Birth Control Glossary

– A –

The act of withholding having sex with a partner.

– B –

Backup Birth Control
Any method of birth control that is used while waiting for a hormonal birth control method to become effect such as birth control pills. These backup birth control methods can include withdrawal, sponges, condoms, diaphragms, etc. Some people also reference backup birth control as emergency contraception.

Birth Control Sponge (Today Sponge)
A sponge that is made of foam that is placed within the vagina and is used to prevent pregnancy.

Birth Control Patch
A patch that is small in size and sticks to your skin and is used to prevent pregnancy.

Birth Control Shot (Depo-Provera)
A shot that is given to you by a physician in the arm that prevents pregnancy.

Barrier Methods Of Birth Control
This is a birth control method that blocks sperm from entering the uterus.  These barrier methods include diaphragm, cap, condom, sponge, and the female condom.

Birth Control
Medications, behaviors, and devices used to avoid unwanted or unintended pregnancy.

– C –

Calendar Method
The menstrual cycles charted on a calendar which is used to bring awareness to when fertility is at its highest. Avoiding high fertility or times of ovulation can be used as a method of  contraception. Targeting times of high fertility within a calendar month can help promote a pregnancy.

See “FemCap”

The act of not having sex.

Cervical Cap
This birth control method is a silicone cup or rubber cup that is intended to fit securely on the cervix.  The cervical cap is available by prescription only and is reversible.  It is a barrier method of birth control and is used with contraceptive jelly. In the United States the only cervical cap available for purchase is the FemCap.

The lower narrow part of the uterus that connects the uterus to the vagina.

Combination Pill
A type of birth control pill that contains both progestin and estrogen.

Combined Hormone Contraceptives
The patch, the pill, the ring are all birth control methods that contain hormones progestin and estrogen as a contraceptive method.

Combined Oral Contraceptives
Birth control pills that includes the hormones progestin and estrogen.

A thin sheath of plastic, rubber, or animal tissue that is worn on the penis during intercourse to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It is a cheap over-the-counter birth control method that is simple and easy to use.

A procedure, behavior, or device that is used to prevent pregnancy.

Contraceptive Jellies & Creams
These are substances that have spermicide in them, which is used to immobilize and block sperm so that it cannot attach to the egg. These substances can be used with diaphragms and cervical caps and are over-the-counter contraceptives. Additionally this method is reversible and is a barrier method of birth control.

Contraceptive C-Film/Film
An over-the-counter thin, 2 inch square sheet of chemicals that is inserted into the vagina, which then melts into a thick liquid that then prevents and blocks the entrance of sperm into the uterus using spermicide. This device stops sperms and prevents the egg from joining with the sperm.

Contraceptive Foam
A substance that is inserted far into the vagina, with bubbles that contain spermicide it blocks sperm from entering the uterus. Additionally it prevents sperm from attached to the egg using spermicides. This over-the-counter birth control option and is most effective if used with a condom.

Contraceptive Suppository
A solid capsule that is inserted deeply into the vagina that contains spermicide that is used to prevent the egg from joining with sperm and immobilizing the sperm with spermicides. This birth control method is most effectively used in conjunction with a condom and is available for purchase over-the-counter.

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– D –

A dome that is made of soft rubber that is meant to be fitted securely over the cervix. The diaphragm is meant to be used with a contraceptive jelly or cream and only available by prescription.

– E –

This is the brand name for the first ever birth control pill.

– F –

Fams (Fertility Awareness-Based Methods)
In order to prevent pregnancy you can predict a woman’s ovulation based on her fertility cycle and avoid having sex when it’s more likely for a woman to get pregnant. In order to do this method it requires professional instruction and to be very careful.  Within FAMS there are a few different methods that include: two-day method, standard days method, calendar method, and the cervical mucus method. Additionally there are ovulation kits that can be used to test when a woman is more likely to conceive a child.

Female Condom
A pouch made of polyurethane that has flexible rings on each end that is inserted far into the vagina similar to how a diaphragm is used. This is a reversible barrier method of birth control and is available over-the-counter. Additionally it provides protection against many sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

FemCap / Cervical Cap
A cup made of silicone that is similar to the shape of a sailor’s cap that is used to securely fit over the cervix within a woman’s vagina. It is a barrier method of birth control and ideally should be used with a contraceptive jelly. This birth control option is only available by prescription and is reversible.

