What birth control is best for me? Choose your contraception

different types of contraception
Whether you’re looking for the best birth control for acne, or the best contraceptive pill with the least side effects, our ‘best contraception guide’ has got you covered.

How to find the best contraceptive method for you can feel like a minefield. With many of our Lowdown reviewers experiencing low moods, weight gain or terrible womb cramps on their current contraception, we know how important it is to find the best form of contraception that works for you and your lifestyle.

Whether you’re looking for the best birth control for acne, or the best contraceptive pill with the least side effects, our ‘best contraception guide’ has got you covered. 

Contraceptive Diaphragm or Cervical Cap

A contraceptive diaphragm or cervical cap is a form of birth control that requires a small reusable silicone dome to be inserted into the vagina. It is inserted before sex and used in conjunction with spermicide (a gel that kills sperm). 

You must leave the contraceptive diaphragm in for six hours after the last time you had sex. The fitting of your diaphragm will need to be undertaken by your GP, and if you lose or gain over 7lbs in weight, or have a baby, then you may need to have it refitted.

Best contraceptive for:

  • Women who do not want a contraceptive that contains hormones
  • Those who only want to use a contraception when they’re having sex
  • Women who do not want to experience side effects such as weight gain or acne from their contraception

Not a suitable contraceptive for:

  • Women who have a sensitivity to latex or spermicides
  • Women who experience recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Women who have multiple partners, as the contraceptive diaphragm does not protect against STIs

Read our contraceptive diaphragm reviews for more insights into side effects

Combined Pill

The combined pill is a form of birth control that contains both oestrogen and progesterone and works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg each month. It is, according to the NHS, 99% effective as birth control. 

The combined pill is usually taken for 21 days with a seven day break where you will have your period. Check out The Lowdown’s blog on ‘choosing the best contraceptive pill for you’ for a more detailed view on whether the combined pill is the right birth control choice for you. 

Best contraceptive for:

  • Those who don’t want to interrupt sex with contraceptive methods such as female and male condoms
  • Painful menstrual cramp sufferers – the combined pill usually makes your period lighter and less painful
  • Acne sufferers – Dianette has been proven to make improvements to a users skin after three months

Not a suitable contraceptive for:

  • Women with multiple partners, as the combined pill does not protect against STIs
  • Women who don’t want to gain weight on the contraceptive pill – 32% of Lowdown combined pill reviewers said they gained weight on the combined pill
  • Migraine sufferers – the combined pill can be known to cause headaches
  • Women who are breastfeeding – the combined pill should only be used after six weeks following childbirth

Read our combined pill reviews for more insights into side effects

Copper Coil (IUD)

The copper coil, which is also known as an intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that is inserted into the womb. The IUD will release copper which will prevent you from getting pregnant. 

It is 99% effective and will work immediately after being inserted. Our copper coil reviewers complained of significant womb cramps, with 69% also stating they suffered from heavier periods.

Best contraceptive for:

  • Those who don’t want to have to remember to take the pill
  • Women who are looking for a long term contraceptive method (the IUD is effective for ten years)
  • Women who are breastfeeding

Not a suitable contraceptive for:

Read our copper coil reviews for more insights into side effects

Female Condom

Female condoms are made from latex, and worn inside the vagina. They act as a barrier to semen getting to the womb. 

Female condoms are 95% effective and also protect against STIs. They tend to not be as widely available as male condoms and are more expensive than the male version. 

Best contraceptive for: 

  • Women who do not want to take a hormonal contraception or have side effects from their birth control
  • Women who worry they may experience weight gain, acne or mood swings on their contraception

Not a suitable contraceptive for:

  • Those who don’t want sex to be interrupted 
  • Women who don’t feel comfortable touching their genital area

Read our female condom reviews for more insights into our user’s experiences

Hormonal Coil / Intrauterine System (IUS)

An IUS is a small plastic T-shaped device that is inserted into a woman’s womb by a medical professional. It will last between 3-5 years depending on the brand. It is a highly effective method of contraception (99% according to the NHS). 

