A diaphragm (a type of physical barrier method) in its case, with a quarter added for scale.
Contraception is the prevention of the fusion of gametes during or after sexual activity. The term contraception is a contraction of contra, which means against, and the word conception, meaning fertilization. Contraception can occur both naturally and via artificial means in humans and in animals.
Contraception can occur both naturally and via artificial means in humans.
Naturally occurring contraception
When a mother feeds her baby only with her breast milk, this tends to prevent the release of hormones which cause ovulation This occurs naturally, but it can also be manipulated as a method of birth control called the Lactational amenorrhea method.
Contraception as a form of birth control
The techniques of birth control can be classified by the stage of reproduction during which it is active. A form of birth control which prevents the sperm from fertilizing the egg is a contraceptive agent. A form of birth control which acts after fertilization to prevent or interrupt the implantation of the embryo into the uterine lining is a contragestive agent. After implantation has occurred, an agent which ends gestation by terminating the pregnancy is an abortifacient. These mechanisms of action are not always mutually exclusive. One substance or device can have more than one potential effect depending upon when it is used. For example, while mifepristone is best known as an abortifacient, it can also function as a contragestive agent. Likewise, the IUD can be used as a contraceptive or a contragestive depending upon when it is inserted.
There are a variety of laws in many countries which prohibit or regulate the availability of contraceptive devices. The laws range from outright prohibition to prohibition of some forms of contraception, to minimum ages for availability, to whether a prescription is required, etc.
Types of contraceptives
Contraceptives are devices, techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization. Barrier contraceptives are devices which attempt to prevent pregnancy by physically preventing sperm from entering the uterus. Devices in common use include condoms, female condoms, cervical caps, and diaphragms. SILCS diaphragms are still in clinical testing. Hormonal contraceptives inhibit female ovulation or fertilization. These include injectable and oral contraceptives. The most common hormonal contraceptives are the combined oral contraceptive pill, commonly referred as "The Pill", which includes a combination of an estrogen and a progestin (progestogen), and the minipill that contains only synthetic progestogens and do not contain estrogen. Sterilization is a permanent form of providing contraception using surgical techniques, such as tubal ligation for females, and vasectomy for males, to alter the reproductive function of the sex organs.
Ortho Tri-cyclen, a brand of oral contraceptive, in a dial dispenser.
Emergency contraceptives, or "morning-after pills", are drugs that disrupt ovulation or fertilization in order to prevent pregnancy taken after sexual intercourse. An IUD can also be used as an emergency contraceptive, if it is implanted early enough, although it has a contragestive effect when it is implanted later.
Contraception in non-human animals
Contraception occurs naturally in non-human animals just as it does in humans. For example the same hormonal effect of breastfeeding occurs both in humans and in chimpanzees Artificial contraception is now being considered as an alternative to hunting as a means of controlling the population of animals which overbreed.
- Barrier contraception
- Birth control
- Hormonal contraception
- Jewish views on contraception
- Male contraceptive
- Reproductive technology