Birth Control: Vocabulary Explained

Communicating with your healthcare provider clearly and efficiently is mutually beneficial, and will help them to give you the best advice possible for staying healthy. We recognize that the vocabulary involved with the topic of birth control can become confusing, but understanding the subtle differences will help you make the most informed decisions about your lifestyle. It will also help you describe these decisions to your gynecologist or primary care provider.


Birth Control 🌂 The Umbrella Term

The umbrella term “birth control” refers to a number of methods women employ to prevent or control pregnancy. Many wrongly assume that birth control refers only to “the pill”. While this is part and parcel of birth control, it also includes several other methods and the various support systems we recommend women engage in for social health. It’s important to consider all options and determine which method is best for you.


Contraception 📓 Definition & Examples

Contraception is the practice of deliberately preventing implantation, the process through which the fertilized egg divides and travels into the uterus. Preventing implantation will ultimately prevent conception. There are several types of contraceptives.

Hormonal Methods:

  • Birth control pills- This is practically synonymous with the term “contraceptive”. Birth control pills prevent users from ovulating altogether. This means that the user will not be producing any eggs for the sperm to fertilize. This is accomplished through an increased intake of progestin and estrogen.
  • Birth control patch- Placed on the skin like an adhesive bandage, the birth control patch also releases hormones to halt any potential for pregnancy. Users should change their patch once every week for three weeks, and leave it off during the fourth week of the cycle.
  • Intra-uterine devices- These are small devices that can be inserted into the uterus to prevent the sperm from ever reaching the egg. IUDs can be removed at any point if you decide to start trying to get pregnant.
  • Nuva Ring- The Nuva Ring is about two inches wide, and is inserted into the vagina for 3 weeks each month to release birth control hormones. The Nuva Ring does not interfere with sex.
  • Birth Control Shot- The birth control shot is reliable, and must only be administered once every 12 weeks. It contains a synthetic progesterone. While many patients get no period at all, some users experience unpredictable spotting or staining.
  • Implant- The birth control implant is a tiny polymer rod that releases a synthetic progesterone-like drug over three years to prevent ovulation. After three years, the rod is either removed or changed.

Barrier Methods:

  • Condoms- Condoms function by fully covering the penis and preventing sperm from entering the vagina during intercourse. Condoms are the only contraceptive that also prevent the transmission of STDs, which we elaborate on below.
  • Female diaphragm- A dome-shaped cup that covers the cervix and prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg. A diaphragm is not as effective as a condom in preventing STD transmission.
  • Sponge/Spermicides- This combination works by physically covering the cervix, but also by continually releasing a spermicide, preventing the sperm from joining with an egg. Spermicides are available in several different forms, including gels, creams, foams and more.
  • Coitus interruptus, or pulling out- This can be effective, but some consider this to be an unreliable method.


Woman With Birth Control Pills. Beautiful Smiling Girl Holding Blister Pack With Oral Contraceptive Pills. Healthy Happy Girl With Pill Package In Hand.

Contragestion: Emergency Solutions for Unwanted Pregnancy

Contragestion is an emergency solution to an unwanted pregnancy, or after accidentally neglecting to use one of the above methods. The morning after pill will make the implantation site uninhabitable for the sperm, preventing it from full development. Alternatively, IUDs can be inserted for contragestion purposes. According to Planned Parenthood, IUDs are the most effective way to prevent pregnancy after sex. We can help you explore the option of a non-surgical abortion if the window of time for the above methods has passed.


Condoms: Birth Control and STD Prevention

In addition to functioning as a contraceptive, condoms also prevent the transmission of STDs like HIV, AIDS, and others. This makes them essential for people who consistently engage in sexual contact with different partners. Only latex condoms will prevent the transmission of sperm. Dental dams will prevent STD transmission during oral sex.


We’re Here to Help You

If you have questions about the birth control method you have been using, or future options, feel free to schedule an appointment. Contact us with questions or concerns about the effects of different birth control methods, or if you have questions about abortion.