Birth control, also known as contraception and fertility control, are methods or devices used to prevent pregnancy. Planning, provision and use of birth control is called family planning. Safe sex, such as the use of male or female condoms, can also help prevent sexually transmitted infections. Birth control methods have been used since ancient times, but effective and safe methods only became available in the 20th century. Some cultures deliberately limit access to birth control because they consider it to be morally or politically undesirable.
The most effective methods of birth control are sterilization by means of vasectomy in males (99.85% success rate) and tubal ligation in females (99.5% success rate), intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implantable contraceptives. This is followed by a number of hormonal contraceptives including oral pills, patches, vaginal rings, and injections. Less effective methods include barriers such as condoms, diaphragms and contraceptive sponge and fertility awareness methods. The least effective methods are spermicides and withdrawal by the male before ejaculation. Sterilization, while highly effective, is not usually reversible; all other methods are reversible, most immediately upon stopping them. Emergency contraceptives can prevent pregnancy in the few days after unprotected sex. Some regard sexual abstinence as birth control, but abstinence-only sex education may increase teen pregnancies when offered without contraceptive education.