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Birth Control (Contraception): Resource Overview

Birth control methods to prevent pregnancy include progestin-only pills and injections; combined estrogen and progestin pills, patches, and the vaginal ring; long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) including the intrauterine device (IUD) and implant; barrier methods including the diaphragm, sponge, cervical cap, and condom; fertility awareness including rhythm method; emergency contraception including pills and the copper IUD; and tubal sterilization. Ob-gyns, physicians whose primary responsibility is women’s health, are dedicated to providing scientific information and access to contraception for their patients.

Here are the key publications and resources for ob-gyns, other women’s health care providers, and patients from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other sources.

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Resources for Ob-Gyns and Women’s Health Care Providers
Resources for Women and Patients
External Organizations

Resources for Ob-Gyns and Women’s Health Care Providers

Program: Long-Acting Reversible Contraception

ACOG’s LARC Program works to reduce unintended pregnancy in the US by providing information and guidance on the most effective reversible contraceptive methods. This page provides a broad range of materials including clinical guidance, educational materials, and notices of upcoming LARC Program meetings and events.

Committee Opinion: Reproductive Life Planning to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy

"Reproductive Life Planning to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy," issued by ACOG in February 2016, addresses using comprehensive and culturally appropriate reproductive life planning to avoid unintended pregnancy and reviews the cultural and economic barriers to preventing unintended pregnancy.

Committee Opinion: Increasing Access to Contraceptive Implants and Intrauterine Devices to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy

“Increasing Access to Contraceptive Implants and Intrauterine Devices to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy,” issued by ACOG in October 2015, expands the 2009 recommendation that LARC be offered as first-line contraceptive methods.

Committee Opinion: Access to Contraception 

"Access to Contraception," issued by ACOG in January 2015, reviews barriers to contraceptive access including knowledge deficits, a restrictive legal and legislative climate, and cost and insurance coverage. It also offers strategies to improve access to contraception.

Committee Opinion: Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate and Bone Effects

"Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate and Bone Effects," issued by ACOG in June 2014, addresses the association between the use of the contraceptive depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) and the loss of bone mineral density (BMD). It emphasizes that these effects should not discourage clinicians from prescribing DMPA and provides recommendations for counseling patients.

Committee Opinion: Access to Postpartum Sterilization

“Access to Postpartum Sterilization,” issued by ACOG in July 2012 (reaffirmed 2014), notes that postpartum tubal sterilization is one of the safest and most effective methods of contraception, and calls on obstetrician-gynecologists to identify and eliminate barriers to its use. The guideline recommends that postpartum sterilization be considered an urgent surgical procedure.

Practice Bulletin: Benefits and Risks of Sterilization (members only)

“Benefits and Risks of Sterilization,” issued by ACOG in February 2013 (reaffirmed 2015), reviews the evidence for the safety and effectiveness of female sterilization in comparison with male sterilization and other forms of contraception. The evidence-based guideline notes that tubal occlusion by laproscopy is safe and effective for women, although vasectomy for men is safer, more effective, and less expensive.

Practice Bulletin: Emergency Contraception (members only)

“Emergency Contraception,” issued by ACOG in September 2015, provides clinicians with evidence-based guidelines for the use of emergency contraception. The levonorgestrel-only regimen is more effective and associated with less nausea and vomiting than the combined estrogen-progestin regimen. The copper IUD is another effective option.

Practice Bulletin: Long-Acting Reversible Contraception: Implants and Intrauterine Devices

“Long-Acting Reversible Contraception: Implants and Intrauterine Devices,” issued by ACOG in July 2011 (reaffirmed 2015), provides evidence-based guidelines, including appropriate candidate selection for the use of IUDs and contraceptive implants, the most effective reversible contraceptives.

Committee Opinion: The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine

“The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine,” issued by ACOG in November 2007 (reaffirmed 2013), considers the issues raised by conscientious refusals in reproductive medicine, including contraception. In the provision of services, the guideline emphasizes, the patient’s well-being must be paramount.

Committee Opinion: Brand Versus Generic Oral Contraceptives

“Brand Versus Generic Oral Contraceptives,” issued by ACOG in August 2007 (reaffirmed 2013), acknowledges that generic oral contraceptives approved by the FDA have been shown to be bioequivalent and pharmaceutically equivalent to the branded product. However, because of possible effects on patient compliance and other considerations, ACOG supports patient or clinician requests for branded oral contraceptives.

Committee Opinion: Over-the-Counter Access to Oral Contraceptives

“Over-the-Counter Access to Oral Contraceptives,” issued by ACOG in December 2012, weighs the risks versus the benefits of over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives. The guideline concludes that oral contraceptives should be available over-the-counter.

Committee Opinion: Access to Emergency Contraception

“Access to Emergency Contraception,” issued by ACOG in November 2012, discusses barriers to access to emergency contraception methods, which are used to prevent pregnancy in the first few days after unprotected sexual intercourse, sexual assault, or contraceptive failure. This guideline recommends increasing access to emergency contraception, including removing the age restriction for over-the-counter access.

