Birth control methods have been prevalent since thousands of years. Earlier the methods were carried out on trial and error basis and some of the traditional methods failed completely while some provided restricted results.
However, today, you have so many birth control methods that are not only safe and highly effective but also very easy to use. Just as each of you has different choices, similarly, each of you may be in need of different type of birth control method. The choice of different birth control methods totally depends upon your gender, physical and personal limitations and requirements.
Hence, the need is to find the best birth control method from the different methods that are currently available. To make the right decision, it will be better for you to understand and get information about different types of birth control methods. Here is a detailed overview on different types of birth control methods and also on the basics of birth control and contraceptives that will clear all the confusion if you have any about these things and guide you in making the right choice.
Birth Control and Contraception
The process of birth control takes into account actions (one or more), sexual practices, devices or medications that are followed for preventing intentionally or reducing the chances of childbirth or pregnancy. There are three types of routes generally used for carrying out birth control or ending or preventing pregnancy. These include:
In this method, the process of ovum fertilization by the sperm cells is prevented.
This is the pill after morning that prevents the implantation of the fertilized egg
Surgical or chemical process:
In this process, the developing fetus or embryo is aborted surgically or by giving certain medication.
More on Contraception
During contraception different agents, devices, sexual practices, drugs or surgical procedures are used to prevent impregnation or conception. With the help of contraception, women can plan the exact time when they want to conceive. At present condom is the only contraception that offers protection to partners from sexually transmitted infections.
Different Types of Birth Control Methods
There are different types of birth control methods currently available. Traditional methods such as practicing celibacy/sexual abstinence or withdrawal/coitus interrupts (withdrawing the penis) just before ejaculation are not preferred by the young generation today as much more effective methods that not only let you enjoy the sexual act completely without inhibition, but in the process also offers you protection from different sexually transmitted diseases are readily available.
Permanent and Reversible Birth Control Options
According to a study, almost half of the pregnancies are unintended. With the introduction of new and latest methods in birth control and contraception, the modern women and men can now choose a particular contraceptive according to their needs.
- Reversible and permanent are the two major types of birth control methods.
- Intrauterine devices, barrier methods, hormonal methods and fertility-awareness based methods are a type of reversible methods.
- Tubal ligation and transcervical sterilization such as male vasectomy and Essure are a type of permanent birth control methods.
Reversible Birth Control Methods
A. Intrauterine Device (IUD):
Although is primarily used as a regular contraceptive, it is also used as an emergency contraceptive whenever required. The intrauterine device is flexible, small and T-shaped and is placed inside the uterus by the physician. It remains in the same place for the entire time you do not desire to conceive. Depending upon the type of IUD you choose, it can be effective from five to 10 years.
Note: One of the latest IUD is copper T 380A has been found to be effective for minimum 12 years.
B. Hormonal Methods:
These methods include injections, implants, oral contraceptives, the hormonally contraceptive ring and the patch. All these hormonal methods have 91 to 99 percent effectiveness. These methods however do not protect you against STDs.
1. Contraceptive Pills:
These pills come with combination of two essential sexual hormones-progestin and estrogen. These hormones together stop the ovulation process (release of the egg) and also makes the uterus lining thinner.
Note: A survey suggests that out of every 1000 women who use contraceptive pills three become accidentally pregnant in the first year of its use.
2. Contraceptive Patch:
This is a type of transdermal patch and is used as topical application. It is applied on the surface of the vaginal skin and releases synthetic progestin and estrogen hormones. This patch is considered equally effective as the oral contraceptive pills. At present, very few brands are providing this type of contraceptives. Some such products include Ortho Evra, and Evra. To get steady results you need to wear the patch on the lower buttock or abdomen for three consecutive weeks. You do not need to wear it in the fourth week and it is a patch-free week.
3. The NuvaRing or Contraceptive Vaginal Ring:
This ring is manufactured by an American company-Organon and is a type of combined hormonal contraceptive created in the form of a vaginal ring. Made from ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer-a type of flexible plastic, this ring keeps on releasing a dose of estrogen and progestin in a span of more than three weeks. You need to remove the ring during the fourth week when you will be menstruating.
4. Contraceptive Shot or Injection:
This injection is injected in every three months to stop the process of release of egg in women. It offers contraceptive results and is made up of a type of progestin hormone-depot medroxyprogesterone acetate that acts as a reversible birth control hormonal drug. The most popular brand in this product range is Depo-Provera.
Implanon, a rod with progestin at its core is inserted beneath the woman’s upper arm. The rod releases the progestin slowly and is very effective as a birth control method for three years.
