Contraceptives will only prevent unwanted pregnancies if they’re used properly and consistently. If you’re relying on a method that you often forget to use, that has unwanted side effects, or that is difficult or bothersome to use, you’re likely to stop using it or not to use it all the time. That’s why it’s important to use a method of birth control that suits you and your lifestyle.
When you’re thinking about what kind of contraceptive to use, make sure to consider all the details. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Which will work best with my schedule and habits?
- Are there extra health benefits?
- Which have possible unwanted effects or features?
- Am I protected against sexually transmitted diseases?
- Which kind is the most appropriate for my current state of health or medical history?
- How effective is it?
There are several kinds of birth control that work by keeping the sperm from reaching the egg. These normally have to be applied or inserted just before intercourse and removed afterwards. They include:
- cervical caps
- vaginal sponges
- male condoms
- female condoms
Most of these come in several varieties, and it may be necessary to try a few of any given kind before you find one that has the right fit and sensation. Each has advantages and disadvantages. For example, condoms are the only type of birth control that also offer reliable protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Whichever barrier option of birth control you choose to try, make sure that you are familiar and confident on its proper insertion and use. Your doctor and pharmacist are excellent educational resources for this sort of information.
Be aware that using oil-based products like lubricants, or other products like powders or perfumes may decrease the barrier method’s effectiveness or cause irritation. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns.
Perhaps the best-known method of birth control is “the pill.” These pills are taken once a day. There are many different kinds of birth control pills available. Some use a single hormone and some use a combination; some have lower doses and some have higher doses of estrogen; some have a 28-day cycle of pills and some have 21 or 84 pills; and some have a 7-day period without pills, and others can have less. Talk to your doctor about which would be best for you. You may need to try a few before you find one you feel perfectly comfortable with.
There are forms of birth control that last a long time and only need to be changed very infrequently. If you have a hard time remembering to take a birth control pill every day or if you’re not planning on starting a family in the near future, these birth control options may suit you better:
- contraceptive patch (changed weekly)
- hormonal injection or implants (received once every 3 months)
- vaginal ring (used every 4 weeks)
- progestin-releasing intrauterine systems (changed once every 5 years)
- progestin-releasing implant (changed once every 3 years)
- copper intrauterine devices (lasts 30 months to 10 years)
For people who have no intention of having children in the future, surgery can be a viable option.
For men, the usual operation is a vasectomy. This operation involves cutting or blocking the tube that carries sperm from the testes to the penis. It can now be done in a very short time using local anaesthetic and requiring only a small puncture in the skin, with no stitches needed.
For women, the usual surgery is a tubal ligation: the fallopian tubes are cut, sealed, tied, or blocked, making a permanent barrier between sperm and egg. This is usually done via laparoscopy, using a small incision; the woman can normally go home the same day, but it is a more complicated operation than a vasectomy. Both of these methods are designed to be permanent, but an operation called reanastomosis that unblocks or reconnects the tube(s) can restore fertility in roughly half of all cases.
Other Methods of birth control
Other, “natural” forms of birth control include the use of withdrawal, calendar tracking, basal body temperature and cervical mucus. It’s important to discuss with your doctor which method is most appropriate for you. Depending on your individual circumstance, you may need more than 1 method.
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