The Lowdown’s hormonal coil reviews showed that women using the IUS experienced quite a lot of womb cramps with many women finding that the hormonal coil stopped their periods altogether.

Best contraceptive for:

  • Women who have heavy periods that would like them to be lighter or stop
  • Women who don’t want to have to remember daily to take a pill and would like a longer term solution
  • Women who are breastfeeding
  • Those who cannot take the hormone oestrogen which can be found in the combined pill
  • Women who are aiming to conceive after removal of the hormonal coil

Not a suitable contraception for:

  • Women who have multiple partners as the IUS doesn’t protect against STIs
  • Women who don’t want to have their periods altered in any way

Read our hormonal coil reviews for more insights into side effects

Contraceptive Implant

The contraceptive implant is a small plastic rod the size of a matchstick that is fitted under the skin.  The contraceptive implant releases progestogen and is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, and once fitted it is an effective birth control for three years. If you’re worried about having it fitted or removed, then our handy guide to fitting and removal of the contraceptive implant covers all the details. 

Best contraceptive for:

  • Those who don’t want to have to remember taking a pill every day
  • Women who experience heavy/painful periods as 34% of our contraceptive implant reviewers stated their periods stopped 
  • Women who are breastfeeding
  • Women who would like to try for children after removal as it does not affect fertility

Not a suitable contraceptive for:

  • Women who don’t want to experience a change in their periods
  • Women who are currently taking enzyme-inducing drugs. Ask your GP for further information

Read our contraceptive implant reviews for more insights into side effects

Male Condom

Male condoms are made from latex and work by stopping a man’s partner coming into contact with semen. When used correctly they are 98% effective, whilst also protecting from STIs. Male condoms are one of the best birth controls for the least side effects. 

Best contraceptive for: 

  • Those who want to ensure they have no side effects from their birth control
  • Men and women who may wish to have multiple partners and want to be protected from STIs

Not a suitable contraceptive for:

  • Men and women who may have an allergy to latex or spermicides
  • Those who find that a condom interrupts sex

Read our male condom reviews for more insights

Male Vasectomy

A male vasectomy, or ‘the snip’ as it’s commonly known, is a procedure that cuts or seals the tubes that carries a man’s sperm, therefore meaning that when he ejaculates, his semen carries no sperm. The procedure is relatively painless and can provide permanent protection against pregnancy (99% effective at protecting against pregnancy). 

Check out the Lowdown’s full guide on getting the snip detailing everything to expect if you have a vasectomy. 

Best contraceptive for:

  • Those who don’t want their contraceptive method to interfere with sex
  • Men/couples who are certain they don’t want to have any more children

Not a suitable contraceptive for:

  • Men who aren’t certain whether they want more children, as it’s a complicated procedure to reverse 

Read our male vasectomy reviews for more insights on our users’ experiences

Natural Contraception

Natural contraception is when no hormones, barriers or devices are used to prevent pregnancy. Also known as ‘fertility awareness’, this method of contraception can be as effective as 99% according to the NHS. This method works by identifying the signs of fertility which include presence of cervical mucus and a raised body temperature, also known as Natural Family Planning.

There are apps which can support in identifying the signs, with the most prominent being the Natural Cycles App.

Best contraceptive for:

  • Those who want a natural form of contraception with no side effects
  • The organised – for accurate birth control the app needs your data inputted regularly

Not a suitable contraceptive for:

  • Those who are not willing to use condoms or abstain from sex during their fertile period
  • Those who aren’t committed to following it as it will mean it’s a much less effective form of contraception
  • Those with a hectic or stressful lifestyle as this can disrupt your fertility signs
  • Anyone who has recently taken the emergency contraceptive pill 
  • Women with multiple partners as this contraceptive method does not protect from STIs

Read our natural contraception reviews for our user’s experiences

Contraceptive Patch

The contraceptive patch is a patch that is placed on the arm and releases the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It’s usually 5cm x 5cm and is worn for seven days, then replaced, and after 21 days of continuous use you take a 7 day break. 

