All men and women have the power to choose at what point in their lives they will have children or if they will have children at all. If you are not ready to become a parent or have no desire to reproduce, keep in mind that pregnancy is preventable. Methods of pregnancy prevention are called contraceptives, and are commonly labeled as birth control. There are several different types of birth control and choosing which method is best for you can be difficult.
No one method of contraception is considered paramount, as they each have pros and cons to consider. Some methods are permanent while others are temporary. It is essential to investigate the various methods of birth control while keeping in mind personal factors such as your current health, how frequently you engage in sexual intercourse and the number of partners you have. Also, unless you are completely certain that you will not be having children in the future, it is important to know the possible side effects for different birth control methods. Keep in mind that while most contraceptives prevent pregnancy, most do not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
This means that you do not have sex at all at any time. Though this may not seem like a practical or popular option, it is the only way to be 100 percent positive that you will not become pregnant or catch a sexually transmitted disease.
Fertility Awareness Method
This method is sometimes referred to as natural family planning (NFP) or the rhythm method. The fertility awareness method does not require the use of any device, pill, substance, barrier, procedure or specific technique. This method requires a couple to learn the woman’s menstrual cycle and determine on which days of the cycle she can become pregnant, which most typically occurs 4 days before and 2 days after ovulation. During the women’s ovulation period, which can last up to 10 days, the couple is required to abstain from sexual intercourse. There are many ways to establish an approximate time of ovulation, such as using an ovulation predictor kit or charting basal body temperature, all of which entail a high level of planning and dedication.
Barrier methods are designed to prevent the man’s sperm from entering the women’s uterus, thus preventing pregnancy. Barrier methods are physical devices or chemical substances that have to be used each time you have intercourse.
- The most common barrier method is the male condom. Male condoms are a thin covering that is rolled over the penis prior to any contact with the vagina. Male condoms are inexpensive and widely available at drug stores, supermarkets or convenience stores. Male condoms are popular because they also prevent sexually transmitted diseases and can be very effective for preventing pregnancy when used properly.
- The female condom is another barrier method and may prove to be an effective option, especially if the man prefers not to wear a male condom. The female condom is a thin pouch made from rubber that is inserted into the vagina before intercourse, preventing sperm from entering the vaginal area.
- Other barrier methods include the diaphragm, cervical cap and cervical shield, and contraceptive sponge. The diaphragm, cervical cap and cervical shield all block sperm from entering the cervix and must be inserted into the vagina. While the diaphragm and cervical cap need to be fitted by a doctor to ensure it is properly suited for your vagina, the cervical shield comes in only one size and does not require a fitting. The contraceptive sponge is a soft disk like device that contains spermicide and is placed inside the vagina. Spermicide is a chemical formulated to kill sperm and is often used in conjunction with barrier methods.
Hormonal methods of birth control contain man-made forms of the female hormone estrogen and/or progesterone. Hormonal methods prevent pregnancy by impeding ovulation, fertilization or implantation of a fertilized egg. These methods are only available with a prescription, and include oral contraceptives, the patch, vaginal ring, hormone shots or injections and intrauterine devices. Oral contraceptives or birth control pills are taken every day to prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. Birth control pills need to be taken diligently and cannot be tampered with in order for them to work.
- A birth control patch is a relatively small, thin, sticky patch containing hormones that is worn on the skin. It can be applied to the arm, lower abdomen, buttocks or upper body. The patch is applied once a week for three weeks, and removed on the fourth week, at which time your period should start.
- A vaginal ring is a flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina and left in place for three weeks, after which you remove the ring for one week then insert a new one for another three weeks. The vaginal ring emits hormones into your body which in turn prevent pregnancy. The ring must be worn for the full three weeks without fail; otherwise it will not be effective.
- Hormone shots or injections are given to you by your doctor. Typically, the shot prevents pregnancy for three months, after which you would have to return to your doctor’s office for additional shots. As with many hormonal methods, the shots do have side effects. The hormone shots prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs and cause changes in the cervix which inhibit the sperm and egg from joining.
- An intrauterine device, or IUD, is a small device in the shape of a “T” that is inserted into the uterus by your doctor. There are two types of IUD’S, one releases a minute amount of copper into the uterus, which impedes the sperms ability to reach and fertilize the egg. The other IUD contains hormones which inhibit the ovaries from releasing eggs and change the consistency of cervical mucus, which in turn stops the sperm from reaching its destination. Both IUD’s can stay within the vagina for 5 years, barring any unforeseen circumstance that may cause it to be removed.
Using the withdrawal method to prevent pregnancy is a poor choice. To execute withdrawal, the erect penis is removed from the vagina just before ejaculation. The problem is that the penis naturally leaks a small amount of pre-ejaculatory fluid, which contains enough sperm to result in a pregnancy. There is also the possibility that the male will not withdraw the penis in time before having released sperm within the woman’s vagina.
Sterilization occurs when either partner undergoes a surgical procedure to prevent pregnancy indefinitely. Sterilization is recommended for someone who is entirely sure they are done or do not intend to have any children. Female sterilization occurs in the form of a tubal ligation, or “tying the tubes”; this procedure closes the fallopian tubes off thus preventing eggs from traveling to the uterus to accommodate pregnancy. Male sterilization is referred to as a vasectomy. A vasectomy is a surgical procedure in which the tubes that carry sperm into the penis are closed off, thus leaving ejaculatory fluid free of sperm and therefore preventing pregnancy.
While no contraceptive is entirely fool proof, all methods of birth control work well when they are used properly and used each and every time you have sex. Deciding which method is right for you and your partner can be a complicated decision, but an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy can be life altering. Take the time to educate yourself and make an informed decision, if you have questions ask your doctor. Consider all your options and remember that only the male condom prevents pregnancy as well as the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.