What is birth control?
Birth control is any activity, medicine, or equipment used to prevent pregnancy. There
are many types of birth control available for women who do not wish to become pregnant.
The decision on which method is right for you should be made with your healthcare
provider, as well as with your partner.
Birth control methods work in different ways to prevent pregnancy, including:
Making a barrier that blocks sperm from reaching the egg
Preventing eggs from being released by the ovaries
Changing the cervical mucus to hinder sperm from moving into the uterus
Altering the tissue lining the uterus so that a fertilized egg can't implant
What are the different types of birth control?
You don't need a prescription from your healthcare provider for these methods:
Abstinence. Not having sex.
Spermicides. Foams or creams placed inside the vagina to kill sperm. These may also protect against
sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially when used with a latex condom.
Male condom. A thin tube made of latex or a natural material that is placed over the penis. The
sperm is collected in the end of the condom. Latex condoms may provide some protection
Female condom. A liner made of latex or natural material that is placed inside the vagina. Latex
condoms may protect against STIs.
Natural family planning. Timing sex to avoid fertile days using various ways of monitoring body temperature.
It also involves watching for changes in cervical mucus and using ovulation prediction
kits. This method is often known as the rhythm method. It has a high risk for pregnancy.
You need to visit your healthcare provider for an exam and a prescription for these
Birth control pills (oral contraceptives). Medicines taken daily that prevent ovulation by controlling pituitary hormone secretion.
Usually, oral contraceptives contain the hormones estrogen and progestin.
In addition to preventing pregnancy, oral contraceptives have some health benefits.
They can regulate menstrual cycles and decrease the amount and length of menstrual
periods. This can help increase iron stores in women with iron deficiency linked to
excessive bleeding. Oral contraceptives can also prevent certain ovarian and endometrial
cancers. Some research has found that some benign (noncancerous) breast diseases happen
less often with the use of oral contraceptives. These breast diseases include fibroadenoma
and cystic changes. Recent studies have also suggested that oral contraceptive use
may reduce the occurrence of rheumatoid arthritis.
Mini-pill. Daily medicine that has only the hormone progestin, unlike the traditional birth
control pill. The mini-pill thickens cervical mucus and prevents the sperm from reaching
the egg. It also can decrease the flow of your period and protect against pelvic inflammatory
disease and ovarian and endometrial cancer.
Implant. A capsule containing the synthetic hormone etonogestrel. It is put under the skin
in the upper arm of a woman. It prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg for up
to 3 years. A local anesthetic is needed for putting in and taking out this type of
Injection. A progesterone-like drug given by injection that stops ovulation. The effects last
for about 3 months. Another injection must be given to continue birth control effectiveness.
Patch. A skin patch worn on the body that releases the hormones estrogen and progestin into
the bloodstream. It is most effective in women who weigh less than 198 pounds.
Diaphragm or cervical cap. A dome-shaped rubber cup with a flexible rim that is inserted through the vagina
to cover the cervix. This type of birth control must be inserted before having sex.
Hormonal vaginal contraceptive ring. A ring that is placed inside the vagina around the cervix. The ring releases the hormones
estrogen and progestin.
Intrauterine device (IUD). Devices placed in the uterus through the cervix by a healthcare provider. The IUD
works by thickening cervical mucus to make it hard for sperm to enter the cervix.
Or it prevents the fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus. IUDs containing
hormones are also called intrauterine systems. They must be replaced every 5 years.
Copper IUDs can last up to 10 years.
These surgeries result in the inability to become pregnant:
Hysterectomy. Removal of the uterus and usually the ovaries and fallopian tubes. This is a permanent
form of birth control.
Tubal ligation or tubal occlusion ("tying the tubes"). Surgery to cut, cauterize, or band the fallopian tubes to prevent the egg from being
transported to the uterus. Tubal ligation is designed to be a permanent method of
birth control. Certain types of tubal ligations can be reversed. But the reversal
procedure may not work.
Salpingectomies. Surgery to remove both fallopian tubes. This is a permanent form of birth control.
Vasectomy. Cutting or clamping the vas deferens. These are the tubes that carry the sperm from
the testes. The testes still produce sperm, but the sperm die and are absorbed by
the body. This is a permanent male birth control measure.
The following are not reliable methods of birth control:
Withdrawing before ejaculation
Having sex during menstruation
Standing up immediately after sex
Douching after sex