Birth Control Methods

Birth Control, widely known as Contraception, is the implementation of one or more procedures, sexual practices, devices or medications to deliberately prevent or minimise the chances of pregnancy or childbirth. The three primary ways of birth control to end or prevent pregnancy comprise of contraception (preventing the fertilization of ovum), contragestion (the fertilized egg is prevented from getting implanted – morning-after-pill), and the surgical or chemical induction of aborting the foetus or the developing embryo. Adopting contraception gives a woman control on her birth-producing phase and can assist her in her decision of the right time to have a baby. Some of the most common methods of contraception are listed below.

1. Hormonal Contraceptives

This birth control method acts on the endocrine system. Overall, 20% of the world’s contraceptive users trust hormonal methods. Hormonal contraception becomes highly effective when taken as per the prescribed schedule. Again, they are of three main types here:

The Pill

The pill contains hormones that alter the way the body works, thus preventing pregnancy. Again they differentiated into 2 types: those containing only progestin and those containing oestrogen and progestin. Here, the hormones in the Pill take control of the uterus and the ovaries. When you fail to take it regularly, pregnancy occurs. According to the FDA 9 out of 100 women have a chance of getting pregnant even with the pill being taken regularly.

Contraceptive Pills

Side effects and risks include:

  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Occasional nausea
  • Headaches
  • Increased appetite
  • Breast tenderness
  • Blood clots (in rare cases)

Again, to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), a condom needs to be used additionally. Also, if a woman is already on other medications, doctors need to be consulted before taking the Pill.

Contraceptive Patch

This is a transdermal patch that is attached to the skin. Once it comes in contact with the skin, the patch releases synthetic progestin and oestrogen hormones. Studies indicate that the patch is equally effective as the pill. This patch is worn on the buttocks or the lower abdomen for 3 consecutive weeks each month. The fourth week becomes patch-free. The patch becomes less effective for obese women. About 9 in 100 women have a chance of getting pregnant even with the pill being taken regularly.

Contraceptive patch

Side effects and risks:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Increased appetite
  • In rare cases, blood clots

Again, to prevent STIs, a condom needs to be used additionally. If a woman is already on other medications, doctors need to be consulted before using the contraceptive patches.

The Shot (Contraceptive Injection)

Marketed under different brand names, the birth control shot is basically a hormone injection that prevents pregnancy for the upcoming three months after it is taken. It releases progestin in the body which does not allow the eggs to leave the ovaries. It also thickens the cervical mucus thus keeping the sperms away from joining the eggs. Approximately 6 in 100 women have a chance of getting pregnant even with the shot being taken regularly.

Contraceptive injection

Side effects and risks:

  • Decreased bone density
  • Tiredness
  • Nervousness
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Slight discomfort in the abdominal region
  • Irregular menstrual bleeding for 3-6 months

2. Barrier Contraceptives

Barrier birth control methods include the use of chemical or physical barriers that aid in preventing the sperm from entering the woman’s cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg. Barrier methods are chosen mainly because they have minimum or no side effects compared to the hormonal methods of contraception. Additionally, they can be easily obtained over the counter without a prescription at many pharmacies. Some barrier contraceptives also protect against STDs. The types of barrier methods and their effectiveness are further discussed here.

Male Condom

Worn on the penis before sexual intercourse, this mechanical barrier stops sperm from getting into the vagina thus preventing pregnancy. Condoms are made up of latex or polyurethane. Besides preventing pregnancy, the most common usage of a condom includes protecting sexually active partners from STIs. 18 out of 100 women who use this method have a chance of getting pregnant.

Male condoms

Side effects and risks:

  • Sudden breakage while having sex
  • Some women might be allergic to latex

Use of condom may also disrupt/interrupt sexual activity as it needs to be put on just before penetration.

