Overview of Contraception

  • Contraception refers to the methods used to prevent pregnancy.
  • These methods can be divided into several categories: barrier methods, hormonal methods, intrauterine devices, emergency contraception, and sterilisation.
  • Some methods provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), while others do not. It’s important to understand both their preventive capacities and potential side effects.

Barrier Methods

  • Barrier methods create a physical or chemical barrier preventing sperm from reaching the egg.
  • The male condom is an example, which not only prevents sperm from reaching the egg but also protects against STIs.
  • The female condom, diaphragm, and cervical cap are other examples. They are devices placed inside the vagina, preventing sperm from reaching the uterus.
  • Spermicidal creams, foams, and films are chemical barriers that kill sperm.

Hormonal Methods

  • Hormonal methods prevent ovulation or make it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg.
  • Combined oral contraceptives, also known as “the pill”, use synthetic versions of hormones progesterone and oestrogen to stop ovulation.
  • Progestin-only pills, also called the “mini-pill”, use synthetic progesterone to thicken cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to swim.
  • The contraceptive patch, vaginal ring, and injection also release hormones that prevent ovulation.

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

  • IUDs are small devices inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
  • There are two types: copper IUDs, which release copper to prevent the sperm from fertilising the egg; and hormonal IUDs that release progesterone, preventing ovulation and making it more difficult for sperm to reach the uterus.

Emergency Contraception

  • Emergency contraception is used after sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
  • It includes morning-after pills, which can be taken up to 72 hours after intercourse, and a copper IUD, which can be inserted up to five days after intercourse, to prevent an egg from implanting in the uterus.


  • Sterilisation is a permanent method of contraception: vasectomy in men (tieing or sealing the tubes that carry sperm), and tubal ligation in women (sealing or blocking the fallopian tubes to prevent eggs from reaching the uterus).
  • It’s important to note that these methods do not provide protection against STIs. Moreover, they require a surgical procedure and are considered permanent, although it is possible, but not always successful, to reverse them.