Glossary of Contraception Terms
– A –
amenorrhea: A lack of menstruation.
antibiotics: Medicines that are used to cure infections caused by bacteria, fungi, or protozoa.
– B –
backup birth control: Any method — including condoms, diaphragms, sponges, or withdrawal — that is used while waiting for hormonal birth control methods to become effective in a woman’s system or when hormonal methods are not taken on schedule. Some people also refer to emergency contraception as backup birth control.
barrier methods of birth control: Contraceptives that block sperm from entering the uterus. These are the condom, female condom, diaphragm, cap, spermicide, and sponge.
basal body temperature method: A fertility awareness-based birth control method for predicting a woman’s fertility by taking her temperature. Can be used for contraception or planning a pregnancy.
birth control: Behaviors, devices, or medications used to avoid unintended pregnancy.
breastfeeding: Providing a baby with nourishment of human milk from the breast.
– C –
cervical cap: A firm, thimble-like, rubber or silicone cup that is intended to fit securely on the cervix. Used with contraceptive jelly, the cervical cap is a barrier method of birth control that is reversible.
cervical mucus: The secretion from the lower end of the uterus into the vagina. It changes in quality and quantity throughout the menstrual cycle, especially around the time of ovulation.
cervical mucus method: A fertility awareness-based method for predicting a woman’s fertility by observing changes in her cervical mucus. Can be used for contraception or for planning a pregnancy.
cervix: The narrow, lower part - neck - of the uterus, with a narrow opening connecting the uterus to the vagina.
combination pill: A birth control pill that contains the hormones estrogen and progestin.
combined hormone contraceptives: Birth control methods - the pill, the patch, the ring - that contain the hormones estrogen and progestin.
combined oral contraceptives: Birth control pills that contain the hormones estrogen and progestin.
condom: A sheath of thin rubber, plastic, or animal tissue that is worn on the penis during sexual intercourse. It is an over-the-counter, reversible barrier method of birth control, and it also reduces the risk of getting the most serious sexually transmitted infections.
contraception / contraceptive: Any behavior, device, medication, or procedure used to prevent pregnancy.
contraceptive creams and jellies: Substances containing spermicide, which block and immobilize sperm and prevent it from joining with the egg. These are over-the-counter, reversible barrier methods of birth control. Used with cervical caps or diaphragms.
contraceptive foam: A substance that is inserted deep into the vagina, and blocks the entrance to the uterus with bubbles that contain a spermicide to immobilize sperm, preventing it from joining with an egg. An over-the-counter, reversible barrier method of birth control. Most effective when used with a condom.
– D –
diaphragm: A soft rubber dome intended to fit securely over the cervix. Used with contraceptive cream or jelly, the diaphragm is a reversible barrier method of birth control available only by prescription.
– E –
egg: The reproductive cell in women; the largest cell in the human body.
emergency contraception: Hormonal birth control pills used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected vaginal intercourse. Must be started within 120 hours (five days) of intercourse. Also called EC. IUDs can also be used as EC, inserted within five days of unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
erection: A “hard” penis when it’s becomes full of blood and stiffens.
estrogen: A hormone commonly made in a woman’s ovaries. Estrogen’s major feminizing effects are seen during puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy.
– F –
failure rate: The number of women who become pregnant each year out of every 100 who use a birth control method.
fallopian tube: One of two narrow tubes that carry the egg from the ovary to the uterus.
family planning: Voluntary planning and action by individuals to have the number of children they want, when they want them.
female condom: A polyurethane pouch with flexible rings at each end that is inserted deep into the vagina like a diaphragm. It is a, reversible barrier method of birth control that provides protection against many sexually transmitted infections.
fertility: The ability of women or couples to have children. Technically, the childbearing performance of individuals, couples, groups, or populations, i.e., the number of births they have.
fertility cycle: Also called the menstrual cycle. The monthly recurrence of ovulation, the shedding of the lining of the uterus, and the body’s preparation for another ovulation.
fertility rate: The number of live births per 1,000 women of reproductive age (15–44).
fertilization: The joining of an egg and sperm that forms the zygote.
– G –
gender: One’s biological, social, and legal status as male or female.
genitals: External sex and reproductive organs: the vulva in women, the penis and scrotum in men. Sometimes, the internal reproductive organs are also called genitals.
gynecology: Sexual and reproductive health care for women.
gynecologist: A medical doctor who specializes in women’s sexual and reproductive health.
– H –
health care provider: A medical doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, or physician assistant.
hormonal contraceptives: Prescription methods of birth control that use hormones to prevent pregnancy. These include the implant, the IUS, IUD, the patch, the pill, the ring, and the injection.
hormones: Chemicals that cause changes in our bodies and influence how glands and organs work.
