Birth control, also known as contraception and fertility control, are methods or devices used to prevent pregnancy. Planning, provision and use of birth control is called family planning. Safe sex, such as the use of male or female condoms, can also help prevent sexually transmitted infections. Birth control methods have been used since ancient times, but effective and safe methods only became available in the 20th century. Some cultures deliberately limit access to birth control because they consider it to be morally or politically undesirable.
The most effective methods of birth control are sterilization by means of vasectomy in males and tubal ligation in females, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implantable contraceptives. This is followed by a number of hormonal contraceptives including oral pills, patches, vaginal rings, and injections. Less effective methods include barriers such as condoms, diaphragms and contraceptive sponge and fertility awareness methods. The least effective methods are spermicides and withdrawal by the male before ejaculation. Sterilization, while highly effective, is not usually reversible; all other methods are reversible, most immediately upon stopping them. Emergency contraceptives can prevent pregnancy in the few days after unprotected sex. Some regard sexual abstinence as birth control, but abstinence-only sex education may increase teen pregnancies when offered without contraceptive education.
In teenagers, pregnancies are at greater risk of poor outcomes. Comprehensive sex education and access to birth control decreases the rate of unwanted pregnancies in this age group. While all forms of birth control may be used by young people, long-acting reversible birth control such as implants, IUDs, or vaginal rings are of particular benefit in reducing rates of teenage pregnancy. After the delivery of a child, a woman who is not exclusively breastfeeding may become pregnant again as early as four to six weeks. Some methods of birth control can be started immediately following the birth, while others require a delay of up to six months. In those who are breast feeding progestin-only methods are preferred over combined oral contraceptives. In those who have reached menopause it is recommended that birth control be continued for one year after the last period.
- More information on this topic is available at [ Wikipedia:Birth_control ]
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