The term contraception refers to all of the means used to produce temporary infertility in a woman or man, i.e. the different methods used to avoid pregnancy. In general, contraceptive measures act:
- by blocking ovulation: this is the case with the pill, the vaginal ring, and the contraceptive diaphragm;
- by preventing fertilisation (meeting between spermatozoa and ovum): this is the case with condoms, spermicides, the diaphragm, and sterilisation;
- by preventing implantation of an egg: this is the case with an inter-uterine device.
With the single exception of surgical sterilisation, contraceptive methods are reversible and temporary.
Contraception is very widely used in France: 60% of women take the pill, 23% use an inter-uterine device and 16% use another method. "Catch-up" contraception, which is emergency contraception, called the morning after pill, is indicated after unprotected or incorrectly protected intercourse.