– I –
implant: A thin, flexible plastic implant about the size of a cardboard matchstick. It is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It contains and constantly releases a progestin that prevents ovulation and fertilization. Can be used for up to three years to prevent pregnancy. The implant is a reversible hormonal method of birth control available only by prescription. Implanon is the brand name of the implant.
infertility: The inability to become pregnant or to cause a pregnancy.
intercourse: Sex play in which the penis is inserted into the vagina (vaginal intercourse) or the anus (anal intercourse).
intrauterine device (IUD): A small device made of plastic, which may contain copper or a natural hormone, that is inserted into the uterus by a health care provider to prevent pregnancy. A reversible method of birth control.
intrauterine system (IUS): A small intrauterine device made of plastic, which contains the hormone progestin, that is inserted into the uterus by a health care provider to prevent pregnancy. A reversible method of birth control,
– L –
libido: The sex drive.
lubricant: In women, the slippery liquid that is secreted from the walls of the vagina and the Bartholin’s glands during sexual arousal in order to facilitate vaginal intercourse. In men, the slippery liquid secreted by the Cowper’s glands in order to facilitate ejaculation and motility of sperm. Also, an oil-based, water-based, or silicone-based product used to increase slipperiness during anal or vaginal intercourse or other sex play.
– M –
menstrual cycle: The time from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. In women of reproductive age, about 15–44, it is the period in which the lining of the uterus is shed whenever implantation does not happen, followed by the re-growth of the lining of the uterus in preparation for implantation.
menstrual flow: Blood, fluid, and tissue that are passed out of the uterus during the beginning of the menstrual cycle. Often called a “period.”
menstruation: The flow of blood, fluid, and tissue out of the uterus and through the vagina that usually lasts from 3 to 7 days.
method effectiveness: The reliability of a contraceptive method itself, when always used consistently and correctly.
morning after pills: Emergency hormonal contraception that is started within 120 hours (five days) of unprotected vaginal intercourse to decrease the risk of unintended pregnancy.
– O –
oral contraceptive: The birth control pill.
osteoporosis: Thinning of the bones, which makes them more susceptible to fracture.
ovaries: The two organs that store eggs in a woman’s body. Ovaries also produce hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
ovulation: The time when an ovary releases an egg.
– P –
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): An infection of a woman’s internal reproductive system that can lead to sterility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pain. It is often caused by sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.
penis: A man’s reproductive and sex organ that is formed of three columns of spongy tissue — two corpora cavernosa and the corpus spongiosum. The spongy tissue fills with blood during sexual excitement, a process known as erection. Urine and seminal fluid pass through the penis.
physician assistant: A health care provider who is trained to provide basic medical services, usually under the supervision of a physician.
PID (pelvic inflammatory disease): An infection of a woman’s internal reproductive system that can lead to sterility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pain. It is often caused by sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.
pill, the: A common expression for oral hormonal contraception.
PMS (premenstrual syndrome): Emotional and physical symptoms that appear a few days before and during menstruation, including depression, fatigue, feeling bloated, and irritability.
pregnancy: A condition in which a woman carries a developing offspring in her uterus. It begins with the implantation of the pre-embryo and progresses through the embryonic and fetal stages until birth, unless it is ended by miscarriage or abortion. It lasts about nine months from implantation to birth. If clinically measured from a woman’s last menstrual period, it lasts 10 months.
premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Emotional and physical symptoms that appear a few days before and during menstruation, including depression, fatigue, feeling bloated, and irritability.
progesterone: A hormone produced in the ovaries of women that is important in the regulation of puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy.
progestin: A synthetic progesterone
– S –
semen: Fluid containing sperm that is ejaculated during sexual excitement. Semen is composed of fluid from the seminal vesicles, fluid from the prostate, and sperm from the testes.
seminal fluid: A fluid that nourishes and helps sperm to move. Made in the seminal vesicles.
sex drive: Our natural urge and desire to have sex. Also called “libido.”
sexual intercourse: Usually, sex play that includes penetration of the vagina with a penis, but also describes penile penetration of the anus.
sexually transmitted disease (STD): A sexually transmitted infection that has developed symptoms. Also called "sexually transmitted infection."
sexually transmitted infection (STI): An infection that is usually passed from one person to another during sexual or intimate contact. Also called "sexually transmitted disease."
sperm: The reproductive cells in men, produced in the seminiferous tubules of the testes.
spermicides: Chemicals used to immobilize sperm.
STD (sexually transmitted disease): A sexually transmitted infection that has developed symptoms. Also called "sexually transmitted infection."
sterility: Infertility, the inability to become pregnant or to cause a pregnancy.
sterilization: Surgical methods of birth control that are intended to be permanent —blocking of the fallopian tubes for women or the vasa deferentia for men.
STI (sexually transmitted infection): An infection that is usually passed from one person to another during sexual or intimate contact. Also called STD.
– U –
use-effectiveness: The reliability of a contraceptive method as it is usually used —when it is not always used consistently or correctly.
uterus: The pear-shaped, muscular reproductive organ from which women menstruate and where normal pregnancy develops. Also called the “womb.”
– V –
vagina: The stretchable passage that connects a woman’s outer sex organs, the vulva, with the cervix and uterus. The vagina has three functions: to allow menstrual flow to leave the body, to allow sexual penetration to occur (either by hand, sex toy, or penis), and to allow a fetus to pass through during vaginal delivery
vasectomy: Surgical blocking of the vasa deferentia in men that is intended to provide permanent birth control.