As explained on Medicine Net, birth control is a practice, method or a device used with the purpose to avert pregnancy in women who are sexually active. Birth control is also known as family planning or contraception and the methods and device for birth control are created either to avert the fertilization of an egg (barrier methods) or implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus (e.g. intrauterine device). There are different types of birth control methods available and they may be reversible or irreversible.
It is important to note that the birth control option which a woman uses is an extremely personal choice and there is no single option which is safest or optimal for all women or couples. And, before a woman decides on a birth control option, it is crucial to know the advantages and risks, as well as effectiveness of the available methods. Consulting your physician or gynecologist can be of great aid in finding the most suitable option for you.
In order to increase the awareness of the importance of birth control and to help you find the most adequate solution for you, this article will discuss the major birth control options in detail.
Important to Note:
As emphasized on Medicine Net, since no birth control is 100 percent effective, you may still get pregnant despite using one. Nonetheless, a lot of birth control options, when used adequately, are highly potent in averting pregnancy. In order to be able to use them that way, it requires from you to have a basic understanding of how they function.
Available Birth Control Methods
- Female birth control options
- Contraceptive pill, also known as “the pill”
This pill is comprised of artificial versions of estrogen and progesterone, female hormones that are naturally produced in women’s ovaries. This pill prevents pregnancy by keeping the egg and sperm apart or by ceasing egg release, i.e. ovulation. As explained on NHS, usually, the dosage is one pill on the daily for 21 days in a row and then pause for seven days. During these days, a woman will experience a period-like bleeding. The pill should be continued after the passing of these seven days. And, it is pivotal to take the pill in approximately the same time on the daily. Not doing this or missing a pill increases the chances for pregnancy. Also, the effect of the pill minimizes if you vomit or if you have serious diarrhea or if you take some medications (consult your physician to learn which ones). Potential side effects of the pill are nausea, tender breasts, mood swings, and headaches. It is pivotal to mention that the pill can be of aid for women who experience strong and painful periods, PMS symptoms, and those who suffer from endometriosis. This type of birth control method does not protect sexual partners from STIs and it is also not recommendable for women who are over the age of 35, smokers, or those who suffer from a specific health issue. A lot of women go with this contraception because it does not interrupt the sexual intercourse, regularizes the menstruation and reduces the pain and discomfort, decreases the chance of ovarian, womb, and colon cancer, and minimizes acne and PMS symptoms. However, it can elevate the chance for breast cancer and blood clots, as well as hypertension, and it does come with side effects (even though they are usually short-term).
- Female condoms
As explained on NHS, condoms for women are produced from soft and thin plastic known as polyurethane. They are placed inside the vagina with the goal to avert semen from entering the womb. When appropriately used, they are 95 percent effective and in addition to preventing pregnancy, they also minimize one’s risk of STIs. The condom needs to be inserted prior to contact with the penis. In case you push it too far inside, it is easily removable. Nonetheless, it should never be used by women who find it uncomfortable to touch their genitalia. Before use, you need to read the instructions and follow them step by step for optimal safety and comfort. This is quite the reliable option for averting pregnancy and comes with no side effects and you only need it during sex. But, for a lot of partners, having to put on condoms (whether male or female) interrupts the sexual activity and due to the fact that they are not as available as male condoms, they can be expensive for some people (12 pieces at the price of $20).
- Diaphragm or cap
As seen on NHS, this cap is a round dome constructed of thin and soft silicone and it is inserted into the vagina prior to sexual intercourse. It averts the sperm from entering the womb by covering the cervix. When used in combination with spermicide, this contraception is between 92 and 96 percent effective and it comes with no serious health risks (some women may develop cystitis; consult your physician or gynecologist for change in size which may be of help) and it is rather convenient because you just need it prior to having sex, alon g with spermicide, and the cap should not be removed for at least 6 hours after sexual intercourse. After the removal, it is recommendable to wash the cap with warm water and gentle soap and dry it and put it in its container. Nevertheless, this may not be a viable option for you because it does not protect you from STIs, it may take some time before you adjust to it and learn how to use it, and it may interrupt the sexual intercourse.
