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Contraception, also called birth control, refers to methods or devices that prevent pregnancy.
A contraceptive implant is a thin, plastic tube that contains a hormone that prevents pregnancy. It is different from an intrauterine device (IUD). It is inserted into the upper part of the arm by a health care provider. Implants can be effective for up to 3 years.
Progestin-only injections are injections of progestin, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone. They are given every 3 months by a health care provider.
Birth control pills
Birth control pills are pills that contain hormones that prevent pregnancy. They must be taken once a day, preferably at the same time each day. A prescription is needed to use this method of contraception.
Birth control patch
The birth control patch contains hormones that prevent pregnancy. It is placed on the skin and must be changed once a week for three weeks and removed on the fourth week. A prescription is needed to use this method of contraception.
A vaginal ring contains hormones that prevent pregnancy. It is placed in the vagina for three weeks and removed on the fourth week. After that, the process is repeated with a new ring. A prescription is needed to use this method of contraception.
Emergency contraceptives prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. They come in pill form and can be taken up to 5 days after sex. They work best the sooner they are taken after having sex. Most emergency contraceptives are available without a prescription. This method should not be used as your only form of birth control.
A male condom is a thin sheath that is worn over the penis during sex. Condoms keep sperm from going inside a woman's body. They can be used with a sperm-killing substance (spermicide) to increase their effectiveness. They should be thrown away after one use.
A female condom is a soft, loose-fitting sheath that is put into the vagina before sex. The condom keeps sperm from going inside a woman's body. They should be thrown away after one use.
A diaphragm is a soft, dome-shaped barrier. It is inserted into the vagina before sex, along with a spermicide. The diaphragm blocks sperm from entering the uterus, and the spermicide kills sperm. A diaphragm should be left in the vagina for 6–8 hours after sex and removed within 24 hours.
A diaphragm is prescribed and fitted by a health care provider. A diaphragm should be replaced every 1–2 years, after giving birth, after gaining more than 15 lb (6.8 kg), and after pelvic surgery.
A cervical cap is a round, soft latex or plastic cup that fits over the cervix. It is inserted into the vagina before sex, along with spermicide. It blocks sperm from entering the uterus. The cap should be left in place for 6–8 hours after sex and removed within 48 hours. A cervical cap must be prescribed and fitted by a health care provider. It should be replaced every 2 years.
A sponge is a soft, circular piece of polyurethane foam with spermicide in it. The sponge helps block sperm from entering the uterus, and the spermicide kills sperm. To use it, you make it wet and then insert it into the vagina. It should be inserted before sex, left in for at least 6 hours after sex, and removed and thrown away within 30 hours.
Spermicides are chemicals that kill or block sperm from entering the cervix and uterus. They can come as a cream, jelly, suppository, foam, or tablet. A spermicide should be inserted into the vagina with an applicator at least 10–15 minutes before sex to allow time for it to work. The process must be repeated every time you have sex. Spermicides do not require a prescription.
Intrauterine device (IUD)
Female tubal ligation
In this method, a woman's fallopian tubes are sealed, tied, or blocked during surgery to prevent eggs from traveling to the uterus.
In this method, a small, flexible insert is placed into each fallopian tube. The inserts cause scar tissue to form in the fallopian tubes and block them, so sperm cannot reach an egg. The procedure takes about 3 months to be effective. Another form of birth control must be used during those 3 months.
This is a procedure to tie off the tubes that carry sperm (vasectomy). After the procedure, the man can still ejaculate fluid (semen). Another form of birth control must be used for 3 months after the procedure.
Natural family planning
In this method, a couple does not have sex on days when the woman could become pregnant.
In this method, the woman keeps track of the length of each menstrual cycle, identifies the days when pregnancy can happen, and does not have sex on those days.
In this method, a couple avoids sex during ovulation.
This method involves not having sex during ovulation. The woman typically checks for ovulation by watching changes in her temperature and in the consistency of cervical mucus.
In this method, a couple waits to have sex until after ovulation.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.
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