What is Birth Control & How Does it Work?

Birth control, also known as contraception, offers the means to prevent pregnancy. There are lots of different types of birth control available, working in different ways, and designed to suit a variety of contraceptive needs. Read on to learn more about how birth control works, why contraceptive choice is so important, and the many birth control options available today.

what is birth control? Illustration showing different methods of hormonal and non-hormonal birth control

How does birth control work?

Birth control prevents pregnancy by stopping a male sperm cell from fertilizing a female egg cell. This can happen in several different ways. For example, barrier methods, such as the condom, create a physical separation between sperm and egg so fertilization can’t take place. On the other hand, hormonal birth control methods usually work by stopping ovulation altogether so there is no egg to be fertilized. You can find out more about how each individual birth control method works here

Types of birth control

Often when we talk about birth control, we might think immediately of the birth control pill, but in reality, there are so many more options. Birth control is broadly split into two categories: hormonal and non-hormonal. Within these two camps, there are even more options to choose from.

Take hormonal birth control, for example. It comes in different doses, with some options containing the hormones estrogen and/or progesterone. Hormonal birth control isn’t just another word for the pill. While this birth control method can be taken orally, it can also be injected or inserted into the body. 

Non-hormonal birth control can also be used in several ways. For example, the copper IUD creates a hostile environment for sperm to survive in the uterus and prevent implantation of an embryo. Whereas condoms act as a barrier method, preventing sperm and egg from meeting. There is also natural family planning, this works by using fertility indicators to narrow down the fertile window and then either abstaining from sex or using protection on fertile days.

What to consider before choosing a birth control option

You know your body and your lifestyle best, but contraceptive counseling is a useful way to better understand your options. We recommend having an open and honest discussion about your contraceptive choices with your healthcare provider. However, before you do so, you will probably find it useful to consider what you are looking for in your birth control.

For example, if birth control effectiveness is your number one priority, you might want to think about choosing a long-acting method such as the copper or hormonal IUD. If you want to protect against sexually transmitted infections, then you might prefer to use condoms. If you experience side effects from hormonal birth control, you might want to consider an option with a lower dose of hormones, or opt for hormone-free contraception.

Natural Cycles is a form of natural family planning that prevents pregnancy hormone-free. This makes it a good option for those who experience unwanted side-effects when taking the pill or other forms of hormonal contraception. Unlike traditional natural family planning, Natural Cycles uses an algorithm paired with the basal body temperature method, delivered in the form of an app. Not only does this technology make natural family planning more user-friendly, but it also makes it more effective than other methods in this category, for example, the rhythm method

Birth control that’s tailored to you 

If you’re looking for a non-hormonal, non-invasive birth control option that adapts to your body, you should consider switching to Natural Cycles. A medical device that’s cleared for contraceptive use in the U.S. and in Europe, Natural Cycles is an app and thermometer combination that uses the science of basal body temperature paired with an algorithm that learns the pattern of your unique cycle so you know when you’re fertile and can abstain or use protection on those days.

Another time when couples may change birth control methods is often when they begin thinking about starting a family. Natural Cycles works not only to prevent pregnancy, but the same science can be flipped to find the most fertile days for conception. Our research has shown that women who use Natural Cycles as birth control and then switch to planning a pregnancy, conceive in an average of three cycles or fewer.

Discover Natural Cycles today

Jen on the roof terrace at Natural Cycles headquarters.

Written By

Jennifer Gray

A writer with a passion for women’s health, Jennifer Gray has years of experience writing about various reproductive health topics including birth control, planning pregnancy, women’s anatomy, and so much more.

Jack in a suit and tie holding a microphone and giving a presentation.

Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

With 10 years of experience working in the field of fertility, Jack Pearson is Natural Cycles’ in-house expert. As Medical Affairs Manager, he dedicates his time to conducting groundbreaking research and educating healthcare professionals.