Reversible Short-Term Birth Control Methods

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it is intended to provide information on some of the most common forms of birth control. There are many different options available for effective birth control. You should discuss these with your provider to determine which choice is right for you.

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Though not always mentioned in discussions about birth control, this is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and STDs! Becoming sexually active is a very personal choice and decision—one not to be entered into lightly. Just remember that no other method of birth control is fool-proof in preventing STDs or pregnancy.

Barrier Methods

Condoms provide a barrier so that sperm cannot reach the egg. They can be made of several different materials including latex, polyurethane, or lambskin. Lambskin, or natural condoms, are not reliable to protect against STDs.

Important things to know about condoms:

  • Condoms CAN help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections. They should be used with every act of intercourse including oral, anal, or vaginal, to prevent the spread of STDs such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, or HIV.
  • Condoms have a higher risk of failure than other forms of birth control. The risk of pregnancy in one year is 11-16 per 100 women.
  • Condoms work best when used with a spermicide, a chemical that kills the sperm.
  • Condoms will REDUCE the risk of transmission of HPV, the virus responsible for cervical cancer, but do not completely eliminate the risk of transmission.
  • Lubricants that are water-based like K-Y jelly are safe to use. However, oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline, massage oils, or baby oil can increase the likelihood that the condom will tear or break.
  • Condoms that are kept in hot places are not safe to use. In other words, do not use a condom that has been stored in a wallet or car.

Progesterone-only Oral Contraceptives, or “The Mini-Pill”

Progesterone-only pills are commonly recommended for women who are breast-feeding, as a combination pill may reduce the milk supply. This is a progesterone-only pill that should prevent ovulation.

The Mini-pill is less effective than a combination pill and is more dependent on consistent use- taking the pill at the same time every day and not missing any pills. We recommend that once a woman stops breast-feeding, she contact the office for a further discussion regarding birth control methods.

Combination Oral Contraceptives, or “The Pill”

The birth control pill is one of the most common forms of birth control—and for good reason. There are many very positive side effects that make it a good option for many women. Sometimes your provider will prescribe the pill to treat some of these side effects—even if you do not need it for pregnancy prevention. These side effects include:

  • Decreased duration of periods for women who have prolonged periods
  • Lighter menstrual flow for women who have heavy periods
  • Regularity of periods for women who have unpredictable cycles
  • Decreased cramping in women with painful cycles
  • Decreased likelihood of forming ovarian cysts

How does the pill work?

The pill works in several different ways. It is made of a combination of estrogen and progestin, hormones normally produced in a woman’s body. The pill does the following things:

  1. Mainly, it prevents ovulation, or the release of an egg from the ovary
  2. Thickens the mucous of the cervix to block sperm from entering the cervix and the uterus
  3. Thins the lining of the uterus, making it less likely that a fertilized egg can attach

How effective is the pill?

If taken correctly, the pill is very effective. In fact, if the pill is taken at the same time every day and no pills are missed, your risk of pregnancy is less than 1 in 100 in 1 year. However, the effectiveness of the pill declines in women who skip pills or take the pill at different times of day.

When can I start my pills? Do I need backup birth control?

There are several different ways of starting. We typically recommend starting your pill pack on the Sunday following the first day of your next period. This is for convenience only, as most pill packs are divided by week and day. While all of the following options are available, discuss these with your provider before starting your pill pack.

  • The first day of your period. This does not require a backup method of birth control.
  • The Sunday after your period starts. Use backup birth control for the first full week (7 days) of your pack.
  • The day you get your pill pack, no matter where you are in the cycle. You will need a pregnancy test before doing this and a backup method for the entire pill pack. You may notice slightly more spotting with this method depending on where you are in your cycle.

What are side effects from taking the pill?

  • Nausea—take your pills at night before you go to bed to diminish this
  • Breast tenderness
  • Breakthrough bleeding—one of the most common side effects. Again, this will improve with time!
  • Headaches—some women, particularly women with migraines, may notice a worsening of this. Sometimes the fix is simple and may require a change in the way you take the pill.

Most side effects from the pill diminish with time and typically resolve completely. Sometimes it may take 3-6 months for these symptoms to completely go away. Be patient and give it time. If these symptoms are intolerable, though, the solution can be as simple as changing to a different kind of pill. Call the office if you are considering stopping your pills—we can often help you with this in ways that do not require stopping the pill completely!

What do I do if I miss a pill?

If you miss one pill, take it as soon as you remember. The next day’s pill should be taken at the regular time. This may mean that you take more than one pill in a day. This is okay. If you forget two or more pills, call the office. If you miss two pills, you should use a backup method of birth control for the remainder of the pill pack. If you have any concerns at all, you can always use a backup method even if you only miss one pill.

Who should not take the pill?

  • Women who smoke and are over the age of 35
  • Women with a history of blood clots in the lungs or deep veins (DVT)
  • Women over the age of 35 with other health conditions including (but not limited to) diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure

What else should I know about the pill?

The pill may increase your risk of forming a serious blood clot in the deep veins of the legs or lungs. This risk is small, but it exists for any type of pill we prescribe that contains a combination of estrogen and progestin. Also, the pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. You must also use a condom for prevention of STDs.


NuvaRing is a small, flexible ring that is inserted in the vagina at the beginning of the cycle. It remains in the vagina for three weeks and is removed at the start of the fourth week to allow your period to begin. The NuvaRing stays in place during any activity including exercise, intercourse, and bathing, and is held in place by the muscles of the body. It is typically not even noticeable during any of these activities. The side effects are similar to those of the birth control pill. NuvaRing does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. You must also use a condom for prevention of STDs.

What do I do if my NuvaRing slips out?

  • If less than 3 hours—rinse the NuvaRing with warm water and reinsert.
  • If out for more than 3 hours within the first 2 weeks of putting in your NuvaRing—rinse with warm water, reinsert as soon as possible, and use a backup method of birth control.
  • If out for more than 3 hours in the third week of putting in your NuvaRing—throw the ring away and either:
    • Insert a new ring immediately and use the new ring for the next three weeks
    • Leave the NuvaRing out, have a period, and insert a new ring no later than 7 days from the time the ring was removed. This method will only work if your previous ring was in for at least 7 days before it fell out.

Do I need to use a backup method when I start the NuvaRing?

Yes, in the following situations:

  • The very first week you ever start NuvaRing (until you have used it for 7 days in a row)
  • If your ring comes out in the first two weeks of placement and is reinserted after being out for more than 3 hours

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