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Birth Control (Contraception)

Birth control is an umbrella term for any method that prevents pregnancy. However, while pregnancy prevention is birth control’s main purpose, some forms of birth control can also treat other health concerns, including acne, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

There are several different types of birth control. Some forms create a barrier between the egg and the sperm, while others use synthetic hormones to prevent pregnancy. Methods of birth control include:

Barrier methods

Male condoms are thin latex sheaths that are placed over the erect penis to prevent sperm from entering the woman’s vagina. Female condoms, made of soft plastic, are placed inside the vagina and cover the cervix to prevent sperm from reaching the eggs. Condoms do not require a prescription and are available at many drugstores, online and big box stores.

Diaphragms

Diaphragms are rubber cups that are filled with spermicide and placed over the cervix before intercourse. Diaphragms require a prescription by a provider to determine the correct size and type.

Implants

Implants are small rods placed by a provider beneath the skin of the upper arm. Implants release synthetic progestin to prevent ovulation. This method lasts up to three years and requires no further action after the doctor places it.

Injections

Injections are given once every three months by a provider in a woman’s upper arm or buttocks. Similar to implants, these injections contain progestin, which prevents ovulation.

Intrauterine devices (IUDs)

These small, T-shaped devices are inserted in the uterus by a provider. There are copper IUDs, which contain no hormones, and hormonal IUDs, which can work by thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg, partially preventing ovulation or altering the uterine lining so fertilized eggs are less likely to attach. IUDs are reversible and can be taken out if a woman decides to get pregnant.

Pills

Birth control pills may contain progestin or a combination of estrogen and progestin and prevent ovulation. Providers may prescribe birth control pills to prevent pregnancy, for hormonal imbalances such as polycystic ovary syndrome or for complications with menstrual periods such as endometriosis. Birth control pills may also be prescribed to treat acne.

Vaginal rings

These flexible are rings placed in the vagina by the user and release progestin and estrogen. Vaginal rings stay in place for three weeks and are taken out during the fourth week for menstruation.

The choice of birth control will depend on your health, how often you are sexually active, whether or not you want children in the future, and other factors.

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