Birth Control Options
Birth control is any method of contraception used to prevent pregnancy. For women who are interested in having sex but preventing pregnancy, contraception is the strongest protection available. There are many birth control options available for women depending on their age, overall health and lifestyle. These options can be permanent or temporary. Some of these options are more effective than others, and it is up to each woman to decide which option is right for them.
During a woman's monthly cycle, the ovaries produce an egg that moves through the fallopian tubes into the uterus. When an active sperm reaches and fertilizes the egg, it attaches to the wall of the uterus and begins to develop. There are different methods of birth control that prevent pregnancy by changing the process of a woman's cycle or by ensuring that the sperm and egg do not meet.
Methods of Birth Control
A barrier method of birth control places a barrier or block between the sperm and the egg thus preventing pregnancy from occurring. Barrier methods are commonly used in conjunction with a spermicide, which is a substance that kills sperm. Common barrier methods may include:
Cervical Cap - A rubber cap that fits over the cervix. Used with spermicide foam, it prevents pregnancy by blocking the sperm form entering the uterus.
Diaphragm - A rubber disk that fits over the cervix. A diaphragm blocks sperm from entering the uterus and is prescribed and custom fitted by a physician. It can be inserted and removed by the patient.
Sponge - A sponge that contains spermicide is inserted into the vagina to block sperm from entering the cervix.
Condom - A male condom is a thin latex covering worn over a man's erect penis. It holds the sperm within the condom and does not allow it to enter a woman's vagina. A female condom is a thin plastic pouch that covers the vagina. It is held in place by a closed ring at the cervix. It does not allow sperm to enter the cervix. Condoms are disposable after one use.
Risks of Barrier Methods
While most barrier methods of birth control are safe, there are risks associated with these methods that may include:
- Vaginal or cervical irritation
- Allergic reaction to spermicides
- Toxic shock syndrome
- Urinary tract infection
- Allergic reaction to latex
It is also important to note that condoms are the only method of birth control that provide the best protection against sexually transmitted diseases and the HIV virus.
Hormonal methods of birth control use hormones to prevent pregnancy. Most methods use estrogen or progestin or a combination of the two. Both hormones prevent the a woman's body from ovulating or releasing an egg. In addition, progestin causes the mucous within the cervix to thicken, making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. Common hormonal methods of birth control include:
Birth Control Pills - A pill that releases hormones into the system is taken daily to prevent pregnancy.
DepoProvera Injections - Injections of hormones are given by a doctor every three months to prevent pregnancy.
NuvaRing Vaginal Ring - A ring that releases hormones is inserted into the vagina. It is worn for 21 days and then removed for 7 days.
Patch - A small patch that is worn on the skin that releases hormones into the system. It is worn for three weeks at a time and then replaced with a new patch.
Nexplanon Implant- A small, two inch rod is implanted under the skin and releases hormones into the system. An implant can be worn for up to three years.
Risks of Hormonal Methods
While most methods of hormonal birth control are safe, there are risks that may include:
- Irregular bleeding
- Heart attack
- Skin or vaginal Irritation
- Weight gain
It is important to note that hormonal methods of birth control do not provide any protection against the HIV virus or sexually transmitted diseases. Women who are older than the age of 35 or who smoke, have a much higher risk of heart attack or stroke when using hormonal birth control methods.
Surgical Method (Tubal Ligation)
Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure that involves blocking, tying or cutting a woman's fallopian tubes to prevent eggs from traveling into the tubes and being fertilized. It is a permanent form of birth control so you must be sure that you do not want to have more children in the future. Tubal ligation is not 100% effective; pregnancy can occur if the tubes grow back together or create a new passage. This is a rare occurrence and the procedure is effective for most women.
Tubal ligation is performed either laparoscopically, with tiny incisions in the abdomen, or through a laparotomy or mini-laparotomy, which is open surgery with a larger incision. A full recovery usually takes about a week, and complications with this procedure are rare.
While a tubal ligation is reversible, it does not have a high reversal success rate. It is important to discuss the different birth control options with your partner before undergoing a permanent procedure.
Choosing the right method of birth control is a personal decision. It is important for patients to consider the following before deciding which method of birth control is right for them:
- Hormone levels
Patients should consult with Dr. Rehder about the different types of birth control available and to answer any questions they may have about contraception and family planning.