Birth Control Options
An unwanted pregnancy can create a number of problems. Sometimes, the couple is not emotionally
prepared for the childbirth or they may not be financially secure to handle the expense of an additional
family member. A woman goes through a lot of changes, physical as well as mental, during a pregnancy. So,
it is very important to properly plan it, lest the woman is not prepared for the changes. Taking proper
precautions to prevent an unwanted pregnancy can be done by using the different options for birth control
available today. Let us learn more about them.
Birth control, also called contraception, is a method of pregnancy prevention as well as family planning.
Birth control methods have been practiced for thousands of years. Today, a number of effective and safe
birth control options that work in different ways are available.
Diaphragms, condoms and intrauterine devices work by preventing the sperm from getting fused with the
Birth control pills prevent the ovaries from releasing the egg.
Sterilization methods can permanently prevent pregnancy. You can choose any option depending upon your
overall health, age, number of sexual partners and frequency of sexual activity. Let us now see in detail
some of the birth control methods.
Birth Control Methods
There are different types of contraceptive methods. These are:
Intrauterine devices (IUD)
Emergency contraception Let's understand each method in detail.
Hormonal birth control methods include skin patches, birth control pills and vaginal rings that contain
progestin and estrogen. Hormonal implants, progestin-only birth control pills and hormone shots are also
used in the hormonal method. They work in three ways. They prevent the egg from getting released from the
ovaries, thin the uterine lining to prevent implantation and thicken the cervical mucus to stop the sperm from
entering the uterus.
Birth control pills or oral contraceptives are found to be quite effective in preventing pregnancy. These pills
work by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg. Most birth control pills consist of two hormones,
namely, progestin and estrogen. For its effectiveness, a woman has to take these pills daily. There may be
certain such as nausea, headache, breast tenderness, depression, weight gain, bloating, increased blood
pressure and acne.
A vaginal contraceptive ring is a flexible, thin ring which is inserted into the vagina. This ring releases the
hormones progestin and estrogen, which prevent pregnancy. It can be kept in the vagina for about 3 weeks.
When the ring is removed, menstruation will start. After 7 days, you can insert a new ring.
The hormonal skin patch can be applied on the abdomen, buttocks, outer arm or upper torso. It consists of
the same hormones, estrogen and progestin, to prevent pregnancy. A new patch should be used once a week
for 3 weeks.
The progestin-only pill is also called a minipill. It consists of only one hormone, progestin. It is a type of
oral contraceptive that should be taken daily. It is specially recommended for mothers who are breast-
Hormone shots work in a way similar to birth control pills. They have some side effects such as changes in
menstrual cycle, headache, mood swings, etc.
Implanon is a matchstick-sized contraceptive device. It is implanted under the skin of the upper or inner
arm. It can be left there for up to three years. It releases a steady dose of progestin and helps to prevent
pregnancy. Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
They are some of the safest and most effective methods of contraception. IUDs are inserted into the uterus
by a medical practitioner and can be left in safely for 5-10 years. An IUD is a T-shaped plastic device,
which contains copper or levonorgestrel (LNg) hormone. There are plastic strings attached at the end of the
IUD, which hang down through the cervix into the vagina. With these strings, you can check whether the
IUD is in place.
Copper IUD: Copper IUDs are made from copper and plastic. They work by preventing the sperm from
fertilizing the egg and stopping implantation. Copper is an effective spermicide that destroys sperm.
Hormonal: The hormonal IUD is a T-shaped plastic frame, with a thread attached to its end. This device can
be kept in the uterus for up to 5 years. The IUD frame consists of levonorgestrel, which thins the uterine
lining, inhibits sperm mobility and thus, prevents fertilization. IUDs should be inserted and removed by a
medical practitioner only. Use of IUDs is a very convenient method of contraception and it is quite effective
for mothers who are breastfeeding. There may be some side effects of IUDs such as abnormal bleeding,
abdominal pain, pain during intercourse, fever, chills, etc.
Barrier methods are probably the most popular and commonly practiced birth control methods with fewer
side effects. They work by preventing the sperm from entering the uterus. Barrier methods include condoms,
diaphragm, cervical cap, sponge, shield and spermicide.
