Birth Control (cont.)
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Birth Control Methods
There are many methods of birth control. Learn about the different kinds of birth control to help you choose the best one for you. When making your choice, also consider that only a condom will help protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). To protect yourself and your partner against STDs, use a condom (along with your chosen birth control method) every time you have sex.
Hormonal methods are very reliable means of birth control. Hormonal methods use two basic formulas:
Combination and progestin-only methods are prescribed for women for different reasons. Compare the recommendations for and against combination and progestin-only hormonal birth control pills, patches, implants, and rings. Each type of method has its pros and cons.
Intrauterine device (IUD)
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device that is placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are two main types of IUDs: copper IUDs (such as Paragard) and hormonal IUDs (such as Mirena). When an IUD is in place, it can provide birth control for 5 to 10 years, depending on the type. Unlike IUDs that were used in the 1970s, present-day IUDs are small, safe, and highly effective.
The hormonal IUD typically reduces menstrual flow and cramping over time. On the other hand, the copper IUD can cause longer and heavier periods. But the hormonal IUD can have other side effects, including spotting, mood swings, and breast tenderness. These side effects occur less frequently than with other progestin-only methods.
Barrier methods (including the diaphragm; cervical cap; cervical shield; male condom; female condom; and spermicidal foam, sponge, gel, suppository, or film) prevent sperm from entering the uterus and reaching the egg. Typically, barrier methods are not highly effective, but they generally have fewer side effects than hormonal methods or IUDs. Spermicides and condoms should be used together or along with another method to increase their effectiveness. Barrier methods can interrupt sex, because they must be used every time you have sex.
Fertility awareness (periodic abstinence or natural family planning)
Fertility awareness requires that a couple chart the time during a woman's menstrual cycle when she is most likely to become pregnant and avoid intercourse or use a barrier method during that time. Fertility awareness is not a good choice if you need a highly effective form of birth control.
Breast-feeding may work as a form of birth control in the first 6 months after giving birth if you follow specific guidelines. For this method to work, you must breast-feed your baby every time. You can't use formula or other supplements. This is called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). Although LAM has been shown to be 98.5% effective when these conditions are met, many doctors recommend that you use another birth control method.2
Permanent birth control (sterilization)
Sterilization is a surgical procedure done for men or women who decide that they do not want to have any (or more) children. Sterilization is one of the most effective forms of birth control. Sterilization is intended to be permanent, and although you can try to reverse it with another surgery, reversal is not always successful.
Female sterilization is more complicated, has higher risks of problems after surgery, and is more expensive than male sterilization.
Contraception following pregnancy
Birth control is an important consideration after you have had a child. Your ability to become pregnant again may return within 3 to 6 weeks after childbirth. Think about what type of birth control you will be using, and make a plan during your pregnancy. Start using birth control as soon as possible after childbirth. Most methods of birth control can be started soon after childbirth, although some may not be recommended if you are breast-feeding.
Understanding how pregnancy occurs
You can best evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods of birth control when you understand:
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