Birth Control (Contraception)


Contraception is the voluntary prevention of pregnancy. Men and women can choose from a variety of reliable methods to prevent conception. Choosing the right birth control can depend on several factors, including effectiveness, cost, protection against disease, and personal preference. Contraception is intended to prevent undesired pregnancy and not to protect against STDs. Condoms may help prevent disease transmission.

Mechanical Barriers

Mechanical barriers prevent sperm from entering the uterus and fertilizing the egg. The most basic mechanical barrier is the condom. The male condom is designed to fit over the penis. An alternative, the female condom, is a sheath that is placed inside the vagina. Diaphragms, cervical caps and shields are other forms of mechanical barriers. They are placed over the cervix, and are designed to prevent sperm from entering the cervical endometrial canal. The use of spermicide increases the effectiveness of mechanical barrier contraceptives by killing sperm while it is in the vagina.

Hormonal Contraceptives

Hormonal contraceptives prevent pregnancy by regulating female ovulation. Hormones can be taken orally, injected, or implanted beneath the skin. All three methods are highly effective. The most popular method is the oral contraceptive, commonly called The Pill. It is taken daily. Contraceptive hormones can also be delivered through an injection. A hormone injection is administered in a doctor's office or medical clinic and can prevent pregnancy for three months before another injection is needed. A third option, called the hormonal implant, is also administered in a doctor's office or medical clinic. The implant is a small, soft capsule placed under the skin of the upper arm, where it gradually releases hormones for an extended period of time. A hormonal implant can prevent pregnancy for three years before it needs to be replaced.

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are a form of contraception that are inserted by a physician into the uterus. They release copper or hormones to disrupt the ability of sperm to fertilize an egg. IUDs have a high rate of effectiveness and can remain in the uterus for 5 to 7 years without replacement.

Emergency Postcoital Contraception

Emergency postcoital contraception is a birth control method designed to be used after a woman has unprotected sex. The most common form of postcoital contraception, commonly called Plan B, is a dosage of hormones in pill form that disrupts ovulation or alters the endometrium lining in the uterus so that a fertilized egg cannot implant. Another form of postcoital contraception is an IUD that can be inserted into the uterus up to 7 days after unprotected sex.


Sterilization is a permanent method of contraception that is achieved through a surgical procedure. Traditional female sterilization methods typically involve surgery to disrupt the fallopian tubes. This is often accomplished through the use of rings, clips or bands that block the tubes and eventually cause them to separate from the uterus. Permanent blockage of the fallopian tubes may also be achieved through use of a device that is inserted into the fallopian tubes with a hysteroscope. Female sterilization is highly effective but is not easily reversible. Male sterilization can also be achieved through a procedure called a vasectomy that prevents sperm from leaving the testicles. This procedure is highly effective and carries minimal risk. Neither male nor female sterilization will prevent STDs.