A male condom is a flexible, thin tube made from latex rubber, animal membrane or polyurethane. The
condom is unrolled over the erect penis before intercourse. Its effectiveness increases when used with
vaginal spermicide. It also reduces the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by not allowing the
exchange of body fluids.
A female condom is a soft tube made from polyurethane. It consists of O-rings on both the ends. One end is
inserted into the vagina and the open-end ring remains outside the vagina. Some women may experience
slight irritation due to a condom. Female condoms also offer protection from STDs.
A cervical cap is a cup-shaped device made of rubber. It fits tightly over the cervix and is used with a
spermicide. It prevents the sperm from entering the uterus. Some women may feel vaginal irritation due to
spermicide. In some rare cases, there is a possibility of vaginal infection, urinary tract infection and toxic
shock syndrome after prolonged use.
A diaphragm is a dome-shaped, round device with a flexible rim, which is inserted into the vagina. It is
made up of rubber and can be reused. It is used with spermicide and should be inserted before intercourse
and extracted after at least 8 hours post ejaculation.
A contraceptive sponge consists of a spermicide, namely nonoxynol-9. The sponge can be left for 24 hours
in the vagina after being soaked in water to initiate the spermicide within. It blocks the cervix so that sperm
can't enter the uterus.
Lea's shield is a diaphragm-like, cup-shaped device made up of silicone. It fits over the cervix and is held in
place by suction. You can reuse this device.
Spermicide is a substance that makes the sperm inactive before they enter the uterus. It is available in
different forms such as foam, gel, cream, tablet, suppository and vaginal contraceptive film. All the
spermicides sold in the United States consist of nonoxynol-9, which inactivates the sperm. Spermicides are
more effective when used with other barrier contraceptives. Natural Methods of Contraception
Natural family planning is also referred to as fertility-awareness-based birth control method. It is a method
of preventing pregnancy by avoiding sexual intercourse during the fertile period of a woman. This method is
based on physical signs of ovulation such as basal body temperature and certain changes in vaginal mucus
consistency. Some of the fertility-awareness-based methods are abstinence, basal body temperature,
standard days, calendar method, lactational amenorrhea, cervical mucus and symptothermal. Abstinence is
one of the most reliable methods of natural family planning. There is no sexual intercourse and hence, no
chances of fertilization. Withdrawal or coitus interruptus is another method of natural contraception. In case
of lactational infertility, a woman can't become pregnant as long as she is breastfeeding her child. However,
natural family planning methods are not much reliable as they are mostly based on the prediction of a
woman's ovulation cycle. So, it is better to go for another method of birth control as well.
Sterilization is a permanent birth control method that offers lasting protection against pregnancy. It can be
done on both, men and women. It is a good option for couples that don't wish to have children. Sterilization
for men is referred to as vasectomy and for women, it is known as tubal ligation. In vasectomy, the vas
deferens (the tubes leading from the scrotum and joining with urethra) are cut, clamped, tied or cauterized.
This surgical procedure is done under local anesthesia. In case of women, the fallopian tubes (the tubes
leading from ovaries to the uterus) are cut, clamped and tied. The method is quite an effective and reliable
one for contraception.
If in any case, a contraceptive method fails, or in the case of unprotected sex, emergency contraception is a
must, to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. It helps prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation, fertilization or
implantation. There are two types of emergency birth control: emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) and
intrauterine devices (IUDs). Emergency contraceptive pills include combined estrogen and progestin pills
and progestin-only pills. These pills can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse.
Copper IUD is another effective form of emergency contraception. It should be inserted within five days of
Currently, a number of promising contraception methods are under development. Some of the effective
emerging birth control methods are chemical barriers, hormonal implants, fertility computers,
immunocontraceptives, transcervical sterilization and male contraception. Birth control is a very important
part of sex education. With the right choice of birth control options, you can enjoy sex without worrying
about an unwanted pregnancy. You will be able to start a family by proper planning and have a child when
you desire. In addition, some of the contraceptives can protect you from life-threatening sexually transmitted
diseases and help you maintain your sexual health. So choose the method you want and use it as per your
average cost of breast implants