Forms of Contraception

External Condom

  • Effectiveness: 85%-98%
  • How it works: Blocks semen from entering the vagina or anus.
  • Advantages: Safe, effective and easy to get. Prevents both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Latex free options are available.
  • Disadvantages: Decrease spontaneity, and may feel uncomfortable putting on. You have to be sure to use it correctly every time.
  • How to Use

Internal Condom

  • Effectiveness: 79%-98%
  • How it works: It is inserted into the vaginal canal prior to penetration.
  • Advantages: Latex free. Can be used in the vagina or anus. The external ring of the condom may provide extra clitoral stimulation, thus enhancing pleasure. 
  • Disadvantages: Can be difficult to insert, uncomfortable to wear. More expensive and harder to find than male condoms. May feel uncomfortable interrupting foreplay to put in.
  • How to Use

Birth control pills (oral contraceptives)

  • Effectiveness: 92%- 99.7%
  • How it works: Take 1 pill per day orally for 3-3.5 weeks. Changes hormone levels in body.
  • Advantages: Does not interfere with spontaneity. Increases menstrual regularity. Can provide protection from ovarian cysts, uterine and breast fibroids, specific cancers, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Disadvantages: Requires a prescription, no protection from STIs, potential side effects, can be expensive. Must remember to take 1 pill per day, every day.
  • How to use

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

  • Effectiveness: 99.2%-99.9%
  • How it works: Small plastic device is inserted by a physician to bottom of cervix. Two types: Paraguard and Mirena.
  • Advantages: Least expensive method of contraception over time. Does not interfere with spontaneity. Long-lasting contraceptive effects. Mirena IUD reduces or eliminates menstrual flow. Can also be used as emergency contraception. Once removed, fertility is quickly restored.
  • Disadvantages: Require moderately painful insertion and removal procedures. May cause irregular bleeding and spotting. Heavier periods if using Paraguard IUD. No protection from STIs.
  • How to use


  • Effectiveness: 73% – 96%
  • How it works: Involves withdrawing the penis from the vagina or anus before ejaculation.
  • Advantages: It is an acceptable means for those who use another birth control method or for religious reasons. It is better than nothing.
  • Disadvantages: No protection from STIs. Can be difficult and stressful to use. This requires trust from the female partner and control by the male partner.
  • How to use

Three-month Injectable (such as Implanon)

  • Effectiveness: 97%-99.7%
  • How it works: A shot that is injected once every 3 months.
  • Advantages: Does not interfere with spontaneity. Reduces menstrual flow. Does not contain estrogen. Moderately expensive.
  • Disadvantages: Must schedule office visits once per 3 months to be injected. Can experience a range of side effects. Bone density loss (but will return after use stops).
  • How to use


  • Effectiveness: 92%- 99.7%
  • How it works: Inserted in the vagina once per month; it releases a constant amount of estrogen and progestin.
  • Advantages: Does not interfere with spontaneity. Increases menstrual regularity. Easy to use. Has lower levels of hormones than other hormonal methods. May offer protection from pelvic inflammatory disease and specific cancers.
  • Disadvantages: Prescription is necessary. No protection from STIs. May cause side effects. There is risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. It may take 1-2 months for a woman’s period to return after discontinued use.
  • How to use


  • Effectiveness: 84% – 94%
  • How it works: Inserted in vagina before intercourse creating a barrier between female reproductive organs and sperm. Should be left in place at least 8 hours after intercourse.
  • Advantages: Allows partners to engage in intercourse multiple times using the same method. May reduce risk for cervical dysplasia and cancer. Protects against pregnancy. Does not affect hormone levels.
  • Disadvantages: Requires prescription. Does not protect against STIs. May be difficult to insert and may shift during intercourse. Cannot be used during menstruation.
  • How to use

Contraceptive Sponge

  • Effectiveness: 84%-91%
  • How it works: Pushed in through vagina to cervix. Blocks entrance to uterus, absorbs sperm, and deactivates sperm.
  • Advantages: Immediately effective. Does not affect hormone levels or spontaneity. Partners can engage in intercourse multiple times during a 24-hour period. Does not require prescription.
  • Disadvantages: Does not protect against STIs. Can be found in many pharmacies. May be difficult to insert. Cannot be used during menstruation. May increase risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome.
  • How to use

I take birth control pills. What should I do if I miss one?

For women using 21 or 28-day combination birth control pills:

Number of pills missed When pills were missed What to do Should I use a back-up method?
First 1-2 Pills Beginning of Pack Take a pill as soon as you remember.

Take the next pill at usual time.

1-2 Pills Days 3-21 Take the pill as soon as you remember.

Take the next pill at the usual time.

3 or more Pills First 2 weeks Take the pill as soon as you remember.Take the next pill at the usual time. Yes
3 or more Pills Third week Do not finish pack.

Start new pack.


Source: Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Drugs and herbs that interact with birth control pills

What to use with Condoms

Where can I find birth control on Elon’s Campus?

1) The Health Center

For prescription birth control and free external condoms

2) SPARKS Office 

For free external condoms (latex, latex-free, vegan), dental dams (oral sex barriers), Lube, and internal condoms

You can request these safer sex supplies delivered to your campus box here.