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
When it comes to disease, which is more powerful genetics or environment?
More young women using contraception at start of sexual activity.
Women who take birth control pills may be at increased risk of breast cancer, study finds.
Expected move could affect access to contraception for millions of women
Distances of 100 miles or more common for women in rural counties, study finds
Worst conditions found in Africa, Asia and Latin America, WHO researchers say
No reason to delay this type of birth control after having a baby
Awareness and follow-up are keys to avoiding gynecologic problems, expert advises
Most rely on condoms, but use of another method has doubled, study finds
Men should still follow CDC guidelines and use condoms for at least 6 months, health experts say
Most thorough analysis of the data so far finds only 'trivial' effect, which may be due to chance
By 18, more than half of adolescents were still virgins, new CDC survey reveals
Too few teens use the most effective birth control after having a first baby
Product has unpredictable, potentially dangerous effects, doctors warn
Drinking too much can affect your judgment, increasing your risk for injury, CDC warns
Monkey study shows injected gel may one day be alternative to traditional vasectomy
A drawback to one form is that it isn't effective until 3 months after placement
Injections as effective as other contraceptives, but side effects prompted early halt of trial
Does the birth control pill increase risk for depression?
Study also ties hormonal patches, IUDs to greater antidepressant use, especially in teens
Less sex, more contraception is the 'magic' formula, experts say
Because early signs are often easy to ignore, 140,000 women worldwide die of the disease every year
Rates down 16 percent in U.S., 8 percent in Canada, and 10 percent in Europe over a decade: study
New report also highlights ties between Zika and Guillain-Barre
Expectant mothers or those trying to get pregnant should make sure they get enough of the nutrient, researchers say
Placement of IUD, contraceptive implant after delivery helps prevent accidental pregnancy, doctors advise
Study suggests transmission risk is low if infected person adheres to treatment
Majority of 39,000 annual cases are preventable, CDC says