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– G –


– H –

Hormonal Contraceptives
Birth control methods that require a prescription and use hormones to prevent pregnancy. These hormonal contraceptives include: the pill, the shot, the ring, the patch, the implant, and the Mirena IUD.

– I –

The brand name of OFA contraceptive implant. This implant is the size of matchstick roughly and is made of a flexible thin plastic. This implant is inserted under the skin of the upper arm.  To prevent fertilization and ovulation is constantly release progestin.  This implant can be used for up to 3 years to prevent pregnancy.  This method of birth control requires a prescription and is a reversible method.

A thin flexible plastic contraceptive implant placed just under the skin of the upper arm. It constantly release progestin to prevent fertilization and ovulation and can be used for up to 3 years.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)
A small device shaped as a T which is made out of plastic and may contain natural hormones and copper, which is placed in the uterus by a health care professional to prevent pregnancy. Can last for up to 5 years and requires a prescription.

Intrauterine System (IUS)
A small device that is crafted in plastic, which contains progestin, that is placed in the uterus by a health care professional to prevent pregnancy.  A brand name of the IUS is Mirena.  This birth control method is available only by prescription and is a reversible method of birth control.

Iactational Amenorrhea Method (IAM)
After a child is born using breastfeeding as a method of birth control for up to 6 months.

– J –


– K –


– L –


– M –

Method Effectiveness
When a contraceptive method itself is used always consistently and correctly how reliable it is.

These are progestin-only pills which are birth control pills that contain only the hormone progestin.

Morning After Pills
A hormonal emergency contraception that should be taken within 120 hours (5 days) of having unprotected vaginal sex in order to decrease the risk of unintended pregnancy.

– N –

Natural Family Planning
Awareness-based method of contraception where you are aware of the fertility cycle of a woman and plan intercourse accordingly. (some suggest that other methods are “unnatural” and this is inaccurate).

A type of progestin used in some hormonal contraceptives.

A series of 6 small soft capsules that contain the hormone levonorgestrel that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. This is a reversible birth control method that is no longer available in the United States.

A brand of hormonal ring that is inserted into the vagina to prevent pregnancy. Can only be purchased with a prescription and is a reversible hormonal method of birth control.

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– O –

Oral Contraceptive
Birth control pills.

Ortho Evra
Is a hormonal method of birth control that is reversible and only available by prescription. It is also known as “the patch”.

Sex that does not include inserting a penis into an anus or vagina. Can be used as a method of birth control.

– P –

Perfect Use
A  measure of how effective a single contraceptive method is for men and women who always use the method correctly and consistently.

Periodic Abstinence
The practice of not having vaginal intercourse on the days of a woman’s fertile phase that are considered as “unsafe days”. These are the days when a women is ovulating and it is more likely to get pregnant if intercourse is had during these times. This practice is done in order to try and prevent pregnancy.

Old versions of the pessaries were used as barrier birth control methods.

Pill, The
A common phrase or expression used to talk about oral hormonal contraception.

Plan B
An emergency contraception method taken orally the day after having unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.

– Q –


– R –


– S –

These are chemicals that are used to prevent sperm from attaching to the egg.


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– T –

Triphasic Combination Pill
An oral birth control pill that has varying strengths of progestin and estrogen during a 28-day cycle.

Tubal Sterilization
A permanent method of birth control where the fallopian tubes are surgically blocked.

Typical Use
If a contraceptive method is not used consistently or correctly its measure of effectiveness is called its typical use.

– U –

The measure of how effective and reliable a contraceptive method is when used normally (when it’s not always used correctly or consistently).

– V –

Vaginal Contraceptive Film (VCF)
A 2 inch thin square sheet that has chemicals on it that is inserted deeply into the vagina, and changes into a thick liquid that blocks the entrance of sperm into the uterus with a spermicide. The VCF prevents the sperm from joining with the egg. This is an over-the-counter and reversible barrier method of birth control. It is common to use this type of birth control along with a condom for maximum protection against pregnancy.

A permanent solution for birth control in where the vasa deferentia of a man is surgically blocked.

Voluntary Sterilization
A freely chosen and permanent surgical implemented contraception.

– W –

Also known as the pull out method is where the penis is pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation in order to avoid pregnancy.  This is a behavioral and reversible method of birth control.

– X –


– Y –


– Z –


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