What is Birth Control?

Simply put, birth control is a method to prevent pregnancy. Before making a choice as to what method to use, it’s helpful to know your birth control options, what to expect, and potential side effects.

It’s important to note that experiences with birth control differ, and at CAPS Pregnancy + Medical Clinics in San Diego, we want to provide you with as much information as possible so that you can make the best decision.

What Birth Control options and methods are available?

While this is not a complete list below, some common birth control methods are listed in order from least effective (top) to most effective (bottom). Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Infections is also important to your sexual and reproductive health. We have included effectiveness in protecting against STDs / STIs for each method.


A condom is a thin latex barrier that either a male or female can wear as a method to prevent pregnancy while having sex. While condoms have far less side effects compared to other birth control methods, their rate of effectiveness is also significantly lower. Condoms can break and or slip, and when used incorrectly, can become ineffective. It is recommended that condoms are used simultaneously with other birth control methods, as condoms are the only type of birth control that when used correctly can help protect against STDs.

Use: Every time you have sex.

Effectiveness: When used correctly – Male condoms – 18 pregnancies per 100 women;
Female condoms – 21 pregnancies per 100 women

Side effects: Irritation & allergic reactions

Does it prevent STDs? When used correctly and consistently, condoms can help protect against STDs.

Birth Control Pill

The birth control pill is one of the most commonly used contraceptives. There are two main types of birth control pills – the progestin only pill, and the combined pill that contains both progestin and estrogen. While the combined pill has more side effects, the progestin only pill is quite strict when it comes to dosage times.

Use: Combined – Take pill at the same time everyday
Progestin only- It is very important that the pill is taken at the same time very day.

Effectiveness: 9 pregnancies per 100 women

Side effects: Spotting/ bleeding between periods, nausea, breast tenderness, headache

Does it prevent STDs? No.

Birth Control Patch

Birth control patches are essentially small band-aid like patches that contain progestin and estrogen, similar to the combined pill.

Use: Put on a new patch each week for 3 weeks (21 days). Don’t put on a patch during the fourth week.

Effectiveness: 9 pregnancies per 100 women

Side effects: Spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods, nausea, stomach pain, breast tenderness, headache, skin irritation

Does it prevent STDs? No.

Birth Control Shot

The birth control shot is an injection of the hormone progestin, similar to the progestin only pill.

Use: Shot needed every 3 months.

Effectiveness: 6 pregnancies per 100 women

Side effects: Weight gain, loss of bone density, irregular bleeding/ bleeding between periods, headaches, nervousness, dizziness, abdominal discomfort

Does it prevent STDs? No.

Natural Family Planning (Fertility Awareness)

Natural family planning, also referred to as fertility awareness is a method of birth control that does not alter hormones or use devices. Alternatively, this method uses biological markers to monitor when a woman is fertile. During the fertile days of the cycle, either sex is avoided, or another method of contraception is used to prevent pregnancy.

Use: Avoid sex during fertile days of menstrual cycle.

Effectiveness: 5 pregnancies per 100 women when used perfectly, however typical use is 24 pregnancies per 100 women.

Side effects: None.

Does it prevent STDs? No.


An IUD, otherwise known as an intrauterine device, is a T-shaped piece of plastic that releases either a progestin hormone or copper and is inserted into a women’s uterine opening by a healthcare provider. An IUD prevents sperm from reaching the egg, and possibly interferes with fertilization and implantation.

Use: Must be inserted by a healthcare provider and can last for 3-10 years, depending on which product is selected.

Effectiveness: Less than one pregnancy per 100 women

Side effects: Cramps, heavier longer periods, spotting between periods

Does it prevent STDs? No.

Sexual Risk Avoidance

This is a choice to not have sex, and is the only birth control method that is 100% effective in preventing an undesired pregnancy or STD.

Use: Decide to NOT have sex.

Effectiveness: 0 pregnancies

Side effects: None

Does it prevent STDs? Yes.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: The rate of effectiveness for the various birth control methods listed above accounts for PROPER AND CONSISTENT USE ONLY. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that 43% of unplanned pregnancies occur in women who used birth control methods inconsistently or incorrectly, while 52% of unplanned pregnancies occur in women who were not using birth control.


Breastfeeding is NOT considered a reliable form of birth control as a woman’s body will release an egg at an unpredictable time.

Use: None

Effectiveness: Unknown

Side effects: None

Does it prevent STDs? No.

Emergency Contraceptives (The Morning After Pill, Plan B)

At CAPS we advise speaking with a medical professional before considering emergency contraceptives, also referred to as “the morning after pill” or “Plan B.” This is recommended due to health considerations that are important to know about beforehand.

We Are Here To Answer Your Questions & Offer Support

While CAPS doesn’t prescribe birth control, we do offer consultation and education on the various methods and their effectiveness. Many of our staff have been right where you are and will listen and assist without judgment.

At CAPS Pregnancy + Medical Clinics in San Diego, we want you to feel confident in the decisions you make regarding your sexual and reproductive health. We’re here to listen and provide help and education concerning your options and resources. Our medical team can go over your options and provide scientifically based information to help you in considering how to avoid sexual health risks. We also offer pregnancy options education and can give you resources on material aid, insurance, housing, finances, adoption services, parenting classes and OB/GYNs. Our team is here to provide compassionate, private support.

Get Help

All pregnancy services are FREE, including FREE pregnancy test, FREE ultrasound, and FREE pregnancy education.

Other Services – We also provide low to no cost STI / STD testing.

All our services to you are private – your privacy is important to us.

If you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy and aren’t sure of what your next steps should be, contact us at any of the San Diego area clinic locations, call us at 619-337-8080, or schedule an appointment.