Birth control is a regimen of one or more actions, devices, sexual practices, or medications followed in order to deliberately prevent or reduce the likelihood of pregnancy or childbirth. There are three main routes to preventing or ending pregnancy: the prevention of fertilization of the ovum by sperm cells ("contraception"), the prevention of implantation of the blastocyst ("contragestion"), and the chemical or surgical induction of abortion of the developing embryo or, later, fetus. In common usage, term "contraception" is often used for both contraception and contragestion.
Birth control is commonly used as part of family planning.
The history of birth control began with the discovery of the connection between coitus and pregnancy. The oldest forms of birth control included coitus interruptus, pessaries, and the ingestion of herbs that were believed to be contraceptive or abortifacient. The earliest record of birth control use is an ancient Egyptian set of instructions on creating a contraceptive pessary.
Different methods of birth control have varying characteristics. Condoms, for example, are the only methods that provide significant protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Cultural and religious attitudes on birth control vary significantly.