Convenience and ease of use of birth control methods

Some birth control methods are more convenient to use than others. Consider the following when choosing a birth control method:

  • Sexual spontaneity. Does the method require interrupting sexual intercourse, such as to put on a condom or insert spermicide? Do the partners need to make sure that the method is always available whenever sex may occur, as with condoms and diaphragms? Do partners need to use the method at each act of sexual intercourse?
  • Schedule. Does the method require remembering to take a pill daily, such as with birth control pills, or scheduling regular visits to a health professional, such as with Depo-Provera?
  • Attention. Does the method require regular monitoring of the menstrual cycle and avoiding sex during fertile periods, such as with natural family planning?
  • Hassle. Is the method messy or complicated to use?
  • Comfort. Does the method cause irritation or discomfort for either partner?

Permanent or longer-term methods such as tubal ligation or vasectomy, the intrauterine device (IUD), the hormonal implant, Depo-Provera injection, and the hormone patch or vaginal ring offer the most convenience for many people. With these methods, you do not have to take a pill daily, keep a birth control method handy for when you have sex, or carefully monitor your menstrual cycle.

All users of long-term methods who have any risk of sexually transmitted disease (STD) exposure should use a condom. Depo-Provera use may increase the risk of chlamydia or gonorrhea infection among women who are sexually exposed to these bacteria.1 Most spermicides contain a chemical called nonoxynol-9, which may increase the risk of getting HIV/AIDS from an infected partner.

Birth control pills may be convenient for women who are able to remember to take a pill daily. The pill does not have to be taken at the time of sexual activity, which may allow for spontaneity. Also, with certain pills you can have fewer or no periods.

  • Seasonique and Seasonale are a newer type of birth control pill that changes a woman's menstrual cycle to have only 4 periods a year.
  • Lybrel is a new low-dose combination pill that you take every day of the month, and have no monthly periods. (But it is common to have unexpected spotting or bleeding, especially during the first year.)

Barrier methods—such as spermicide with condoms, the cervical cap, Lea's Shield, and the diaphragm—require that couples have the methods readily available and have them in place just before having sexual intercourse.


  1. Morrison CS, et al. (2004). Hormonal contraceptive use, cervical ectopy, and the acquisition of cervical infections. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 31(9): 561–567.

Last Updated: May 22, 2008

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