Having knowledge of how to avoid pregnancy can seem confusing especially since there are so many birth control methods to choose from. The birth control you use is a personal choice that should be carefully considered. Educating yourself on the various methods is the first step to finding the one that fits with your lifestyle and beliefs. Following are some methods for preventing pregnancy along with their pros and cons:
1. Barrier Methods
a- Condoms: Condoms are made from thin latex. These are worn on the penis during sex. The technique is to keep the semen from coming into contact with fertile eggs. Many health clinics give out condoms for free, and they're available for purchasing over-the-counter at drug stores and grocery stores.
Advantage and Disadvantage of Condoms:
i. An added benefit of condoms is that they protect both parties from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as well as pregnancy.
ii. Condoms are made from thin latex, so they occasionally tear during intercourse. When this happens, pregnancy chances shoot up.
iii. Some people have allergies to latex condoms and choose condoms made of plastic instead.
b- Female condoms: Female condoms also made of latex, female condoms are shaped like a ring with a pouch. The pouch fits inside the vagina, while the ring stays outside the body to hold it in place. The semen is collected during sex so it never has a chance to enter the woman's body. Female condoms are easily available at drugstores.
Advantage and Disadvantage:
i.Female condoms reduce the risk of STDs by protecting the vagina from directly getting touched.
ii. Female condoms are slightly less effective than regular condoms, and some people say that they are less comfortable to use.
c- Diaphragms: These shallow cups made of silicone are inserted into the vagina and over the cervix to prevent semen from contacting an egg. They are usually used together with spermicidal jelly, which prevents sperm from moving, in order to increase efficacy.
Advantage and Disadvantage:
i.Since every woman's body is a slightly different shape, diaphragms must be fitted to make sure they're the right size. Talk to your gynecologist or health clinic worker about getting a fitting for a diaphragm.
ii. Diaphragms are quite effective, but they don't prevent the transmission of STDs.
2. Hormonal Birth Control
a- Birth control pills: Birth control pills, often referred to in shorthand as "the Pill," consist of synthetic estrogen and progestin hormones that keep a woman's eggs from leaving her ovaries, so that pregnancy can't happen. When taken properly, they are extremely effective. Birth control pills are available on a prescription-only basis from your gynecologist or health care provider.
Advantage and disadvantage:
i. The Pill must be taken every day, at the same time each day, to work properly. Skipping a few days could decrease its efficacy.
ii. The Pill causes some women to experience side effects. Different pills have different estrogen and progestin levels, so your doctor may prescribe a different brand if one seems to be causing negative side effects.
b- Depo-Provera or shot. This shot is administered in the arm once every three months. The shot is an effective way to avoid pregnancy, but it has been reported that side effects are possible.
c- Patch: The patch is usually placed on the arm, back or thigh. The technique involves distributing hormones through the skin and it needs to be replaced every few weeks.
d- Ring: The ring is inserted into the vagina once a month. It releases hormones to prevent pregnancy from occurring.
e- Implant: A small rod is inserted in the arm, and it releases hormones to prevent pregnancy for up to three years. It must be inserted and removed by a health care provider.
f- Intrauterine Devices (IUDs): The IUD is a small metal device inserted into the uterus by a health care provider. One of the IUDs works by releasing hormones, and the other one is made of copper, which affects the mobility of sperm and stops them from fertilizing the egg.
Advantage and Disadvantage:
i. IUDs are extremely effective and last up to 12 years, although they are very costly.
ii. If you're concerned about disrupting your menstrual cycle, consider the copper IUD, which doesn't interfere with your hormones or cause hormonal birth control-related side effects.
3. Behavioral Methods
a- Abstinence: Refraining from vaginal intercourse avoids pregnancy by preventing the semen from coming into contact with the woman's egg. Abstinence is perfectly effective in preventing pregnancy when it is used continuously.
Advantage and Disadvantage:
i. Some people define abstinence as abstaining from all sexual contact, but in order to avoid pregnancy, only vaginal intercourse needs to be avoided.
ii. Abstinence requires strong willpower, and some people might find it difficult to rely on such birth control methods for long periods of time.
iii. It's important to have one of the other birth control methods in place once abstinence is ended.
4. Fertility Awareness: Also called natural family planning, this method of birth control requires having sex only during times of the menstrual cycle when the woman is not fertile. During the time when pregnancy has high chances, periodic abstinence is employed. For effective fertility awareness, the practitioner must understand the perimeters of a woman's fertility.
a- Fertility awareness involves calculating fertility in three different ways: the calendar method, the mucus method, and the temperature method. When put to use together, these methods can effectively predict when a woman is going to be fertile.
b- The calendar method requires tracking the different phases of the menstrual cycle on a calendar, then noticing patterns over time and using the patterns to predict when ovulation will occur.
c- The mucus method involves checking vaginal mucus, which changes in color and consistency when a woman is fertile.
d- The temperature method involves checking the body's basal temperature every day and noticing when it goes up a few tenths of a degree, which signals that ovulation has occurred.
e- The disadvantage of fertility awareness is that it requires a lot of time and attention. If you skip or miss checking mucus or temperature for a few days, you may calculate the days during which sex should be avoided incorrectly.
f- The advantage of fertility awareness is that it's natural, requires almost no money, no outside hormones, and no uncomfortable devices.
5. Surgical Methods
a- Female Sterilization: Surgery is conducted to close off the fallopian tubes in a process called tubal ligation, preventing the possibility of pregnancy. This method is extremely effective to avoid pregnancy, but it is not to be taken lightly since it is difficult or impossible to reverse.
b- Vasectomy: Men may choose to undergo a process that blocks their vas deferentia, through which sperm flow, preventing them from mixing with semen. When a man ejaculates, his semen does not contain sperm, making it impossible for fertilization to happen. In some cases, vasectomy may be reversed. However, it should not be considered unless the intention is to become permanently sterilized.
6. Preventing Pregnancy After Sex
a- Use Emergency Contraception: Also called Plan B, emergency contraception consists of two pills containing levonorgestrel that are ingested as soon as possible after sexual intercourse. The sooner you take them, the more effective they will be at preventing pregnancy.
Advantage and Disadvantage
i. Emergency contraception is available at most pharmacies and from your healthcare provider.
ii. Emergency contraception should not be a replacement for regular birth control; it's a last resort to be taken after unprotected sex.
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