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Birth control is any method, device, drug, surgical procedure, sexual practice, or agent that prevents pregnancy when you don't want to have a baby. The term birth control is also commonly known as family planning, fertility control, or pregnancy prevention. There are various birth control methods from which people can choose, and with so many options available many people tend to get confused in choosing the most suitable method for them.
Women need to understand there is no "best method" of birth control. Each birth control method has its pros and cons; some methods work better than others due to various factors. Therefore it is always advisable to consult your doctor on the most appropriate method to use. Always keep in mind that no birth control method is 100% effective; at times, these methods fail; however, your chances of getting pregnant are significantly reduced if you use a more effective method. This piece uncovers all you need to know about the various methods of birth control.
The natural family planning (NFP) method is also known as the fertility awareness method (FAM). This birth control method includes symptothermal method, basal body temperature charting, and cervical mucus monitoring, which help monitor bodily signs daily. Natural family planning entails tracking the ovulation cycle to prevent pregnancy and does not involve the use of any devices or medicine. Women who use natural family planning keep track of any bodily changes throughout their menstrual cycle, which helps predict their fertile and infertile days. This method requires you to avoid engaging in unprotected sex when you are fertile during your menstrual cycle.
A small fraction of women use the natural family planning method. Many women who choose this option do so because their religious beliefs do not support the use of contraceptives that involves devices, surgical procedures, or any form of drugs, while others prefer this option for personal reasons.
NFP is a less effective method than other birth control methods. Statistics suggest that out of 100 women who use the NFP method, 20 are likely to get pregnant. However, if a woman correctly interprets her biological signs of fertility, the failure rate is low.
The barrier method uses devices to block the sperm from getting into the uterus. Common barrier methods include the use of female condoms, male condoms, and diaphragms. Barrier methods are used during sexual intercourse, and when used correctly, they can be very effective; thus, it is important to ensure you read instructions carefully. Condoms not only protect you from getting pregnant but also lessen the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and infections such as the human immunodeficiency virus.
• Male condoms
The male condom is a fine rubber covering that is placed over an erect penis before intercourse. This birth control option is quite reliable as it is 98% effective. Male condoms are inexpensive and are available without prescription in pharmacies, supermarkets, and vending machines.
• Female condoms
The female condom is a soft non-latex pouch with flexible rings on each end. Unlike male condoms, female condoms are worn several hours before intercourse, and when used appropriately, they are 95% effective.
The diaphragm is a barrier method that uses a device that resembles a shallow cup that is inserted inside your vagina and prevents sperm from getting into the uterus. The diaphragm is 92-96% effective and can be inserted anytime before intercourse.
Sterilization is an irreversible birth control method that entails having a surgical procedure performed. This method is very effective at preventing pregnancy and can be performed on both men and women. For women, tube ligation is performed, a minor surgery that involves cutting, clipping, or tying of the fallopian tubes hence preventing movement of an egg from the ovary through the fallopian tube. Tube ligation is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy; however, it does not protect against STIs.
On the other hand, male sterilization is known as vasectomy, a minor surgery that involves blocking or cutting vas deferens tubes responsible for carrying sperms.
Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) are birth control methods that are safe and effective. They include subdermal contraceptive implants, injections, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). The main advantage of LARC is that they last many years; thus, one does not have to use contraceptives every time you have sex. LARC is considered the most effective reversible method and has failure rates of less than 1% annually. LARCs are popular among many women not only for their convenience and long-lasting benefits but are also cost-effective as compared to other contraception methods like pills and condoms. Once you have them removed, you can easily get pregnant as their effect wears off quickly.
• Contraceptive implants
The contraceptive implant is a small plastic rod inserted under the skin on the inside of your arm. The plastic rod contains progesterone which prevents the release of eggs from the ovaries and thickens the mucus in your cervix, preventing entry of sperms into the uterus. These implants last for three years and should be replaced once the period lapses.
• Intrauterine devices
Intrauterine devices are fitted inside the womb(uterus). There are two common IUDs: hormone-releasing IUD, which lasts five years, and copper IUD, which lasts 5-10 years. IUDs works by preventing the sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg.
• Contraceptive injection
The contraceptive injection is a long-acting hormonal injection containing progesterone. It is administered every 12 weeks and is responsible for changing the uterus lining, which prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg.