This article was updated on July 18, 2014.
Birth control may seem like a modern idea, but it’s actually been around for thousands of years.
They say women in ancient Egypt used crocodile dung suppositories to avoid pregnancy. (Um… ew!) Condoms made of animal intestines were used in Europe as early as the 17th century. And guys have been “pulling out” for as long as anyone can remember.
Lucky for us, there are lots more effective methods to choose from today. And remember, if a certain method doesn’t fit your life or your body, it’s easy to find another one that will.
There are a bunch of hormonal methods out there—not just the pill. There’s the ring, the patch, the implant (or Implanon), and the shot (Depo), too. All of them release hormones into your body, but they work in slightly different ways.
Okay, first of all, “Intrauterine Device” is a horrible name for a really effective method. Intrauterine just means “in the uterus.” IUDs are little, t-shaped pieces of plastic (some also contain copper) that get put in your uterus to mess with the way sperm can move and prevent them from fertilizing an egg. Sounds odd, but they work like a charm.
“Pulling out,” or withdrawal, is a method of birth control. So are Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (which means observing your body and counting the days of your cycle to figure out when you’re fertile). Both methods work better than nothing, but before you rely on one of them, consider this: These methods take a lot of self-control and 100% consistency on the part of both partners. Like, A LOT. You can’t say “just this once” and you can’t have any “oops” moments.
These methods literally block sperm from getting to the egg. The condom is a perfect example. There’s also the diaphragm, the sponge, the internal condom and the cervical cap. (Some of these have to be used with spermicide, which is a barrier method itself.) The only tricky bit with barrier methods is that you have to remember to use them every time you have sex. And sometimes, when you’re in the heat of the moment, finding a condom is the last thing on your mind.