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How Birth Control Works

Birth control prevents pregnancy by preventing conception. Some methods prevent an egg from maturing. Some keep the sperm and egg from meeting. And some methods work in both ways.

Preventing Ovulation

Cross section of ovary showing ovulation. An egg is released from an ovary each month during a woman's fertile years.

Cross section of ovary showing ovulation. An egg is released from an ovary each month during a woman's fertile years.

Certain hormones help prevent an egg from maturing and being released. Hormone methods include:

  • Birth control pills

  • Skin patches

  • Contraceptive vaginal rings

  • Injections

Preventing Sperm and Egg from Meeting

Closeup cross section of fallopian tube showing sperm around egg. Conception occurs when egg and sperm meet.

Cross section of cervix with diaphragm in place. Spermicide fills diaphragm. Various birth control methods, such as diaphragm and spermicide, prevent sperm and egg from meeting.

Methods that prevent the sperm and egg from joining include:

  • Barrier methods, such as the condom, the diaphragm, and the cervical cap

  • Spermicide

  • The IUD (intrauterine device)

  • Sterilization

  • Natural family planning

  • Some types of hormone methods

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 1/1/2008
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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