Female Condom

A female condom is made of polyurethane and consists of a flexible ring at each end – the closed end of the ring clamps the pouch within the vagina whereas the open end is outside the vaginal opening during intercourse. It is inserted just before the intercourse. These barriers collect the semen and the pre-cum when the man ejaculates. Thus sperm is prevented from entering the vagina and pregnancy is controlled. Female condoms also protect the partners from STIs. About 21 in every 100 women using this method are at a risk of getting pregnant.

Female condom

Side effects and risks:

  • Burning or itching sensation in the vagina
  • Rash
  • Pain and discomfort during insertion and/or sex

Drawbacks include movement of the condom or noise at times. A new female condom needs to be used each time properly for good results.

Cervical Cap

This silicone cup-shaped cap is inserted into the vagina over the cervix. One third of the cap is filled with a spermicide jelly or cream. The cap is then carefully inserted inside the vagina to reach the cervix. Suction method is used to keep the cap in place. The effectiveness of the cervical cap lies in using it correctly. Almost 17-23 in every 100 women using this method have chances of becoming pregnant. The chances are less if the woman has not had a vaginal birth earlier.

Cervical cap

Side effects and risks:

  • Can’t be taken out up to 6-8 hours after intercourse
  • May get displaced
  • Material of cap might cause allergy
  • May cause urinary tract infection
  • Women with abnormal Pap tests can’t use it

Vaginal Rings

This is a small and flexible ring that a woman inserts inside her vagina, frequency being once a month, to prevent pregnancy. It is left intact there for three weeks and then taken out at the end of third week each month. Just like birth control pill, vaginal contraceptive rings release hormones and arrest pregnancy. Less than 10 in 100 women get pregnant when vaginal ring is used properly and regularly.

Vaginal ring

Side effects and risks:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Increased appetite
  • In rare cases, blood clots.

Again, to prevent STIs, a condom needs to be used additionally. Also, if a woman is already on other medications, a doctor needs to be consulted before using the ring.

Diaphragm

This is a dome-shaped, shallow cup made of silicone with a flexible rim. When inserted into the vagina, it covers the cervix. A diaphragm uses spermicidal gel that restricts the movement of the sperms and blocks the opening of the uterus. Studies suggest that 12 in 100 women may get pregnant even when using diaphragm regularly and properly.

Diaphragm

Side effects and risks:

  • Cannot be taken out up to 6-8 hours after the intercourse
  • Diaphragm may get displaced
  • Material of the diaphragm or spermicide might cause allergy in some women
  • Need to reload the spermicide with each use (costs $25-45)
  • May cause increased UTIs

A Diaphragm must be re-fitted after a 12 pound weight loss or gain after pregnancy.

Contraceptive Sponges

These sponges have a depression in them to hold them in place over the cervix. The foam is placed within the vagina with the help of an applicator. In this case too, a spermicidal gel is put to use to destroy the male sperm and the sponge acts as a barrier to stop the sperms from getting to the egg. About 12-24 in every 100 women are at the risk of getting pregnant even with proper use of sponges.

Contraceptive sponge

Side effects and risks:

  • Cannot remove until 6 hours after intercourse
  • May get displaced
  • Spermicide may cause allergy in some women
  • Poor protection against STIs – mainly in women having sex many times daily
  • May escalate the risk of HIV due to irritation from spermicide

Spermicide

This method contains chemicals which halt sperm from moving. Spermicides are available in different forms such as foams, gels, creams, film and suppositories. A spermicide can work by itself or it can be used in combination with other birth control methods to make it more effective. With diaphragm and cervical cap, it is a must. About 12-24 in 100 women get even with usage of different spermicides (diaphragm with spermicide, cervical caps with spermicide, and spermicide only).

Spermicide

Side effects and risks:

  • Some men and women could be allergic to spermicides
  • Increase the risk of UTIs

The effectiveness of a spermicide lasts only for an hour and some forms need to get inserted almost 15 minutes before intercourse thus interrupting the sexual activity a lot.

3. Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs)

This method is mainly used as an emergency contraception, especially when primary contraception measures fail. The IUD, also known as a coil, is a flexible, small T-shaped device made of plastic. It is inserted by a physician in the uterus. Hormonal IUDs are effective for 3 to 5 years and Copper IUDs are effective for about 12 years. They are the two IUD types available in most countries including the U.S. Both the IUDs work by affecting the sperm movement so that they won’t join an egg.

