See also: Comparison of birth control methods

[edit]Physical methods

See also: reproductive technology

Physical methods may work in a variety of ways, among them: physically preventing sperm from entering the female reproductive tract; hormonally preventing ovulation from occurring; making the woman’s reproductive tract inhospitable to sperm; or surgically altering the male or female reproductive tract to induce sterility. Some methods use more than one mechanism. Physical methods vary in simplicity, convenience and efficacy.

[edit]Barrier methods

Condom (rolled-up).

Barrier methods place a physical impediment to the movement of sperm into the female reproductive tract.

The most popular barrier method is the male condom, a latex or polyurethane sheath placed over the penis. The condom is also available in a female version, which is made of polyurethane. The female condom has a flexible ring at each end — one secures behind the pubic bone to hold the condom in place, while the other ring stays outside the vagina.

Cervical barriers are devices that are contained completely within the vagina. The contraceptive sponge has a depression to hold it in place over thecervix. The cervical cap is the smallest cervical barrier. Depending on the type of cap, it stays in place by suction to the cervix or to the vaginal walls. The diaphragm fits into place behind the woman’s pubic bone and has a firm but flexible ring, which helps it press against the vaginal walls.

Spermicide may be placed in the vagina before intercourse and creates a chemical barrier. Spermicide may be used alone, or in combination with a physical barrier.

[edit]Hormonal methods

Ortho Tri-cyclen, a brand of oral contraceptive, in a dial dispenser.

There are variety of delivery methods for hormonal contraception.

Oral hormonal contraception was the invention of Carl Djerassi together with Mexican Luis E. Miramontes and Hungarian George Rosenkranz in 1951. The synthesys of norethindrone, a progestin-analogue became part of the first successful oral contraceptive, the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP). COCPs became known colloquially as the birth-control pill, or simply, the Pill.

Forms of synthetic oestrogens and progestins (synthetic progestogens) combinations commonly used include the combined oral contraceptive pill (“The Pill”), the Patch, and the contraceptive vaginal ring (“NuvaRing”). Not currently available for sale in the United States is Lunelle, a monthly injection.

Other methods contain only a progestin (a synthetic progestogen). These include the progesterone only pill (the POP or ‘minipill’), the injectablesDepo Provera (a depot formulation of medroxyprogesterone acetate given as an intramuscular injection every three months) and Noristerat (Norethindrone acetate given as an intramuscular injection every 8 weeks), and contraceptive implants. The progestin-only pill must be taken at more precisely remembered times each day than combined pills. The first contraceptive implant, the original 6-capsule Norplant, was removed from the market in the United States in 1999, though a newer single-rod implant called Implanon was approved for sale in the United States onJuly 172006. The various progestin-only methods may cause irregular bleeding during use.

[edit]Ormeloxifene (Centchroman)

Ormeloxifene (Centchroman) is a selective estrogen receptor modulator, or SERM. It causes ovulation to occur asynchronously with the formation of the uterine lining, preventing implantation of a zygote. It has been widely available as a birth control method in India since the early 1990s, marketed under the trade name Saheli. Centchroman is legally available only in India.[citation needed]

[edit]Emergency contraception

See also: Emergency contraceptive availability by country

Some combined pills and POPs may be taken in high doses to prevent pregnancy after a birth control failure (such as a condom breaking) or after unprotected sex. Hormonal emergency contraception is also known as the “morning after pill,” although it is licensed for use up to three days after intercourse.

Copper intrauterine devices may also be used as emergency contraception. For this use, they must be inserted within five days of the birth control failure or unprotected intercourse.

Emergency contraception appears to work by suppressing ovulation.[15][16] However, because it might prevent a fertilized egg from implanting[17], some people[who?] consider it a form of abortion. The details of the possible methods of action are still being studied.

[edit]Intrauterine methods

An intrauterine device.

These are contraceptive devices which are placed inside the uterus. They are usually shaped like a “T” — the arms of the T hold the device in place. There are two main types of intrauterine contraceptives: those that contain copper (which has a spermicidal effect), and those that release aprogestogen (in the US the term progestin is used).

