Birth Control Basics
Sometimes birth control is called contraception or family planning. There are a BUNCH of different birth control methods designed to prevent pregnancy. Some methods are more effective than others. Deciding on a birth control method is a personal decision. The perfect method for one person might be a no-go for someone else. A method you love now may seem less amazing in 5 years. It may take a few tries to find a method you like—that’s very normal.
Even with birth control, there is always a chance that you or your partner could still get pregnant—the only 100% reliable way to not get pregnant is to not have sex. That being said, many methods of birth control are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Birth control is a great way to take control of your life, so you can choose to have a baby if or when you really want one.
Birth Control FAQs
Do I need birth control?
If you’re having sex or thinking about having sex with someone who has different genitals than you, then birth control is probably for you. Even if you’re not having penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex (also called intercourse) now, you may want to begin thinking about birth control and talking to your partner about it. This way, you’re ready if or when you both decide you want to have PIV sex.
The chance of becoming pregnant from sex other than PIV is slim, but it’s not impossible. If any semen (come or ejaculate) comes into contact with the vulva, it’s possible for sperm to continue on their journey and eventually fertilize an egg. For this reason, you may want to consider birth control if you’re having oral, anal or manual sex.
If you only have sex with people who have the same genitals as you (if you have a vagina and your partners all have vaginas, or you have a penis and your partners all have penises), then you do not need birth control to prevent pregnancy. However, it’s still a good idea to educate yourself about what birth control is and how it works!
Many people use birth control for reasons other than preventing pregnancy, such as treating acne, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and more.
How can I get birth control?
It depends on what method you want. You can get condoms at most drug stores, corner stores, online and for free at many health clinics. You can get many other birth control methods by making an appointment with your health care provider or going to a community or family planning clinic. They’ll talk to you about your birth control options and answer any questions you have. For some methods, like the shot or diaphragm, ask the doctor’s office if they have the method before you make an appointment.
You don’t necessarily need a pelvic (or gynecological) exam to get birth control. Some methods of birth control, like the IUD, will require a pelvic exam for insertion. If you’re 21 or older, your health care provider may recommend a pelvic exam anyway. We go into more detail about how to get individual methods of birth control in Birth Control Methods.
How much will it cost?
Currently, most health insurance (including Medicaid) is required to cover birth control. Insurance will usually also cover doctor’s appointments for birth control. Without insurance, the cost will depend on the method you choose and where you get it. If you don’t have insurance, birth control can range from totally free to over $1,000. Many community or family planning clinics have free or affordable birth control.
What’s a LARC?
Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARCs) are the most effective methods of birth control and they last for several years. This means you rarely have to think about them, and there’s not much chance to use them the wrong way. If or when you decide you want to become pregnant (or you decide you don’t want to keep using that birth control method), they can be safely removed with no effect on your ability to get pregnant. LARCs are a great option if you think you won’t want to have children for at least a few more years. LARCs include hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), the copper IUD (Paragard) and the implant.
If you are 10-22 years old and live in the New York City area, you can come to the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for free, confidential, STI testing and treatment, counseling and other health services.
This information is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services, only general information for education purposes only.