Contraception, also known as birth control, is a method used to prevent pregnancy. It involves the use of medications, devices, or procedures that either prevent the sperm from reaching the egg or prevent the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. The use of contraception has been around for centuries, and it has been fundamental in controlling the population and increasing the well-being of women.
Types of Contraception
There are various types of contraception available, and it is essential to know which one suits your needs. It is always best to consult a healthcare provider before making a decision on the appropriate method. Here are some of the most common methods of contraception:
1. Barrier Methods
Barrier methods are devices that are placed over the cervix or inside the vagina to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg. They include:
- Condoms: Condoms are the most commonly used barrier method. They are made of latex, polyurethane, or lambskin and are effective in preventing both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- Cervical cap: The cervical cap is a silicone cup that fits over the cervix, preventing the sperm from entering the uterus. It is used in conjunction with spermicidal jelly.
- Diaphragm: The diaphragm is a shallow latex cup that fits over the cervix, preventing the sperm from entering the uterus. It is used in conjunction with spermicidal jelly.
2. Hormonal Methods
Hormonal methods contain hormones that either prevent ovulation or prevent fertilization. They include:
- Birth control pills: Birth control pills contain hormones that prevent ovulation, making it harder for the sperm to fertilize the egg.
- Patch: The patch is a small patch that contains hormones that are absorbed through the skin, preventing ovulation.
- Shot: The shot is an injection of hormones that prevent ovulation and thickens the cervical mucus, making it harder for the sperm to reach the egg.
- Vaginal ring: The vaginal ring is a flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina and releases hormones that prevent ovulation.
- Intrauterine device (IUD): The IUD is a small device that is inserted into the uterus, preventing fertilization by releasing hormones or copper.
Sterilization is a permanent method of birth control that involves surgery. It includes:
- Tubal ligation: Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure that involves blocking or sealing the fallopian tubes, preventing the sperm from reaching the egg.
- Vasectomy: Vasectomy is a surgical procedure that involves cutting or blocking the vas deferens, preventing the sperm from reaching the semen.
Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Contraceptive Method
Choosing the right contraception can be challenging, and there are several factors to consider before making a decision. Here are some of the factors to consider:
The effectiveness of contraception varies, and it is essential to know the success rate of the method you choose. Barrier methods such as condoms have a lower success rate compared to hormonal methods such as birth control pills.
2. Side Effects
Like any medication, contraceptives have side effects. Hormonal methods may cause nausea, headaches, or mood changes, while barrier methods may cause irritation or allergic reactions.
3. Health Concerns
It is crucial to consider your current health conditions when choosing a contraceptive method. Women with a history of blood clots or breast cancer may not be suitable for hormonal methods.
The convenience of the contraception method is also an essential factor to consider. Hormonal methods such as birth control pills require daily use, while the IUD can last for up to five years.
5. Protection against STIs
Barrier methods such as condoms offer protection against STIs, while hormonal methods do not.
Advantages of Contraception
Contraception has numerous advantages, including:
- Preventing unwanted pregnancies
- Reducing the risk of STIs
- Controlling the population
- Improving the health of women
- Allowing women to pursue higher education and career opportunities
- Reducing the number of abortions
Disadvantages of Contraception
Despite its many benefits, some disadvantages come with contraception, including:
- Side effects such as nausea, headaches, and mood changes
- Does not offer protection against all STIs
- May not be suitable for all women, depending on their health conditions
- Does not provide 100% effectiveness in preventing pregnancy
- May be costly, depending on the method chosen
Common Myths about Contraception
There are several misconceptions about contraception. Here are some common myths:
1. Contraceptives are only for women
Contraceptives are not only for women. Men can also use barrier methods such as condoms or undergo vasectomy.
2. Contraception causes infertility
Contraception does not cause infertility. It merely prevents pregnancy and does not affect a woman’s ability to conceive in the future.
3. Contraception is only for preventing pregnancy
Contraception not only prevents pregnancy but also offers protection against STIs.
Contraception is an essential method that allows women to plan their families and take control of their reproductive health. It is crucial to choose the appropriate method based on individual needs and consult a healthcare specialist before making a decision.
- Planned Parenthood. Birth Control. Accessed 16 June 2021. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control
- Mayo Clinic. Birth Control. Accessed 16 June 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/birth-control/about/pac-20384580
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contraception. Accessed 16 June 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/index.htm
Common Questions and Answers about Contraception
- Q: Can I get pregnant if I have had a tubal ligation or a vasectomy?
- A: Tubal ligation and vasectomy are permanent methods of contraception, but pregnancy is still possible, although it is rare.
- Q: Can hormonal contraceptives cause weight gain?
- A: Hormonal contraceptives may cause slight weight gain due to water retention. However, the weight gain is usually minimal and temporary.
- Q: How long does it take for contraceptive methods to start working?
- A: The effectiveness of contraception varies with the method chosen. Some methods, such as the shot, work immediately, while others, such as the pill, may take up to a week to start working.
- Q: Can I use contraception when breastfeeding?
- A: Yes, it is safe to use contraception while breastfeeding. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider to choose a method that does not affect milk production.
- Q: Can condoms be reused?
- A: No, condoms cannot be reused. Using a condom multiple times increases the risk of breakage, which can lead to unintended pregnancy or STIs.