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Contraception: Different Ways to Prevent Pregnancy

Contraception is any process used to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Contraceptives may be used only at the time of intercourse or regularly. Surgical methods of contraception are available for men (vasectomy) and women (tubal ligation) and can sometimes be reversed (e.g., tubal reversal). Other methods range from natural family planning (the rhythm method) to the controversial morning after pill (emergency contraception). The only 100 percent effective method of contraception is abstinence and many contraceptives do not lower the risk of receiving a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Birth Control pills

Birth control pills are the most commonly used form of reversible contraceptives. When used correctly and consistently, they are also one of the most effective methods of preventing pregnancy. Over 11 million women in the United States use birth control pills, and they are the most popular forms of contraception for women under age 30.


The condom is a sheath (cover) that forms a barrier to prevent pregnancy or the transfer of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) during sexual intercourse. There are male and female versions, but the male condom is more commonly used.


A diaphragm is a rubber cup made of latex or silicone. It is a temporary method of contraception which must remain in place for six hours after intercourse to prevent pregnancy. When placed in the diaphragm and along its rim, the spermicide destroys any sperm that may manage to swim around the rim of the diaphragm. A diaphragm does not protect women from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Intrauterine device

An intrauterine device is a small, plastic object shaped like a “T” that is placed in a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. Also known as an IUD, this device is among the most effective and popular forms of birth control in the world. The IUD is about the size of a quarter and cannot be felt by the woman or her partner during intercourse.

Morning after pill

The morning after pill is a prescription drug used to reduce the risk of pregnancy after an act of unprotected intercourse. Also known as emergency contraceptive pills, they offer no protection against sexually transmitted diseases, and cannot be used to end a pregnancy. These drugs are only used as a preventative measure against pregnancy.

Tubal ligation

A tubal ligation is a form of female sterilization that is among the most effective methods of permanent birth control. During the procedure, a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked so that a man’s sperm cannot fertilize her eggs. Every year, less than 1 percent of women who have had a tubal ligation become pregnant. It is sure method of contraception.


A vasectomy is a procedure that permanently sterilizes a man and takes away his ability to impregnate a woman. The procedure involves making small incisions into two long ducts known separately as the vas deferens. These are the pathways that normally allow sperm (the male reproductive cell) to mix with semen before it is ejaculated through the penis.

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