenthood health centers.
It’s best to plan ahead and get EC before an accident happens, so you’re prepared in case you need it. That way you won't waste time getting an appointment with a health care provider or trying to get to a drugstore after unprotected sex. Remember, EC works better the sooner you take it.
Will my parents find out if I get birth control?
Most of the time you don’t need a parent’s permission to get birth control. However, different states have different laws. So there may be certain places where a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider may contact a parent if you’re underage. Worried about that? When you make an appointment you can always ask what their privacy policies are, so you know before you go.
If you use your parents’ health insurance to pay, your family might get a statement in the mail describing the services you had. If you’re on a parent’s or anyone else’s health insurance and don’t want them to know about your trip to the doctor, call the insurance company to find out about their privacy policies. You can also always call your nearest Planned Parenthood health center to see if they can give you free or low-cost services so you don’t have to use your parents’ insurance.