It’s important for women to make educated decisions about their methods of contraception, and in doing so, it is important to understand the variety of methods available on the market today. While family planning must be a voluntary decision with a perfect knowledge of your overall health- and in total agreement between you and your partner, your choice of birth control method as a means of family planning must follow a careful selection with numerous factors in consideration.
These factors may include:
• How often you have sex
• Your overall health status
• Whether you still want to have more children or not
These among others are the personal factors you must consider before deciding on any birth control method. Also, there are a number of questions to answer too when making a choice of birth control method:
1. How effective is the birth control method?
This is calculated by estimating the number of pregnancies in a total number of 100 women using the same method over a period of 1 year.
2. What’s the cost of getting the birth control method?
Is it within your budget or above? Does your insurance policy cover this method? Is it given freely as is the case in some parts of the world?
3. How do you feel about getting pregnant? In case this method fails and you get pregnant, would it create distress or hardship for you or your partner?
4. How does your partner feel about it? Is he willing to accept it or against it? Is he against the method or the decision in general?
5. What is the health risks associated with the method? How do you know about these risks? Do you talk about them with other users or your health care provider?
6. Does this method protect against sexually transmitted diseases? Is this even a concern to you?
7. Do you need a method that you only need to use when you want to have sex or something that’s always in place even when sex is not involved?
8. Is this method readily available? Would it always be prescribed by a health care provider before you gain access to it or you can get it from anywhere? Do you have to visit your health care provider to put it in place when you need to have sex or you can do it yourself?
There are many more questions which should guide you to making the best choice of the birth control method for you but these are the basics.
Birth Control Methods
There are different birth control methods to choose from. These include:
1. The Barrier Methods
2. The Hormonal Methods
4. Natural Methods
These methods of birth control include both male and female synthetic products which provide protection against pregnancy chemically and or mechanically.
The Mechanical Barrier Birth Control Methods
These barrier contraceptives provide hindrances to sperm and ovum contact. They include:
• Male and Female Condoms
A condom is a thin latex sheet worn over the erected penis of the man or inserted into the vagina of the woman before sex to prevent the man’s spermatozoa from gaining access to your vagina. It acts as a collecting material for the sperm.
Advantages of condoms
1. They’re readily available and do not need any prescription.
2. They’re cheap. Some family planning clinics give them out for free.
3. Very easy to use.
4. They offer protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
5. Can be used with other birth control methods.
6. They prevent premature ejaculation and make sex longer.
1. It may interrupt sexual pleasure since must be worn at all times during sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
2. The condom may break during vigorous sexual acts which could lead to some sperm escaping into the uterus and cause pregnancy. This makes it not 100% effective.
3. A condom can only be used during one sexual intercourse.
4. Condoms may cause some allergy reactions in some people.
A diaphragm is a flexible cup-like rubber material filled with spermicidal cream and or jelly and inserted into the vagina and fixed to cover the cervix which prevents sperm from entering into the uterus. After sexual intercourse, the diaphragm should be left in place for about 6-8 hours to ensure its effectiveness.
1. The diaphragm doesn’t have hormones which make it perfect for people who can’t use the hormonal methods.
2. It’s convenient to carry and doesn’t interrupt foreplay or sexual pleasure.
3. They last longer. Unlike condoms, you can leave the diaphragm inside the body if you still want to have sex within 6-8 hours.
4. It is more effective.
1. The diaphragm doesn’t offer protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
2. It may be harmful. The correct type and size must be prescribed by your health care provider.
3. When left inside the body for a very long time- say 24 hours, it may cause a serious bacterial infection know as Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
4. Some women may experience some allergic reactions with the spermicidal cream or rubber.
5. The pregnancy rate with diaphragm ranges from 5-20% of 100 women depending on its proper usage with makes it not 100% effective.
• Cervical Cap
This is almost like the diaphragm except for its smaller size. They have the same advantages and disadvantages as the diaphragm.
The Chemical Barrier Birth Control Methods
These methods provide spermicidal (sperm death) or sperm-static (sperm deactivation) effects. This simply means that they are able to kill sperm totally or only make them inactive. They contain active chemical substances like benzalkonium chloride or nonoxynol-9. Although they’re effective they are used combined with other mechanical barrier methods like the condom. Examples include:
• The Vagina sponge
The vagina sponge is very soft and contains a chemical that disables or kills sperm. It’s moistened and inserted into the vagina before sex.