The terminology used for these devices differs in the United Kingdom and the United States. In the US, all devices which are placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy are referred to as intrauterine devices (IUDs) or intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUCDs). In the UK, only copper-containing devices are called IUDs (or IUCDs), and hormonal intrauterine contraceptives are referred to with the term Intra-Uterine System (IUS). This may be because there are ten types of copper IUDs available in the UK,[18] compared to only one in the US.[19]


Surgical sterilization is available in the form of tubal ligation for women and vasectomy for men. In women, the process may be referred to as “tying the tubes,” but the fallopian tubes may be tied, cut, clamped, or blocked. This serves to prevent sperm from joining the unfertilized egg. The non-surgical sterilization procedure, Essure, is an example of a procedure that blocks the tubes. Sterilization should be considered permanent.

Although tubal ligation has been known to be permanent they have created the tubal ligation reversal, which in this case is to reverse the procedure to once again have children but also it depends on the kind of tubal ligation procedure that was once done, also depending on the womens age and damage done to the tubes.Tubal Ligation Reversal

[edit]Behavioral methods

Behavioral methods involve regulating the timing or methods of intercourse to prevent the introduction of sperm into the female reproductive tract, either altogether or when an egg may be present.

[edit]Fertility awareness

Symptoms-based methods of fertility awareness involve a woman’s observation and charting of her body’s fertility signs, to determine the fertile and infertile phases of her cycle. Charting may be done by hand or with the assistance of software. Most methods track one or more of the three primary fertility signs:[20] changes in basal body temperature, in cervical mucus, and in cervical position. If a woman tracks both basal body temperature and another primary sign, the method is referred to as symptothermal. Other bodily cues such as mittelschmerz are considered secondary indicators.

Fertility monitors are computerized devices that determine fertility or infertility based on, for example, temperature or urinalysis tests. Calendar-based methods such as the rhythm method and Standard Days Method estimate the likelihood of fertility based on the length of past menstrual cycles. To avoid pregnancy with fertility awareness, unprotected sex is restricted to the least fertile period. During the most fertile period, barrier methods may be availed, or she may abstain from intercourse.

The term natural family planning (NFP) is sometimes used to refer to any use of FA methods. However, this term specifically refers to the practices which are permitted by the Roman Catholic Church — breastfeeding infertility, and periodic abstinence during fertile times. FA methods may be used by NFP users to identify these fertile times.

[edit]Coitus interruptus

Coitus interruptus (literally “interrupted sex”), also known as the withdrawal method, is the practice of ending sexual intercourse (“pulling out”) before ejaculation. The main risk of coitus interruptus is that the man may not perform the maneuver correctly, or may not perform the maneuver in a timely manner. Although concern has been raised about the risk of pregnancy from sperm in pre-ejaculate, several small studies[3][4] have failed to find any viable sperm in the fluid.

[edit]Avoiding vaginal intercourse

The risk of pregnancy from non-vaginal sex, such as with anal sexoral sex, or non-penetrative sex is virtually zero. A very small risk comes from the possibility of semen leaking onto thevulva (with anal sex) or coming into contact with an object, such as a hand, that later contacts the vulva. Some people maintain complete sexual abstinence to avoid pregnancy.

Although there is no risk of pregnancy from non-vaginal sex which in this case would be anal sex, oral sex, or non-penetrative sex, anal sex is the #1 method of spreading most STD’s- AIDS, Herpes, genital warts, etc. Presenting it as the #1 method is not necessarilly meaning that its the most common way, but it does create the best situation for transmission. It creates this type of transmission because of the likelihood of tearing skin and tissue when you have anal sex.[21]


Most breastfeeding women have a period of infertility after the birth of their child. The lactational amenorrhea method, or LAM, gives guidelines for determining the length of a woman’s period of breastfeeding infertility.

[edit]Induced abortion

This section requires expansion.

In some areas, women use abortion as a primary means to control birth. This practice is more common in Russia,[22] Turkey,[23] and Ukraine.[24] On the other hand, women from Canada[25], and other places[citation needed] generally do not use abortion as a primary form of birth control. Abortion is subject to ethical debate.

Surgical abortion methods include suction-aspiration abortion (used in the first trimester) or dilation and evacuation (used in the second trimester). Medical abortion methods involve the use of medication which is swallowed or inserted vaginally to induce abortion. Medical abortion can be used if the length of gestation has not exceeded 8 weeks.

Some herbs are considered abortifacient, and some animal studies have found various herbs to be effective in inducing abortion in non-human animal species.[7][26] Humans generally do not use herbs when other methods are available, due to the unknown efficacy and due to risks of toxicity.

[edit]Methods in development

[edit]For females

  • Praneem is a polyherbal vaginal tablet being studied as a spermicide, and a microbicide active against HIV.[27]

  • BufferGel is a spermicidal gel being studied as a microbicide active against HIV.[28]

  • Duet is a disposable diaphragm in development that will be pre-filled with BufferGel.[29] It is designed to deliver microbicide to both the cervix and vagina. Unlike currently available diaphragms, the Duet will be manufactured in only one size and will not require a prescription, fitting, or a visit to a doctor.[28]

  • The SILCS diaphragm is a silicone barrier which is still in clinical testing. It has a finger cup molded on one end for easy removal. Like the Duet, the SILCS is novel in that it will only be available in one size.

  • vaginal ring is being developed that releases both estrogen and progesterone, and is effective for over 12 months.[30]

  • Two types of progestogen-only vaginal rings are being developed. Progestogen-only products may be particularly useful for women who are breastfeeding.[30] The rings may be used for four months at a time.[31]

  • A progesterone-only contraceptive is being developed that would be sprayed onto the skin once a day.[32]

  • Quinacrine sterilization and the Adiana procedure are two permanent methods of birth control being developed.[33]

[edit]For males

Main article: Male contraceptive

Other than condoms and withdrawal, there are currently no available methods of reversible contraception which males can use or control. Several methods are in research and development:

  • RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance), is an experimental injection into the vas deferens that coats the walls of the vas with a spermicidal substance. The method can potentially be reversed by washing out the vas deferens with a second injection.

  • Experiments in heat-based contraception involve heating a man’s testicles to a high temperature for a short period of time.


Modern misconceptions and urban legends have given rise to a great many false claims:

  • The suggestion that douching with any substance immediately following intercourse works as a contraceptive is untrue. While it may seem like a sensible idea to try to wash the ejaculate out of the vagina, it is not likely to be effective. Due to the nature of the fluids and the structure of the female reproductive tract, douching most likely actually spreads semen further towards the uterus. Some slight spermicidal effect may occur if the douche solution is particularly acidic, but overall it is not scientifically observed to be a reliably effective method. Douching is neither a contraceptive, or preventatives measure against STDs or other infections.

Vaginal Douching

  • It is untrue that a female cannot become pregnant as a result of the first time she engages in sexual intercourse.

  • While women are usually less fertile for the first few days of menstruation,[35] it is a myth that a woman absolutely cannot get pregnant if she has sex during her period.

  • Having sex in a hot tub does not prevent pregnancy, but may contribute to vaginal infections.[36]

  • Although some sex positions may encourage pregnancy, no sexual positions prevent pregnancy. Having sex while standing up or with a woman on top will not keep the sperm from entering the uterus. The force of ejaculation, the contractions of the uterus caused by prostaglandins[citation needed] in the semen, as well as ability of sperm to swim overrides gravity.

  • Urinating after sex does not prevent pregnancy and is not a form of birth control, although it is often advised anyway to help prevent urinary tract infections.[37]

  • Toothpaste cannot be used as an effective contraceptive[38].


See also the table at: Comparison of birth control methods

Effectiveness is measured by how many women become pregnant using a particular birth control method in the first year of use. Thus, if 100 women use a method that has a 12 percent first-year failure rate, then sometime during the first year of use, 12 of the women should become pregnant.

The most effective methods in typical use are those that do not depend upon regular user action. Surgical sterilization, Depo-Provera, implants, and intrauterine devices (IUDs) all have first-year failure rates of less than one percent for perfect use. Sterilization, implants, and IUDs also have typical failure rates under one percent. The typical failure rate of Depo-Provera is disagreed upon, with figures ranging from less than one percent up to three percent.[39][40]

Other methods may be highly effective if used consistently and correctly, but can have typical use first-year failure rates that are considerably higher due to incorrect or ineffective usage by the user. Hormonal contraceptive pills, patches or rings, fertility awareness methods, and the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM), if used strictly, have first-year (or for LAM, first-6-month) failure rates of less than 1%.[41][42][43][44] In one survey, typical use first-year failure rates of hormonal contraceptive pills (and by extrapolation, patches or rings) were as high as five percent per year. Fertility awareness methods as a whole have typical use first-year failure rates as high as 25 percent per year; however, as stated above, perfect use of these methods reduces the first-year failure rate to less than 1%.[39]

