Contraceptive (Birth Control) Options

Birth control methods are not one-size-fits-all. A method that’s perfect for one woman may not be right for another. Picking a birth control method that fits your life is the key. You may prefer to use a hormonal contraceptive, a barrier method, or a combination of the two! Only you can decide what is best for you. But sometimes figuring out which method to use can be a bit overwhelming. Our staff is here to help you with that process.

To compare all forms of birth control, visit

Below are some descriptions of various forms of hormonal and non-hormonal contraception.

Hormonal Contraception

The Pill

The birth control pill is safe and effective for preventing unintended pregnancy. However, birth control pills, like all hormonal methods of contraception, do not protect you from HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Get more information on the birth control pill.

The Patch

The birth control patch (Ortho Evra) is an adhesive patch that contains both Estrogen and Progesterone.  One patch is applied on the body and it stays on for one week.  Get more information on the patch.

The Ring

The Vaginal Ring (Nuva Ring) is a vaginal contraceptive ring.  One ring is placed in the vagina and remains in place for three weeks.  At the end of the third week, the ring is removed and thrown away.  Get more information on the ring.

Barrier Methods of Contraception


Latex condoms and spermicide are very effective against sexually transmitted infection transmission during vaginal or anal intercourse. It is strongly recommend that condoms always be used with additional lubricant (even if your condom is prelubricated with a spermicide), giving about a 98% effectiveness rate against pregnancy, when both are used correctly every time.  Get more information on condoms and lube. 

Condoms can be obtained for FREE at the University Health Center Health Promotion front desk on the ground floor.  For special or bulk pack requests for student groups, please contact Jenna Beckwith at or 301-314-8130. 

The Diaphragm 

The diaphragm is a soft rubber or latex cup which is inserted into the vagina and fits over the cervix. This prescription barrier method of birth control is 88%-94% effectiveness for preventing unintended pregnancy. A diaphragm does not however, protect you from HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  Get more information on the diaphragm.

Intrauterine Device (IUD) 

IUDs are small, "T-shaped" devices made of flexible plastic. A health care provider inserts an IUD into a person's uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are available at the UHC. Interested patients can discuss this option with a provider, insertion and removal are dependent on patient insurance. We have compiled a list of local referrals for those interested in receiving this option off-campus.

Emergency Contraception Pill (ECP) 

Emergency contraceptive pills (ECP) are pills taken within 5 days or 120 hours of an episode of unprotected intercourse to reduce chance of pregnancy. There are two types of emergency contraceptive pills available at this time. The levonorgestrel ECP is available as Plan B One Step, and as the generics, Next Choice One Dose, Next Choice, and Levonorgestrel Tablets. The levonorgestrel ECP is available over-the-counter without a prescription. The other type of ECP available in the United States is Ella, Ulipristal Acetate 30mg tablet. Ulipristal acetate is available by prescription only.

Some examples of unprotected intercourse when the use of an ECP might be considered include: no birth control method was used, broken condom, other method failure or error in use, 2 missed birth control pills in a row and sexual assault. Both ECPs, but especially the levonorgestrel ECP, are more effective the sooner you take them after unprotected sex, so it is important you take the ECP as soon as possible. If the levonorgestrel ECP is taken within 4 days of one episode of unprotected sex it has been shown to reduce the risk of pregnancy by up to 89%. Ulipristal acetate (Ella) is more effective than the levonorgestrel ECP and it maintains its effectiveness better than levonorgestrel ECP, up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Additionally, Ulipristal acetate (Ella) is more effective for obese people. Because Ella and the progestin component of hormonal contraceptives (the pill, patch and ring)  both bind to the progesterone receptor, using them together could reduce their contraceptive effect. After using Ella, if a person wishes to use hormonal contraception, they should do so no sooner than 5 days after the intake of Ella, and they should use a reliable barrier method until the next menstrual period.

Both levonorgestrel ECP (Plan B One Step) and Ulipristal acetate (Ella) options are available at the Health Center. Plan B One Step is over-the-counter at our pharmacy (for students only and you will need to bring your student ID card) and Ella requires an office visit and prescription. People who are out of our geographical area who need a prescription can go to The Emergency Contraceptive Website for help purchasing online or finding a local provider.

The decision to use Emergency Contraceptive Pills is a very personal decision. If you have unanswered questions or concerns regarding the use of the ECPs, please call 301-314-8190.

Want to talk to a University Health Center professional?

University Health Center Women’s Health Unit, 301-314-8190 if you are seeking medical advice/attention or a birth control prescription. This appointment will be at-cost.

University Health Center Sexual Health Education Programs, or call Jenna Beckwith at 301-314-8130 for a FREE individual consultation.  Jenna will be able to talk through your options and help you navigate your plan of action.

University Health Center Pharmacy, 301-314-8186 if you have questions about prescriptions. Birth Control prescriptions can be filled, transferred to, and transferred from the Health Center Pharmacy.

Other contraception (birth control) resources that may be helpful:

Emergency Contraception

Birth Control recommendations from Planned Parenthood

Compare ALL forms of birth control

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy