It’s important that your child has the information they need to know at the right stage of their development. Things your child will need to know about birth control:
- There are many choices for birth control. Your teen can choose what’s best for them.
- Using a birth control method and condoms (e.g., the birth control pill and condoms) — offers dual protection against pregnancy and STIs.
- Some birth control methods are harder to use or take time to get used to (e.g., birth control ring). These methods may not be the best choice for a teen.
- Birth control needs to be used correctly and consistently to prevent pregnancy and STIs.
- They can talk to a health care provider or go to a sexual and reproductive health clinic to access some kinds of birth control that require a prescription.
Birth Control Options
There are many options for birth control. Some will be more suited to your teen and their life than others. Understanding what each type is and how they work will help you when talking to your teen. It will also help them decide which will work best for them.
An external condom is a thin covering that fits over a hard (erect) penis. It decreases the risk of pregnancy by stopping sperm from getting to the egg. It also lowers the risk of STIs and HIV by stopping semen, vaginal fluid or blood from passing between partners. Most condoms are latex, and there are also non-latex ones. To learn more about condoms and how to use them properly, see External Condom.
Internal (Vaginal) Condom
An internal condom is a soft, plastic (non-latex) sleeve with two flexible rings, one on each end. The inner ring at the closed end goes inside the vagina to cover the cervix. The outer ring stays outside the vagina to cover the vulva. It decreases the risk of pregnancy by stopping the sperm from getting to the egg. It reduces the risk of STIs by stopping semen, vaginal fluid or blood from passing between sexual partners. The internal condom covers more skin, so it provides more protection from STIs than external condoms. To learn more, see Internal Condom.
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
An intrauterine device is a small, soft, T-shaped device with a nylon string attached to it. A health care provider inserts it into the uterus.
Two types of IUDs, copper and hormonal, work in different ways. Depending on the type of IUD, it can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 10 years. Long-acting birth control methods, such as IUDs, work best to prevent pregnancy over time. To learn more, see Intrauterine Devices.
Birth Control Pill (‘The Pill’)
The pill is taken every day to prevent pregnancy. It contains hormones (estrogen and progestin) like the hormones that ovaries produce. These hormones stop the ovaries from releasing an egg. To learn more, see Birth Control Pill.
Birth Control Patch (‘The Patch’)
The birth control patch is a thin, light brown sticky patch worn on the skin that gets changed once a week. The sticky part contains hormones (estrogen and progestin) like the hormones ovaries produce. These hormones absorb through the skin to stop the ovaries from releasing an egg. To learn more, see Birth Control Patch.
Birth Control Ring (NuvaRing®)
The birth control ring is a soft, 5.5 cm clear plastic (non-latex) ring that a person puts in their vagina once a month to stop the ovaries from releasing an egg. To learn more, see Birth Control Ring.
Hormonal Birth Control – Extended and Continuous Use
Extended use is when a person takes a birth control product for two or more cycles without stopping, then takes a planned, hormone-free break. During this break, they get their period. People who use this method will have fewer periods. People should talk to their healthcare provider to see if this is right for them.
Continuous use is when a person takes a birth control product without stopping (no planned hormone-free breaks). This means they won’t have periods. A person interested in this should talk to their healthcare provider.
You can also go to Hormonal Birth Control for more information.
Progestin-Only Pill (POP)
Progestin-Only Pill (POP) is also called the mini-pill. POP contains one hormone (progestin) that is like the hormone produced by ovaries. The mini-pill doesn’t contain estrogen. POP comes as a 28-day pack (there are hormones in all 28 pills). There are no hormone-free pills. POP prevents pregnancy by:
- decreasing the cervical mucous and making it thicker, slowing the egg as it moves through the fallopian tube.
- sometimes stopping an egg from being released.
To learn more, see Progestin-Only Pill.
Birth Control Injection (Depo-Provera® or ‘the Shot’)
The shot contains a hormone (progestin) like the hormone that ovaries produce. It doesn’t contain estrogen. The hormone stops the body from releasing an egg. It also makes the lining of the uterus too thin for a pregnancy. As well, it makes cervical mucous thick so sperm can’t get through. A prescription is needed for the injection. It’s given every 12-13 weeks. To learn more, see Birth Control Injection.
