Package of birth control pills.

Did you know? The pill has been around now for over 50 years.

In fact, the first oral contraceptive pill called Enovid was approved in the U.S. in 1960.4

The Pill

Combined Pill

A once-daily oral contraceptive containing the hormones estrogen and progestin that stops your ovaries from releasing an egg every month.

Benefits

  • 99.7% to 99.9% effective with perfect use*
  • 92% effective with typical use (failure rate: 3%–8%)*
  • Reversible
  • Makes periods more regular and decreases menstrual flow and menstrual cramping
  • May reduce risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer

RISKS

  • Side effects can include irregular bleeding, spotting, nausea, bloating, breast tenderness, and headaches
  • Not suitable for smokers over age 35 or women over age 35 with migraines
  • May increase risk of blood clots

Progestin-only Pill

A once-daily oral contraceptive containing the hormone progestin that alters cervical mucus, reducing sperm penetration. It may also stop your ovaries from releasing an egg every month.

Benefits

  • 99.5% effective with perfect use*
  • 90% effective with typical use (failure rate: 5%–10%)*
  • May be suitable for smokers over age 35 or women over age 35 with migraines, women who have unwanted side effects with the combined pill, or women who are breastfeeding
  • Does not appear to increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, or heart attack

RISKS

  • Side effects can include increased irregular bleeding and/or spotting in the first month
  • Hormonal side effects such as headache, bloating, acne, and breast tenderness occur less commonly
  • Not associated with any major morbidity
Birth control patch.

The Patch

A small adhesive patch that continuously releases estrogen and a progestin into the bloodstream, which stops the ovaries from releasing an egg.

Benefits

  • 99.7% effective with perfect use*
  • 92% effective with typical use*
  • Reversible
  • Weekly contraception
  • Non-contraceptive benefits are assumed to be similar to those seen in the combined pill; however, these potential benefits have not been assessed in studies to date

RISKS

  • Risks are assumed to be similar to combined pill
  • Side effects can include irregular bleeding, spotting, breast tenderness, and headaches
  • Not suitable for smokers over age 35 or women over age 35 with migraines
  • May increase risk of blood clots
  • May detach from skin
Birth control ring.

The Ring

A flexible, plastic ring that is inserted into the vagina where it slowly releases the hormones, estrogen and progestin, for three weeks. Prevents pregnancy by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg.

Benefits

  • 99.7% effective with perfect use*
  • 92% effective with typical use*
  • Reversible
  • Monthly contraception
  • Non-contraceptive benefits are assumed to be similar to those seen in the combined pill; however, these potential benefits have not been assessed in studies to date

RISKS

  • Risks are assumed to be similar to combined pill
  • Side effects can include irregular bleeding, spotting, nausea, breast tenderness, and headaches
  • Not suitable for smokers over age 35 or women over age 35 with migraines
  • May increase risk of blood clots
  • May cause vaginal discomfort or irritation
  • May fall out

*The relative effectiveness of a birth control method is defined in two ways: actual effectiveness and theoretical effectiveness. Actual effectiveness refers to the "typical use" of a method, meaning how effective the method is during actual use (including inconsistent and incorrect use). Theoretical effectiveness refers to the "perfect use" of a method, which is defined by when the method is used correctly and consistently as directed.