IUD

The risk of pregnancy is reduced by 99.9% when inserted within five days after unprotected sex. However, using a condom along with IUD is recommended to avoid the transmissions of STIs. IUDs are generally considered safe unless there are any other complications like contracting a pelvic infection either after childbirth or after an abortion that took place in the past three months, or have an untreated cervical cancer, or have an unexplained vaginal bleeding or get a uterine perforation when inserting IUD.

4. Sterilization

Sterilization methods are the best option for both men and women who do not want to have any children in the future. Even if the success rate of the reversal is not high, these procedures can be reversed if at all a pregnancy is desired at a later time.

Tubal Ligation in Women

Tubal litigation is a permanent birth control method where the woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked. Closing tubes is done either by tying and cutting them, which is precisely tubal litigation or by placing tiny inserts in the tubes. In tubal litigation, the tubes are sealed with an instrument by using electric current. Other way of closing them is with clamps, clips or rings. At times, the piece of the tube is removed. Though sterilization in women is considered safe, there is a rarity of the tubes getting reconnected. On effectiveness, less than 1 in 100 women who have undergone sterilization have a chance of getting pregnant.

Tubectomy

         Again, when a woman gets pregnant after sterilization, about 1 in 5 has a pregnancy which develops in the fallopian tube. This is referred to as ectopic pregnancy which may turn serious and in some cases, can be even life threatening.

Side effects and risks:

  • Ectopic or tubal pregnancy
  • Infection(s)
  • Vaginal Bleeding
  • Pain

Vasectomy in Men

Vasectomy

Vasectomy is a common sterilization method in men. It is a permanent birth control method where the vas deferens (tubes carrying sperms from testes) are blocked or closed and does not allow sperms to leave the man’s body during intercourse. The process of Vasectomy stops each vas deferens eventually stopping the formation of semen. The sperm is absorbed by the man’s body instead of getting ejaculated. This controls pregnancy. But for the process to get effective, it takes 3 months. The semen analysis is done and when no sperm is found in the ejaculation, only then can the process be termed effective. Though extremely rare – about 1 in a 100 – tubes may grow back again resulting in pregnancy.

5. Behavioural Methods

These methods don’t use hormones or any form of device and solely rely on traditional methods including fertility awareness, natural family planning/rhythm method and abstinence.

Fertility Awareness

Fertility awareness

This method predicts infertile and fertile times in the cycle. It relies on body signs that alter in each menstrual cycle as a response to hormones that source ovulation. When using fertility awareness, using other forms of contraceptives in fertile times prevents pregnancy. This method relies heavily on the regularity of the woman’s menstrual cycles. Even when practiced carefully 10 in 100 women are at a risk of getting pregnant.

Withdrawal

With drawal

Also called as ‘Coitus Interrupt’, the withdrawal method is removal of penis from the partner’s vagina just before ejaculation. It relies on the man’s self-control and keen presence of mind. Though practiced cautiously, 22 in a 100 women still get pregnant using this method.

Abstinence

Abstinence

Not having any sexual intercourse is abstinence. Couples enjoy other forms of sexual activities that won’t invite pregnancy. Periodic abstinence is practiced the most during fertile times. When used continuously, abstinence proves to be the most effective birth control method.

Lactation

Lactation

Feeding the baby regularly for 6 months after child birth changes the woman’s hormones such that she does not get pregnant. This is absolutely safe and highly effective. Less than 1 in 100 women gets pregnant when practiced properly.

                  It is an absolute necessity to quip yourself with the most suitable birth control options for you. Regular use of condoms will keep you at bay from STIs. If you are someone who enjoys the thrill of dating multiple people, then beware! Having sex with multiple partners can put you at risks significantly of getting into STDs and STIs. So, stay aware and practice one partner methodology for your own good.

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