How Does Birth Control Actually Work?

Contraception is when you use a device, medication, or method to prevent pregnancy. With all the various options available, you may still be wondering how does birth control actually work? While this depends on the method, knowing the difference can make your decision easier.

Birth control pill pack

Permanent Birth Control Methods

Permanent birth control methods are meant to prevent pregnancy for the rest of your life. This is done through surgery or other medical procedure such as:

  • Female Sterilization:
    • Tubal ligation- Tying, clamping, cutting, banding, sealing close, or even completely removing the fallopian tubes are all methods providers use during tubal ligation. This prevents an egg from moving from the ovary through the fallopian tube, where it could meet sperm. It also prevents sperm from traveling up the tube to meet the egg.
  • Male sterilization:
    • Vasectomy- A vasectomy prevents the transport of sperm out of the testes. The procedure does this by cutting, sealing, or blocking the vas deferens. These are the tubes in the male reproductive system that carries sperm.

Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC) Methods

LARC methods are where forms of contraception your doctor inserts one time and last from 3 to 10 years depending on the type:

  • Intrauterine devices:
    • Copper IUD- Non-hormonal IUDs use copper to prevent pregnancy by causing inflammation in the uterus. It changes how sperm cells move so they can’t swim to an egg and fertilize it.
    • Hormonal IUD- These make the mucus on your cervix thicker, which blocks sperm so it can’t get to an egg. The hormones in the IUD may also stop eggs from leaving your ovaries. If there’s no egg for sperm to fertilize, there’s no pregnancy.

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  • Hormonal implants:
    • Hormonal implants work the same as a hormonal IUD, except they are matchstick-sized rods inserted into the upper arm.

Short-Acting Hormonal Methods

Short-acting birth control methods are taken regularly every day or month.

  • Pill, mini pills, patch, shot, and vaginal ring — Short-acting hormonal birth control methods are contraceptives your doctor prescribes that you must remember to take every day or month. The shot requires you to get a shot from your doctor every 3 months. Short-acting birth control methods also prevent the sperm from reaching the egg by thickening the mucus around the cervix. They also stop ovulation by preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs.

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods are a type of birth control you use each time you have sex that prevents the sperm from getting to the egg by creating a barrier between them. These include:

  • Condoms
  • Diaphragms
  • Sponge
  • Cervical cap

Natural Rhythm Methods

Finally, natural rhythm methods involve abstaining from sex or using birth control only on the days when you are most likely to get pregnant.

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