Birth control, otherwise known as contraception, is used to prevent pregnancy. Contraception choices can affect the long-term sexual health and fertility of both women and men. One method may suit a person's needs better than others and factors such as medical history, side effects, failure rates, cost, and lifestyle all affect the choices that people make when deciding which method of contraception is best for them. Most contraceptive devices will not protect a person from sexually transmitted infections (STI), so in order to prevent the transmission STI, including HIV, the use of a condom with another method of contraception is recommended. This is referred to as dual protection.
To be effective, birth control must be used correctly and consistently. Some birth control methods are more reliable than others, and some offer protection against STI while others do not. If pregnancy is not desired, it is important to choose a method that you and your partner will use every time you have intercourse. Talk to your health care provider or visit a sexual health clinic to find out what might work best for you and your partner. Some choices include:
Emergency contraception (EC), sometimes referred to as the "morning after pill", is another method of preventing unintended pregnancy. Although this is not considered a "routine" method of contraception, a woman might need to use EC after having sex when the condom broke, when no birth control was used at all, or if she was forced to have sex without contraception . To be most effective, EC should be taken within 72 hours after intercourse.