Committee Opinion: Adolescents and Long-Acting Reversible Contraception: Implants and Intrauterine Devices

“Adolescents and Long-Acting Reversible Contraception: Implants and Intrauterine Devices,” issued by ACOG in October 2012, recommends the use of IUDs and the contraceptive implant as first-line contraceptive options for sexually active adolescents.

Practice Bulletin: Noncontraceptive Uses of Hormonal Contraceptives (members only)

“Noncontraceptive Uses of Hormonal Contraceptives,” issued by ACOG in January 2010 (reaffirmed 2012), covers the use of hormonal contraceptives in treating menstrual bleeding, dysmenhorrhea, premenstrual dysphoric disorder symptoms, menstrual migraines, ovarian cysts, and acne. The guideline also reviews evidence for their effect on bone mineral density, as well as prevention of endometrial and ovarian cancers.

How I Practice Video Series: Contraception

“Contraception,” a video in the How I Practice series, issued in July 2012, features Eve Espey, MD, FACOG, who describes her clinical approach. She discusses birth control with women of child-bearing age at every opportunity and recommends effective methods, especially LARC methods.

Book of Guidelines: Guidelines for Adolescent Health Care (members only)

“Guidelines for Adolescent Health Care,” a 214-page publication developed by the Committee on Adolescent Health and issued by ACOG in 2011, includes a chapter on “Contraception in Adolescents,” starting on page 41. It provides a comprehensive clinical discussion of contraceptive methods for adolescents.

  • Read the Compendium: Guidelines for Adolescent Health Care (PDF)

Book of Guidelines Supplement: Reproductive Health Care for Adolescents with Disabilities (members only)

“Reproductive Health Care for Adolescents with Disabilities,” a 31-page supplement to Guidelines for Adolescent Care issued by ACOG, available in PDF form, provides extensive information for clinicians managing reproductive health, including contraception, for adolescents with disabilities.

  • Read the Supplement: Reproductive Health Care for Adolescents with Disabilities (PDF)

  


Resources for Women and Patients

Patient FAQ: Progestin-Only Hormonal Birth Control: Pill and Injection

“Progestin-Only Hormonal Birth Control: Pill and Injection,” issued by ACOG in June 2014, explains that progestin, a hormone that plays a role in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy, can be used by itself for contraception. It can be taken as a pill or an injection (medroxyprogesterone acetate).

Patient FAQ: Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC): IUD and Implant

“Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC): IUD and Implant,” issued by ACOG in May 2014, explains that LARC methods, including the IUD and the implant, are highly effective in preventing pregnancy, last for several years, and are easy to use. Both methods are reversible, so when a woman wants to become pregnant or stop using them, they can be removed at any time.  if you want to become pregnant or if you want to stop using them, you can have them removed at any time.

Patient FAQ: Combined Hormonal Birth Control: Pill, Patch, and Ring

“Combined Hormonal Birth Control: Pill, Patch, and Ring,” issued by ACOG in May 2014, explains that combined hormonal birth control methods (birth control pills/oral contraceptives, the birth control patch, and the vaginal ring) contain two hormones, estrogen and progestin. They prevent pregnancy mainly by preventing ovulation. They may also be prescribed to treat medical conditions such as fibroids and endometriosis.

Patient FAQ: Birth Control—Especially for Teens

“Birth Control—Especially for Teens,” issued by ACOG in December 2013, provides adolescents with key information needed in choosing the right birth control. Things to consider include how well each contraceptive method prevents pregnancy, how easy it is to use, whether you need a prescription to get it, whether it protects against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and whether you have any health problems.

Patient FAQ: Emergency Contraception

“Emergency Contraception,” issued by ACOG in October 2015, explains that emergency contraception is the use of certain methods to prevent pregnancy after a woman has had sex without birth control, if her current method fails, or if she is raped. There are two forms of emergency contraception, pills and the copper IUD. There are three types of emergency contraception pills: progestin-only, combination pills, and ulipristal.

Patient FAQ: Barrier Methods of Birth Control: Diaphragm, Sponge, Cervical Cap, and Condom

“Barrier Methods of Birth Control: Spermicide, Condom, Sponge, Diaphragm, and Cervical Cap,” issued by ACOG in May 2016, explains that the risks and benefits of barrier methods of birth control, including the diaphragm, sponge, cervical cap, male condom, female condom, and spermicide. 

Patient FAQ: Fertility Awareness-Based Methods of Family Planning

“Fertility Awareness-Based Methods of Family Planning,” issued by ACOG in April 2015, explains that fertility awareness is a form of birth control that is based on the timing of sex during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Fertility awareness, sometimes called natural family planning, is not as effective as other methods of birth control.

Patient FAQ: Sterilization for Women and Men

“Sterilization for Women and Men,” issued by ACOG in September 2015, explains that sterilization is a permanent form of birth control. For women, sterilization is called tubal sterilization. For men, the sterilization procedure is a vasectomy.

 


External Organizations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a component of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has an informative section of their website dedicated to contraceptive guidance for health care providers.

 


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of more than 57,000 members, ACOG strongly advocates for quality women’s health care, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care.

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
409 12th Street SW, Washington, DC  20024-2188 | Mailing Address: PO Box 70620, Washington, DC 20024-9998