- IUD device
This contraception is a small and T-shaped plastic and copper device which is placed into the womb by a doctor or a nurse. As noted on NHS, the device releases copper to prevent pregnancy and it can do this for 5 to 10 years (this depends on the type). The copper changes the cervical mucus and this impedes the sperm from reaching an egg and surviving and stops the fertilized egg from implanting itself too. Also known as the coil, when properly inserted, it is more than 99 percent effective. A trained doctor can place it any time during your menstrual cycle (as long as you are not already pregnant) and it can be removed whenever you want to. In the first three to six months after placing it, you may experience heavier, more painful, and longer periods, as well as bleeding and spotting in between periods. Painkillers can be of aid during the insertion procedure, which may be uncomfortable for some women. However, this device does not protect you from STIs and it may lead to pelvic infection if you catch an infection during the fitting process. This is a common choice of women and couples because it is suitable for most women, comes with no side effects like acne or headaches, and it does not stop the process of sexual intercourse. Also, it has not been associated with cancer or weight gain, as it is the case with some other birth control methods.
- Contraceptive injection
This specialized injection secretes the hormone progestogen into the bloodstream with the goal to avert the release of an egg each month. Also, it makes the cervical mucus thicker and impedes the movement of sperm through the cervix and it thins the womb’s lining to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting itself. Its duration can be 8 or 13 weeks, depending on its type. When properly used, it is more than 99 percent effective. They are injected either in the upper arm or bottom. Receiving the injection during the first five days of your menstrual cycle immediately protects you from unwanted pregnancy. Any other day, you will need other contraception like condoms for a week. This is a great option for women who find it difficult to remember to take a pill every day in the same time and those who do not want their sexual intercourse to be interrupted; it is safe for use for breastfeeding women too. However, it does come with possible side effects like mood swings, tender breast, weight gain, and headaches. Moreover, menstrual periods may become heavier, shorter, or irregular. After the injection wears off, it may require up to a year for the fertility to restore so it may not be the best solution for you if you are planning on having a baby in the near future. This contraception does not keep you safe from STIs.
- Contraceptive patch
According to NHS, this is a small and sticky patch which is placed onto the skin to release hormones into the body and thus, prevent pregnancy. It is considered to be more than 99 percent effective when used adequately. A patch lasts for a week and needs to be changed on a weekly basis for three weeks and then you need to have a week without a patch. It can be worn while you are bathing, swimming, or playing sports. It may be useful for women with heavy and painful menstruation and it may decrease your risk of ovarian, womb, and bowel cancer. Potential side effects and elevated blood pressure, headaches, and in rare cases, blood clots. It is important to note that this contraception does not protect you from STIs. What’s more, a lot of women go with another option because this patch is often visible and because it can trigger irritation, itchiness, and soreness and it has to be replaced with a new one on a weekly basis. Also, some meds may lower its effectiveness.
Other Types of Female Contraception
- Intrauterine system, also known as IUS– this T-shaped, small and plastic device is placed into the womb by a trained doctor or a nurse and it delivers the hormone progestogen to avert pregnancy. Its duration is 3 to 5 years.
- Contraceptive implant- this device is a small and flexible plastic rod which is put under the skin in the upper part of the arm by a trained nurse or a doctor. It releases progestogen into the blood to avert pregnancy and lasts for three years.
- Progestogen-only pill- this pill averts pregnancy by making the cervix thicker which in turn does not allow sperm to reach an egg. This pill, as the name itself says, contains only progestogen hormone. It also needs to be taken on the daily. It is designed for women who cannot use contraception with oestrogen.
- Vaginal ring- this is a small and soft ring made from plastic which is inserted in the vagina. It delivers oestrogen and progestogen into the blood to stop pregnancy from happening. One ring, as explained on NHS, lasts for a month. The next month, it needs to be replaced with a new one.
- Female sterilization- this is an irreversible method for pregnancy prevention. It is a medical procedure consisted of blocking or sealing the fallopian tubes with the goal to avert eggs from reaching sperm and fertilizing themselves. The surgery can be performed with a general or local anaesthetic. However, this method does not protect from STIs.
- Fertility awareness- this practice of preventing pregnancy is consisted of the woman tracking and recording her fertility symptoms with the purpose to find out when the likelihood of getting pregnant is the highest and when it is the lowest.
- Male contraception
- Condoms- this contraception can avert pregnancy and keep one safe from STIs. It is worn on the penis and it is 98 percent effective.
- Male sterilization- during this surgery (usually lasts around 15 minutes); the tubes with sperm are cut or sealed so that pregnancy is permanently prevented. Erection and ejaculation, as well as sexual pleasure, will not be affected by the procedure, the only difference will be the absence of semen.
To learn more about available birth control options, check out this link.