Condoms and cervical barriers such as the diaphragm have similar typical use first-year failure rates (14 and 20 percent, respectively), but perfect usage of the condom is more effective (three percent first-year failure vs six percent) and condoms have the additional feature of helping to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as the HIV virus. The withdrawal method, if used consistently and correctly, has a first-year failure rate of four percent. Due to the difficulty of consistently using withdrawal correctly, it has a typical use first-year failure rate of 19 percent,[39] and is not recommended by some medical professionals.[45]

[edit]Protection against sexually transmitted infections

See also: Safe sex

Some methods of birth control also offer protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The male latex condom offers some protection against some STIs with correct and consistent use, as does the female condom, although the latter has only been approved for vaginal sex. The female condom may offer greater protection against STIs that pass through skin to skin contact, as the outer ring covers more exposed skin than the male condom. Some of the methods involved in avoiding vaginal intercourse can also reduce risk: latex or polyurethane barriers can be used during oral sex, and mutual or solo masturbation are very low-risk. The remaining methods of birth control do not offer significant protection against the sexual transmission of STIs.

Even though the female condom may offer greater protection against STIs, there can still be a possibility that you can transmit an infection. Mainly because some of these STIs like herpes are transmitted through skin to skin contact especially through periods of asymptomatic shedding. These female condoms or other methods of birth control only reduces the risk rather than eliminating it. [46]

Many STIs may also be transmitted non-sexually; this is one reason why abstinence from sexual behavior does not guarantee 100 percent protection against sexually transmitted infections. For example, HIV may be transmitted through contaminated needles which may be used in intravenous drug usetattooingbody piercing, or injections. Health-care workers have acquired HIV through occupational exposure to accidental injuries with needles.[47]

[edit]Religious and cultural attitudes

[edit]Religious views on birth control

Main article: Religious views on birth control

Religions vary widely in their views of the ethics of birth control. In Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church accepts only Natural Family Planning,[48] while Protestants maintain a wide range of views from allowing none to very lenient.[49] Views in Judaism range from the stricter Orthodox sect to the more relaxed Reform sect.[50] In Islam, contraceptives are allowed if they do not threaten health or lead to sterility, although their use is discouraged.[51] Hindus may use both natural and artificial contraceptives.[52] A common Buddhist view of birth control is that preventing conception is ethically acceptable, while intervening after conception has occurred or may have occurred is not.[53]

[edit]Birth control education

Many teenagers, most commonly in developed countries, receive some form of sex education in school. What information should be provided in such programs is hotly contested, especially in the United States and United Kingdom. Possible topics include reproductive anatomy, human sexual behavior, information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), social aspects of sexual interaction, negotiating skills intended to help teens follow through with a decision to remain abstinent or to use birth control during sex, and information on birth control methods.

One type of sex education program used mainly in the United States is called abstinence-only education, and it promotes complete sexual abstinence until marriage. The programs do not encourage birth control, often provide inaccurate information about contraceptives and sexuality[54], stress failure rates of condoms and other contraceptives, and teach strategies for avoiding sexually intimate situations. Advocates of abstinence-only education believe that the programs will result in decreased rates of teenage pregnancy and STD infection. In a non-random, Internet survey of 1,400 women who found and completed a 10-minute multiple-choice online questionnaire listed in one of several popular search engines, women who received sex education from schools providing primarily abstinence information, or contraception and abstinence information equally, reported fewer unplanned pregnancies than those who received primarily contraceptive information, who in turn reported fewer unplanned pregnancies than those who received no information.[55] However, randomized controlled trials demonstrate that abstinence-only sex education programs increase the rates of pregnancy and STDs in the teenage population.[56][57] Professional medical organizations, including the AMAAAPACOG,APHAAPAMnd marquez (talk) 11:04, 17 June 2009 (UTC),and Society for Adolescent Medicine, support comprehensive sex education (providing abstinence and contraceptive information) and oppose the sole use of abstinence-only sex education.[58][59]