Definition of Contraception

 Article updated and reviewed by Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, University of Pennsylvania on May 10, 2005.

Contraception is the use of artificial or natural means to prevent conception, or pregnancy.

There are various contraceptive methods available today. The most common artificial methods are:

  • Condoms and Spermicides - the condom is a latex sheath, or cover, that fits over the penis or, in the case of the female condom, fits into the vaginal opening. In either case, the condom has not been shown to be totally effective either in the prevention of pregnancy or protection from AIDS. A spermicide is a chemical that kills sperm. One type of spermicide, Nonoxynol-9, is the main active ingredient in nearly all popular brands (foams, creams, jellies, vaginal tablets, suppositories and sponges). ther are many brand names of spermicides, including Ortho-Creme, Gynol II, Semicid, Conceptrol and delfen. 

  • Emergency Contraception: The Morning-After Pill - emergency contraception (also know ast eh morning-after pill or EC) is a high dosage of the birth control pill. Those who promote EC claim it may be used after sexual intercourse, over a period of 72 hours, to prevent pregnancy. But there are things these people aren't telling you. 

  • Depo-Provera - Depo-Provera is the marketing name for the most widely used injectable method of birth control in the worl-depot-medroxyprogetreone acetate.
  • The Intra-Uterine Device (IUD) - the IUD, (intra-uterine device), is an object that is placed inside the uterus (womb) by a physician. There are two different kinds of IUDs manufactured in the United States today. 

  • The Vaginal Ring: NuvaRing - NuvaRing is a thin, transparent, flexible ring that you insert into the vagina. It is left in for three weeks, during which time slowly releases estrogen and progestin hormones into the body. The ring is worn for three weeks, and is then removed for one week. Then a new ring must be inserted.
  • The Contraceptive Patch: OrthoEvra - OrthoEvra is a square patch, similar to a small bandage, which can be applied at various places on the body. It is used for three weeks and is then removed. For one week, no patch is used. A new patch is then applied. The patch slowly releases a combination of estrogen and progestin hormones through the skin.
  • The Birth Control Implant: Implanon - Implanon is a thin rod that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. The rod contains a synthetic hormone called etonogestrel that is released into the body over a three-year period. The manufacturer advises that during the third year less etonogestrel is released, thus making the rod less effective in preventing (or destroying) pregnancy.
Case Study: The Use of Contraceptives Lowers the Number of Abortions - the claim is frequently made by IPP/WHR affiliates that the use of birth control lowers the number of unplanned pregnancies and, therefore, the number of abortions. In a january 6, 1996 article printed in La Prensa, Dr. Alfonso Lavergne, executive director of APLASA (IPPF/WHR's Panama Affiliate) makes the claim that if a woman "has access to safe contraceptives, then the possibilities of a pregnancy are minimal." He goes on to claim that providing family planning will help reduce the need for abortion.