The patch’s brand name in the UK is Evra. Our contraceptive patch reviewers experienced limited side effects except headaches, with no reviewers reporting weight gain with this contraception. 

Best contraceptive for:

  • Women who want a reliable, effective method of birth control (the contraceptive patch is 99% effective)
  • Women who don’t want to have to think about their contraception every day
  • Women who have heavy periods, as our contraceptive reviewers stated that it gave them lighter periods

Not a suitable contraceptive for:

  • Women who may not want to have their contraceptive visible
  • Women who are taking certain medications that may make the patch less effective (your GP will advise)

Read our contraceptive patch reviews for more insights into side effects

Progesterone Only Pill

The progesterone-only pill is a contraceptive pill that only contains progesterone, unlike the combined pill which contains both oestrogen and progesterone. The progesterone-only pill (also known as the mini pill) works by thickening the mucus in the cervix which stops the sperm reaching the egg. 

Our mini pill reviewers found that on the progesterone-only pill they experienced weight gain and loss of sex drive. Check out our blog on ‘which is the best contraceptive pill for you to understand the differences between the progesterone only pill and combined pill. ’

Best contraceptive for:

  • Women who don’t want to interrupt sex with contraceptives such as condoms
  • Women who are breastfeeding
  • Women who are smokers and over the age of 35 are safe on the mini pill, unlike the combined pill

Not a suitable contraceptive for:

  • Women who have multiple partners as the mini pill doesn’t protect against STIs
  • Women who may not want to remember to have to take a pill at the same time each day
  • Women who do not want to have irregular periods

Read our mini pill reviews for more insights into side effects

Contraceptive Injection

The contraceptive injection is injected into the body every 2-3 weeks and it will release the hormone progestogen slowly into the body. It’s a highly effective form of contraception with 99% protection against pregnancy. 

Best contraceptive for:

  • Women who are looking for a more long term contraceptive solution
  • Women who cannot use a contraceptive that contains oestrogen
  • Women who are breastfeeding

Not a suitable contraceptive for:

  • Those who may forget that they will need to have a repeat injection before it expires
  • Women who do not wish for their periods to change
  • Women who are wishing to get pregnant afterwards as it can take up to a year for fertility to return to normal

Read our contraceptive injection reviews for more insights into side effects

What kind of emergency contraception is best for me?

Morning after pill

The morning after pill (brand names Levonelle and ellaOne) is an emergency contraceptive pill that needs to be taken within three days of unprotected sex. The sooner you take it the more effective it will be. Levonelle is 84% effective, with ellaOne 99% effective. 

Emergency birth control is not intended to be used as a regular form of contraception, so you won’t be protected from pregnancy after taking them.  Our morning after pill reviews show that many women experienced nausea and headaches. 

Read our morning after pill reviews for more insights into side effects

Copper Coil (IUD)

The coil can also be used as a form of emergency contraception if it is fitted within 5 days of unprotected sex. It is highly effective with less than 1% of women using the IUD getting pregnant. Once the copper coil has been used as emergency contraception it can stay in and be used as regular contraception. The copper coil is a good emergency contraception option if you have missed the three day window of the morning after pill. 

Read our copper coil reviews for more insights into side effects

To sum it all up

Everybody is different and where one contraceptive might work for one person, it may not be the right fit for another.

There are the highly effective contraceptives such as the combined pill, the non hormonal options such as the diaphragm or the longer-term solutions such as the copper coil or contraceptive implant – whichever is your preferred solution, discuss with your GP so they can support you in finding the best contraceptive for you.  

This guide was brought to you by The Lowdown. We are the world’s first contraception review platform, providing real-life experiences from thousands of reviews collected from our community of men and women.

Why not leave us a review of your contraceptive experience? Whether you’ve got good things to say about the Mirena coil or had trouble with implant removal, we want to hear about it! Tell us about your experience and help people around the world find the right method for them.