Birth control refers to medications, barriers, sexual practices or medical procedures that prevent pregnancy. Various approaches exist for both men and women, and birth control can range from simply choosing not to have sex, called abstinence, to permanent sterilization caused by surgery. The effectiveness varies widely across the different methods, as does the ability to get pregnant at a later date.
Types of Birth Control
Usually the term “birth control” is thought of in regard to birth control pills. These pills are taken by women daily and prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs. There are also patches, injections, vaginal rings and surgical implants available for women that prevent pregnancy in a method similar to birth control pills.
Another category of birth control is often described as “barrier methods.” These are devices used during sex that block the sperm from reaching the egg. Diaphragms, cervical caps, cervical shields, contraceptive sponges and male and female condoms fit into the category of barrier methods of birth control. Male condoms offer additional protection in that they can prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in some cases.
The surest method of birth control is abstinence. Some couples also practice the rhythm method, which involves not having sex or using a barrier on the days during the woman's menstrual cycle when she is the most fertile.
For people who do not want children or do not want any more children, permanent methods of birth control are available. For women, this can be accomplished with a surgery, called a tubal ligation, or an implanted device that blocks the fallopian tubes from releasing eggs. Men can get a procedure performed called a vasectomy that blocks sperm from traveling to the penis.
Emergency contraception, sometimes called “Plan B” or the “morning after pill,” is available to women over-the-counter as another form of birth control. These pills, which come in a one-dose or two-dose treatment, are for women who had unprotected sex and do not desire to get pregnant. The pills prevent the release of an egg from the ovary or prevent sperm from joining with the egg.
SOURCE: U.S. Office on Women's Health
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