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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Birth control gallery

Click on an image below to enlarge. Linked methods go to a webpage to download a detailed brochure.

artwork representing abstinence from sex (image not clickable)

Abstinence*

Abstinence means choosing not to have sex. Some people choose to abstain from sexual intercourse, but engage in other sexual activities. Some people choose to abstain from all sexual activity. When practiced correctly, abstinence is the only 100% sure method for preventing pregnancy.

Image not clickable to larger size.


photo of the cervical cap contraceptive

Cervical Cap

The cervical cap is a small latex cup that a woman inserts into her vagina before sexual intercourse. The cervical cap fits snugly over the woman's cervix. It is smaller than the diaphragm and is used with spermicidal cream or jelly. The cervical cap works by blocking sperm from entering the uterus.


photo of condom packages

Condoms*

Condoms are thin barriers made of latex, plastic, or natural membranes. They look like long, thin, deflated balloons. There are both male and female condoms. The male condom fits over a man's penis. The female condom fits inside a woman's vagina. Both male and female condoms work by preventing sperm from entering the vagina and reaching an egg.


photo of the contraceptive patch

Contraceptive Patch ("The Patch")

The contraceptive patch is a thin plastic patch -- about the size of a matchbook - that a woman wears on her skin to prevent pregnancy. The patch contains hormones just like the ones in most birth control pills. It releases these hormones through the skin and into the bloodstream. Instead of taking a pill every day, a woman sticks on a new patch each week. The patch works mainly by preventing the ovary from releasing an egg.


photo of the Depo-Provera calendar

Depo-Provera ("The Shot")

Depo Provera is a shot that a woman gets 4 times a year (every 12 weeks) to prevent pregnancy. It contains medicine that is like progesterone - a hormone that is naturally present in a woman's body. The shot works mainly by preventing the ovary from releasing an egg.


photo of the diaphragm contraceptive

Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a soft latex dome that a woman inserts into her vagina before sexual intercourse. It fits over her cervix and is held in place by her vaginal muscles. It always needs to be used with spermicidal cream or jelly. The diaphragm works by blocking the opening to the uterus so that sperm cannot enter.


photo of emergency contraception

Emergency Contraception ("EC")**

EC (sometimes called "the morning after pill") is a special dose of birth control pills that prevents pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex. The sooner EC is taken, the more effective it is. EC is very safe. It is not an abortion pill. EC works mainly by preventing the ovary from releasing an egg.


Fertility Awareness

Fertility Awareness

These are really a group of methods. What they all have in common is using the body's signs to figure out the most likely times to get pregnant, and then using another birth control method or not having vaginal sex during that time. A woman can learn how to predict with reasonable accuracy when she is going to ovulate based on the timing of her periods and changes in her body such as waking temperature, cervical fluid and the position of the cervix. She charts the changes in her body, often with the help of a class or in consultation with a health care provider.

Ovulation test kits (to determine when she releases an egg) can be purchased in drug stores, but she would have to abstain for a week or so before she ovulated in order to avoid a pregnancy, so it's important to learn to predict it based on physical changes if she wants to use it as birth control. Like other birth control methods, fertility awareness can be challenging. Is fertility awareness a real method? Absolutely. Are there other more effective methods? Sure. We don't have great studies of "typical use" but experts guess that about 25 women in 100 using Fertility Awareness become pregnant in a year. That's about as effective as withdrawal or a female condom. With perfect (careful, consistent) use, between 1 and 9 women per 100 using Fertility Awareness would get pregnant in a year. It does not prevent transmission of STDs.


photo of IUD

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

The IUD is a small, T-shaped piece of flexible plastic that fits inside a woman's uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are 2 types of IUD's: copper and progestin (a hormone found in birth control pills). The copper IUD lasts 10 years and the progestin IUD lasts 5 years. IUDs work mainly by preventing fertilization, and interfering with the sperm's ability to reach the egg.

Did you know IUDs are safe for teens?


photo of the progestin pills

Oral Contraceptives ("The Pill")

Birth control pills, often called "The Pill", are pills that a woman takes daily to prevent pregnancy. They are made of hormones similar to those found naturally in a woman's body. The Pill works mainly by preventing the ovary from releasing an egg.


photo of VCF birth control

Spermicides*

Spermicide is a chemical that kills sperm. It comes in different forms: foams, film, creams, jellies and suppositories. A woman inserts spermicide deep into her vagina just before having sexual intercourse. Spermicides provide some pregnancy protection when used alone, but they are much more effective when used with another method, like the condom, diaphragm or cervical cap.


no image available for vasectomy

Female Sterilization (tubal ligation)

Female sterilization is a form of permanent birth control. This means it is not reversible. A tubal ligation is a minor operation that blocks a woman's fallopian tubes (the tubes that carry the egg to the uterus). Female sterilization works by blocking the egg from reaching sperm.


no image available for sterilization

Male Sterilization (vasectomy)

Male sterilization is a form of permanent birth control. This means it is not reversible. A vasectomy is a simple operation that blocks the tubes that carry sperm from a man's testes to his penis. Male sterilization works by blocking the sperm from leaving the man's body.


photo of the vaginal ring contraception

Vaginal Contraceptive Ring ("The Ring")

The Ring is a small, flexible plastic ring - about 2 inches wide - that a woman places in her vagina each month to prevent pregnancy. The Ring contains hormones just like the ones in most birth control pills. It releases these hormones into a woman's body through her vagina. Instead of taking a pill every day, a woman puts in a new ring each month. The Ring works mainly by preventing the ovary from releasing an egg.

Image courtesy by Organon International.


artwork representing withdrawal during intercourse (image not clickable)

Withdrawal ("pulling out")*

When couples use withdrawal, the man pulls his penis out of his partner's vagina before ejaculation ("coming"). This prevents sperm from entering the woman's body. To practice withdrawal correctly, a man needs to have self-control. He needs to know when he is about to ejaculate ("come"), and he needs to make sure that none of his semen ("cum") touches or enters his partner's vagina. It was once thought that a man's pre-ejaculate contained sperm; it doesn't. Instead, there may be semen present in a man's urethra (which ends with the opening at the tip of the penis) from a previous ejaculation. More likely, a man may not withdraw completely before ejaculating or if he does, he may not ejaculate far enough away from the woman's vagina to be effective. Like abstinence and fertility awareness, withdrawal can be challenging. Is withdrawal a real method? Absolutely. Are there other more effective methods? Sure. With typical use, nineteen women in 100 would become pregnant in one year. With perfect use, four women in 100 would get pregnant in one year. That's similar to the effectiveness of the female condom. Withdrawal does not prevent transmission of STD's.

*Image not clickable to larger size.


A comparison of all birth control method effectiveness rates (PDF)

* No prescription is needed regardless of age or gender.

** No prescription needed for people 17 and over and men can get Plan B for their wives, girlfriends, sisters and friends! Girls age 16 or younger do need to see a health care provider, including some pharmacists, to get it.