Contraceptives Quick Guide

Learn the pros and cons of some popular products.

Andrea Markowitz, Ph.D.

HealthKey.com contributor

April 22, 2010


Safety and effectiveness are your most important considerations for choosing a contraceptive. Speak to your health care provider before deciding which type may be best for you.

Here are some quick facts about three common types of contraceptives.

Oral Contraceptives, a.k.a. "The Pill"

Pros: 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy if taken the same time every day; can make menstrual periods lighter and more regular; can decrease menstrual cramps and acne.

Cons: Doesn't protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); woman must remember to take daily; requires a prescription. Occasional side effects include dizziness, nausea, increased appetite, mood changes, weight gain, headaches and (very rarely) blood clots, heart attack and stroke.

Special Note: The U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requires the following warning on all oral contraceptive package inserts: "Cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular side effects from oral contraceptive use. This risk increases with age and with heavy smoking. Women who use oral contraceptives should be strongly advised not to smoke."

Yasmin® and Yaz®

Yasmin and Yaz are oral contraceptive brands that became U.S. top sellers after ad campaigns suggested they help prevent acne and severe premenstrual depression. But, according to the New York Times, critics claim these drugs increase the risk of blood clots, strokes and other health complications at a higher rate than other oral contraceptives. Bayer, the pills' manufacturer, reported that as of February 15, 2010, approximately 1,100 U.S. lawsuits plus three consumer class actions were filed against Bayer, and two Canadian class actions. Bayer stands by both pills' safety.

Male Condom

Pros: Approximately 85 percent effective in preventing STDs; is inexpensive; is readily available without prescription.

Cons: Each can be used only once; they can break; and are not suitable for people who are allergic to latex.


Pros: Approximately 95 percent effective; can be inserted up to three hours before intercourse; can stay inside vagina for multiple acts of sexual intercourse.

Cons: Does not protect against STDs; requires a prescription and fitting by a health care provider; cannot be removed until six hours after intercourse; may dislodge during intercourse; not suitable for people who are allergic to latex or spermicide; must be replaced periodically due to stretching, and refitted after a 10-pound weight gain or loss and after pregnancy; may contribute to urinary tract infections and must be cleaned and stored.

For more information visit the Center for Young Women's Health or Planned Parenthood.