A contraceptive is any method by which conception may be prevented. Contraceptives work by interfering with the natural processes of ovulation, fertilization and implantation. They come in many different forms, including, but not limited to: contraceptive pills, contraceptive herbs, emergency contraceptives, contraceptive sponges and prophylactics.
Although there are so many different forms, they all have one basic thing in common: they are only effective when used regularly. Birth control pills, for example, must be used every day. A diaphragm or contraceptive sponge will only work if it used every time intercourse takes place. The same is true for condoms. Some contraceptives only need to be applied once (or every once in a while), such as Depo-Provera, Norplant, the IUD and tubal sterilization.
Birth control may be divided into the following categories:
- Oral contraceptives include birth control pills.
- Injected contraceptives such as Depo-Provera. This is a hormonal medication that is given by injection roughly every three months.
- Implanted contraceptives such as Norplant. This is a long-lasting form of birth control that acts upon the hormones. It is usually implanted under the skin of the upper arm.
- Vaginal contraceptives include spermicides and barriers that act in the vagina.
- Intrauterine contraceptives such as the IUD, which is inserted directly into the uterus.
- Surgical contraceptives include the tubal sterilization method, which must be performed in a hospital or clinic under general anesthesia.
There are many people who do not find birth control to be morally acceptable, often for reasons based in faith. Thus the topic of birth control and contraceptives remains somewhat controversial.