Birth Control Types

What is birth control?

Birth control is based on either preventing fertilization of a woman's egg by a man's sperm or preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus (womb). Birth control can be permanent or temporary. The woman and her partner, taking into consideration the ease of use, side effects, costs, and effectiveness of each method, must weigh the pros and cons of various birth control types.

Reversible methods of birth control

  • Reversible, or temporary, types of birth control include barrier methods such as condoms , cervical caps, or diaphragms that prevent sperm from reaching the egg.
  • Mechanical methods that prevent implantation include the intrauterine device (IUD) that prevents implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.
  • Hormonal methods like the pill interfere with a woman's menstrual cycle so that ovulation (release of an egg) does not occur.

Permanent methods of birth control

Permanent methods of birth control are available for both women and men.

  • Examples include tubal ligation for women and vasectomy for men.
  • A newer method of permanent birth control known as Essure is available for women. It involves the placement of inserts in the Fallopian tubes and does not require surgery.

Emergency contraception

The term "emergency contraception" has been used to refer to methods for contraception that are implemented after unprotected sexual intercourse and include:

  • Hormonal treatments (known as the "morning-after pill")
  • The insertion of a copper IUD within 5 days of unprotected intercourse.

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Medically reviewed by Wayne Blocker, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology


"Morning-After Pill (Emergency Contraception)." Planned Parenthood.