Contraception/Birth Control

Contraception/Birth Control

Picture of a young woman sitting on a swing

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

  • Killing sperm

  • 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 against STIs.

  • 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 methods:

  • 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 birth control.

  • 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