1. Easy to use.
2. It’s very cheap and doesn’t interrupt sexual pleasure.
3. Its effects are felt almost immediately if used properly.
4. It’s effective up to 24 hours and doesn’t require any prescription.
1. It doesn’t offer protection against STIs and STDs.
2. It’s purely effective and may have dangerous side effects.
3. Its availability is limited.
4. It may cause numbing effects.
5. It may also cause Toxic Shock Syndrome effects and other vaginal infections.
Other chemical products include:
• Creams and Gels
• Some Aerosol products
• Vagina tablets.
The same advantages and disadvantages as with vaginal sponges.
The Hormonal Methods of Birth Control
The hormonal methods of birth control use hormones like estrogen and progestin to produce their control effects. Some of the methods may have both either progestin alone of both progestin and estrogen combined. These hormones prevent the woman’s ovary from maturing and producing an egg during the cycle by altering the level of hormones produced by the body. You need a prescription for most hormonal birth control methods. Progestin in another way helps to thicken the cervical mucus thereby preventing the sperm from passing through into the uterus. Example of these methods include:
- Pills: Pills are used randomly for a whole cycle following a prescribed manner and either contains both progestin and estrogen or only progestin.
- Implants: Implants are like small rods implanted under the skin and contain a high dose of chemicals. These chemicals are released regularly in specific dosage and for a specified period to prevent ovulation from taking place.
- Injectable (injections: these contain high doses of progesterone just like the natural progesterone and are given into the muscles of the buttocks and or the upper arm. Examples include:
Depo-Provera = given every 3 months or 13weeks.
Sayana Press = given every 3 months or 13 weeks
Noristerat = given every 2 months or 8 weeks
Other hormonal contraceptives include:
- Ortho Evra: this is placed either on your buttocks or shoulder and releases hormones continuously into your body.
- Vaginal Ring (NuvaRing): a flexible ring about 2’’(inches) wide placed into the vagina and releases the hormones estrogen and progestin continuously into the body.
- “Morning after” or Emergency pill: This pill or medicine is taken in the morning following sexual intercourse. It can be gotten from any drugstore without prescription but endeavor to take it as soon as possible.
Advantages of Hormonal Methods
- They are highly effective with reversible effects.
- They don’t rely on spontaneity.
- They can be used in advance or after sexual activity.
- They are costly.
- They may require continuous administration.
- You must take them exactly as prescribed for maximum effectiveness.
- They require a doctor’s visit.
- They offer no protection against STDs and STIs.
- To be effective, you must use them in advance and regularly.
- They may have harmful side effects or health risks.
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
This is a small copper or plastic device placed inside the Uterus by your health care provider. It can be placed at any time and left for about 5-10 years inside the body while producing its continuous effects.
1. Over 99% effectiveness
2. Does not interrupt sexual pleasure
3. Reduces bleeding and cramping during periods
4. Limits pains during ovulation
5. IUD may reduce acne
6. It’s safe while breastfeeding
7. It can be removed any time
8. Reduces frequency of seizure in women with a seizure disorder.
1. It may delay return of normal menstrual cycle
2. It may reduce breast milk supply
3. Does not protect against STIs and STDs
4. Does not prevent ectopic pregnancy
5. It’s costly to insert
6. It can spread genital into the uterus causing PID
7. It can only be inserted and removed by your care provider.
PERMANENT METHODS OF BIRTH CONTROL
Permanent methods of birth control are methods only adopted by couples who made up their minds not to have more children. Its reversal possibility is very slim. These methods include:
- Vasectomy in a man
- Tubal ligation in woman
Advantages of permanent methods
1. Are 100% effective
2. They don’t interrupt sexual pleasure
3. It doesn’t have any lasting effects on sexual performance
1. Permanent methods may involve a surgical operation.
2. It doesn’t offer protection against STIs and STDs.
3. Reversibility may be impossible.
Other methods of birth control are the natural methods which include:
• Withdrawal method
• Douching immediately after sex
• Breast feeding
These methods don’t offer any protection against STIs and STDs, interrupt sexual pleasure especially the withdrawal method and aren’t effective. They aren’t recommended for effective birth control because of their numerous disadvantages.
1. They’re the cheapest since they don’t cost anything.
2. Anybody can practice the natural methods.
3. They don’t require prescription or care provider’s visit.
A careful and informed selection is the best-recommended birth control method strategy for you. For more information regarding birth control methods, the Women’s Aid Center would be happy to assist you.