Birth control is the process of trying to prevent pregnancy by either preventing fertilization, or preventing implantation. Multiple methods of birth control are widely available, each differing in efficacy and convenience. In this article we address the multiple methods of preventing unwanted pregnancies, and will list down the positives and negatives of each.
To help determine which birth control method would be best for you, consider your lifestyle, personal preferences and health status. How do you feel about planning for sex? Inserting birth control devices into your body? Taking a pill at the same time every day or tracking your fertile days? Permanently ending the ability to conceive or father a child?
BIRTH CONTROL PILLS
Birth control pills are one of the most common forms of contraception. There are quite a few options amongst pills themselves if you decide to choose that as your preferred means of contraception. You may be prescribed either combinations pills (contain both estrogen and progestin, two hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle in women of child bearing age), or minipills (contain only progestin). Amongst combinations pills, again you have two choices: conventional pills (you will still get your period every month) or continuous dosing pills ( you may have your period a few times a year, or eliminate it entirely). Of the 100 women who use this pill every year, 5-9 of them may still become pregnant. The risk of pregnancy is lower in women who take the pill regularly at the same time every day.
Although many women believe the contraceptive pill causes weight gain, in fact a scientific review from 2011 showed no evidence that the pill caused weight gain in most women. Also, any weight gain is generally minimal and goes away within 2 to 3 months.
Contraceptive implant is a thin, matchstick-sized, plastic rod that is placed under the skin inside the upper arm. The contraceptive implant will prevent pregnancy for up to three years. The implant releases progestin, which is a hormone also found in birth control pills. Contraceptive implants need to be replaced once every three years, and can be done by a trained medical professional. of 100 women using contraceptive implants, less than one may become pregnant.
The contraceptive shot is a shot of progestin, the same hormone found in contraceptive pills and contraceptive implants. It is favored by a majority of women due to its convenience of only having to get it once every three months. It also decreases menstrual flow significantly (which is an added advantage for many women) and in some women periods may disappear altogether. The most well-known contraceptive shot is Depo-Provera, although others are available too.
Of 100 women using the progestin shot every year, 6 may still become pregnant.
Emergency contraception is birth control that you use after you have had unprotected sex—if you did not use birth control or your birth control failed. Most should be used within 72 hours, but research has shown it can be used up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. There are two main types of emergency contraception:
- Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs): Depending on the type of ECPs, you can use them within 3 days or within 5 days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.
- The copper T IUD can be used to prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
Apart from the hormonal methods, non-hormonal methods are also available and include the following:
An IUD is a small T-shaped device that is put in the uterus by a healthcare provider. It sits in your uterus and your cervix keeps it in place. Once it’s in, you can’t feel it. Once in place, Copper T IUDs are effective for 10 years or more. The hormonal-type IUD will last for three to five years. But any IUD can be taken out at any time.
Of 100 women who use an IUD each year, less than one may become pregnant. IUDs are better at preventing pregnancy than condoms, the pill, the patch, the ring, and the shot.
The cervical cap is a soft, latex or silicone cup with a round rim, which fits snugly around the cervix. It is placed inside the vagina and works by covering the cervix to prevent sperm from meeting with and fertilizing an egg. Of the 100 women who use it for contraception, 15-20 of them may fall pregnant.
A male condom is a thin film cover that is placed over the penis. Condoms prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm from entering a woman’s body.
Condoms made from latex rubber are the most common type. For people who get skin irritation from latex, polyurethane condoms are a good choice. Of 100 women whose partners use male condoms, about 18 may become pregnant.
The female condom is a thin, lubricated polyurethane pouch that fits inside the vagina and partly covers the vulva. The female condom prevents sperm from meeting and fertilizing an egg. Of 100 women who use this method each year, about 21 may get pregnant.
The type of contraception you use should depend on your life style, personal choice and beliefs, and should be discussed with your health care provider to ensure sound medical advice before you make the decision.