Many a time, we find situations where we end up with unwanted pregnancy or untimely pregnancy, when you are unprepared for it. But with so many options out there for birth control, it's possible to be confused or not have clarity on what is the right one for you and which ones are safe and effective. It's important for us to weigh the options carefully, before going for it.
We walk you through it all, to help you get a better understanding of it, below:
What is contraception?
Contraception refers to use of artificial methods / techniques or procedures to prevent pregnancy, which include options like a device, pills, sexual practices, or surgery. It is helpful to couples or woman to plan their pregnancy as per their wish. Unfortunately, no birth control methods assure 100 percent prevention from pregnancy or conception, unless it is used correctly.It should be noted that any action or method of contraception works effectively, only if it is practiced accurately.
What are the birth control options?
Usually, condoms (male and female) and birth control pills are looked as common options available, but wait, there are many more you can choose from. So, here are the options available:
Barrier methods: These methods prevent pregnancy by blocking the entry of sperms into the uterus. Available barrier methods are condoms (both male and female), diaphragm, cervical cap or shield, spermicidal (foam), contraceptive sponges, and film. These blocking methods are much more effective when used with spermicide as it kills most of the sperms exposed to the vagina.
- Hormonal methods: These may include hormonal pills, contraceptive patch, vaginal ring, IUD (Intrauterine devices) and contraceptive injections. Among all these, the oral contraceptive pill (OC) is often preferred by women across the world as it suits most women, irrespective of her age and duration of its use. These can be either combined with oral contraceptive (COC) and/ or the progestin-only contraceptive (POP). The contraceptive pills contain hormones like estrogen and progesterone which works by:
- Preventing the release of ova (egg) from the ovary.
- Restricts sperms to reach inside by making the mucus extra thick.
Alters uterus lining that is unfit for implantation.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs): It is a small T-shaped device that either includes copper or hormone and it needs to be inserted into the uterus by experts.Although the copper IUD is commonly used, the hormonal IUDs are found to be more effective. Hormonal IUDs serve the purpose for 3 to 5 years, whereas, copper IUDs can last for about 10 years. Both types of IUDs work by preventing the fertilization (as discussed in hormonal method). Copper kills the sperms by releasing toxic fluid from the uterus and fallopian tubes.
Surgical sterilization: It is a permanent method of sterilization that can be done in both men and women (any one of the couple) when there are no plans to have children in the future. This includes vasectomy for men and tubal ligation for women.Vasectomy is a surgical procedure to prevent the release of sperms into the vagina by closing the opening of vasdeferens that carries sperms from its storage area to the urethra. Whereas, tubal ligation is the procedure of blocking the fallopian tubes to prevent the egg from travelling down to the uterus and thus prevents fertilization.
- Natural methods of contraception: Natural contraception methods utilize body’s signs to identify the fertile days of women when there are chances to conceive or become pregnant. By identifying the fertile period, the couple can prevent the pregnancy either by avoiding sex or by using barrier methods of contraception. The natural method of contraception aims to:
- Calculating fertile period: Tracking the exact day from your menstruation (The egg is often released around 10 to 16 days before the next period), which can be your fertile period.
- The temperature method: The body temperature is often elevated (by 0.2°C or 0.4°F) during the fertile days. The temperature should be noted in the early morning before getting out of bed,on the whole suspected days
- Monitoring cervical secretion: The appearance and amount of mucus secretion vary on different days of the menstrual cycle. Right before the ovulation, the mucus will be clear and transparent, wet and slippery.
It is more effective to implement all the three methods together to obtain desired results.
What is emergency contraception?
Emergency contraception is needed when one decides to prevent the pregnancy after an unprotected sex. This includes morning-after pills that prevent the fertilization. There are certain pills that can be taken within 72 hours from unprotected sex to avoid conception.
Which contraception method is right for me?
The right selection of contraceptive method depends on your need, preference and convenience. Like, one may only want to prevent pregnancy or only sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or some may want to prevent both of them. Talk to your doctor before making any choice as your overall health, marital status, emotional maturity etc. also matters.
Is “no, to sex” a best option?
Apart from your beloved and trustedpartner (both emotionally and clinically), if one desires to have unprotected sex (or with contraception) with random partner, it may cost you much more than the pleasure you may have. None of the contraception method assures 100% protection, neither in terms of pregnancy nor in terms of STDs.
Are condoms a better option of contraception?
Yes, apart from the fact that condoms are inexpensive and easily available, it protects from STDs as well. In fact, it is a smart choice for those who have or had sex with multiple partners.
What is the contraceptive patch?
It is a thin, flexible patch that is placed on specific body parts like buttocks, arms and stomach, once in a week and it should be continued for 3 consequent weeks. There are certain side effects like skin irritation where the patch is placed or breast discomfort and blood clots in women who smoke.
What is the vaginal contraceptive ring?
It is a small, flexible, circular ring that is placed into the vagina for 3 weeks and then taken out. The new ring is inserted during the next cycle. Do not re-insert the ring if it was kept outside for more than 3 hours and it is a must to keep the ring placed correctly during all the days of the week.
What are the common side effects of contraceptive methods available?
Most of contraceptive methods have complications associated with ease of use. However, hormonal pills are believed to cause some adverse effect, especially when estrogen and progesterone is taken. These may include nausea, dizziness, headache, bloating in the abdomen, stomach upset,and may be chest pain, calf muscle pain, depression, breast lumps, difficulty in breathing and so on. Proper evaluation before starting and regular follow up can prevent the adverse effects. Moreover, devices that need to be placed inside may cause various infections if not handled and placed properly. In case of any side effects, contact your doctor immediately.
Do all the contraceptive methods protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
No, not really, but some methods can. Especially condoms (both male as well as female condoms) can be trusted concerning STD prevention. It is much more effective, when a condom is used with any other contraceptive method.
What are the other benefits of contraceptive methods?
In addition to birth control, some contraceptive methods help to relieve the pain during periods (dysmenorrheal), reduce the risk of certain cancers and also prevent STDs.
Hope the questions on your mind have been answered largely, if not, you may please consult the doctor on any specific questions you may have.