The birth control implant is a thin, plastic rod about 4 cm long that contains a hormone (progestin), like the hormone that ovaries produce. The hormone stops the body from releasing an egg. It also makes cervical mucous thicker, so it’s harder for sperm to pass through. A prescription is needed for the implant, and a healthcare provider inserts it. The implant can stay in for up to 3 years. To learn more, see Implant.
Spermicides are put in the vagina before sex to help prevent pregnancy. They contain an ingredient called nonoxynol-9 that kills sperm. In Canada, spermicides come as a film or foam. Spermicides are among the least effective of all birth control methods. To learn more about spermicides and how to use them, see Spermicides.
A diaphragm is disc-shaped, made of latex or silicone, and has a flexible rim. It is put into the vagina before sex to cover the cervix and stop sperm from entering the uterus. Diaphragms must be used with a special type of gel that kills sperm (contraceptive gel). To learn more, see Diaphragm.
Abstinence means choosing not to do something. Anyone can choose not to participate in any or all sexual activities. On this website, abstinence means making a choice not to have any sexual contact including:
- vaginal sex (penis to vagina)
- anal sex (penis to anus)
- oral sex (mouth to penis or mouth to vagina)
- hand sex (hand to genitals)
Abstinence from vaginal sex prevents pregnancy. Abstinence from vaginal sex, anal sex, and oral sex prevents pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV. To learn more, see Abstinence.
Fertility Awareness-Based (FAB) Methods
Fertility Awareness-Based (FAB) methods are also known as natural family planning. They detect the days when the egg is released and may be fertilized. This is the time when becoming pregnant is most likely to happen. A person can use FAB to:
- prevent pregnancy: don’t have vaginal sex or use another method of birth control during this fertile time.
- become pregnant: have vaginal sex during this fertile time.
To learn more, see FAB Methods.
Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM) (used after the birth of a baby)
LAM is a type of birth control that uses the hormones the body makes while breast/chest feeding to help prevent pregnancy. Breast/chest feeding (lactation) hormones signal the ovaries to stop releasing eggs and having periods (amenorrhea). If you don’t release an egg, you can’t get pregnant.
LAM only works for six months after giving birth if the baby is entirely or nearly fully breast/chest fed and there’s no period yet.
To learn more, go to Lactation Amenorrhea Method.
Tubal ligation is a permanent method of birth control. Surgery is done to close the fallopian tubes (the tubes the egg travels through). This stops the egg and sperm from meeting. If the sperm can’t reach and enter the egg, pregnancy can’t happen. To learn more, see Tubal Ligation.
A vasectomy is a permanent form of birth control. It’s a minor surgery where the tubes (vas deferens) that carry the sperm from the testicles into the semen are blocked. Without sperm, a person can’t get pregnant. To learn more, see Vasectomy.
Withdrawal (Pulling Out)
Withdrawal is when the penis is pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation. Ejaculation is when the penis releases semen, often with orgasm. To use withdrawal effectively, ejaculation shouldn’t happen anywhere near the vagina. If semen lands near the opening of the vagina, sperm can enter the body. Once there, it can fertilize an egg. To learn more, see Withdrawal.
Emergency Contraception (EC)
A person can use emergency contraception (EC) if they have unprotected sex. They can also use it if they aren’t sure they’re protected from pregnancy. For example, it’s helpful to use if a condom breaks or they forgot a birth control pill. EC doesn’t protect against STIs and HIV. It works best if used right away, but they have up to 5 days (or 120 hours) after unprotected sex to use it. The two methods of emergency contraception are emergency contraception pills and the copper intrauterine device (IUD).
The two types of emergency contraception pills are levonorgestrel (e.g., Plan B®, NorLevo®, Next Choice®, Option 2®) or ulipristal acetate (e.g., Ella®). You can buy levonorgestrel pills over the counter at a pharmacy. A person needs a prescription for the ulipristal acetate and for the copper IUD. They would also need a health care provider to insert an IUD. To learn more, see Emergency Contraception.