C. Barrier Methods
Female and male condoms, cervical caps, diaphragms, spermicides and different type of foam, suppositories, cream, gels or tablets are used in this method. These are 79 to 98 percent effective in preventing impregnation and can to some extent help to prevent STD’s.
1. Female Condom:
These too are made of polyurethane and come with a flexible ring on both the ends. One ring is inserted into the vagina behind the pubic bone to secure the condom in one place and the other is placed outside the vagina.
2. Male Condom:
This is a type of mechanical barrier, which is used to prevent pregnancy by stopping the entrance of sperm into the vagina. The male condom is placed over the penis covering it before the beginning of sexual intercourse. The condoms are made of latex or polyurethane. They look similar to thin and long deflated balloons.
3. Contraceptive sponge:
This comes with a depression so that it can be held at one place just over the cervix. Women use this contraceptive inside the vagina. In this process, an applicator is used to place foam inside the vagina. This foam contains spermicidal that is effective in destroying male sperms. The sponge also serves as a barrier and stops the sperms from travelling beyond the vagina and making a contact with the egg.
This chemical contraceptive is kept inside the vagina just before the sexual intercourse to create a barrier. It is sometimes used along with a physical barrier such as the contraceptive sponge.
This is placed inside the vagina just behind the pubic bone of the woman and comes with a flexible and firm ring due to which it can be pressed easily against the walls of the vagina and fixed in one place. It is a type of dome-shaped device made from rubber and to enhance its effect can be used in combination with spermicide.
6. The Lea Contraceptive:
The Lea contraceptive is a cup-shaped soft and pliable bowl with an attached loop. It is placed inside the vagina just before the sexual intercourse to stop the sperms from entering inside the cervix. To obtain guaranteed result you must combine it with spermicide and leave in the place for around eight hours.
7. Cervical Cap:
This cap as the name suggests caps the cervix and prevents the entrance of sperm inside the uterus via the external uterus orifice also called os. The cap has a shape resembling a thimble and is a type of rubber-latex barrier device. The cervical cap is used in combination with spermicide and 1/3 rd of this medication is put inside the cap. Then this cap is carefully placed inside the vagina in a way that it covers the cervix. The cap is held at one place due to suction.
D. Fertility Awareness
This type of awareness includes understanding the pattern of your fertility such as trying to find out the days of the month when you are fertile and the days when you are infertile and also the days in a month when you are less fertile but still pregnancy can be possible. Knowing these fertility patterns help you to avoid intercourse during the days when you are fertile or use the barrier methods only during those days when you are fertile. This type of birth control method has been found to be 75 to 96 percent effective.
Permanent Birth Control Methods
1. Tubal ligation/ Female Sterilization:
In this process, the fallopian tubes are sealed after severing them to prevent fertilization. This is the permanent way to sterilize a female. In this case, the eggs and sperms are prevented from coming in contact. This treatment is carried out in nursing homes and hospitals and is an outpatient treatment. The procedure starts its effect immediately.
2. Transcervical Sterilization – Essure:
During this process, your doctor places a flexible, soft inserts into your fallopian tubes through cervix and vagina. In the next three months, your body starts working with the inserts to create a natural barrier and prevents the fertilization process. However, during these first three months you need to continue using some other form of birth control as the barrier is not formed completely. After three months are over, you should visit your doctor to check whether the fallopian tubes are completely sealed by the scar tissues. If yes, then from this point onwards you can discontinue the use of other additional form of birth control.
3. Male Sterilization – Vasectomy:
The man is made sterile surgically through this process. The two tubes-the left and right vas deferens from which the sperms come out and ejaculate are either blocked or cut. The process has been found to be reversible in some cases and there is a strong chance of abnormal production of sperm causing lower fertility. Sometimes high diploidy and aneuploidy rates in the sperm cells can increase the rate of birth defects. In this case, although the production of sperms through testicles continues, the body reabsorbs these sperms. As a precaution, a man should continue to use alternative birth control method for few months until the testing of semen shows no presence of sperm.
This is also known as emergency postcoital contraception
and includes measures that are taken to prevent pregnancy after the sexual intercourse. Emergency contraceptives are used when either primary contraceptive fail or you forget to use any contraceptive before the sexual intercourse. Since emergency contraceptives act before the process of implantation takes place, some consider it as a contraceptive. On the other hand, some consider it as an abortion inducing substance- potential abortifacient.
Types of emergency contraceptives are as follows:
A. Emergency Contraceptive Pills:
This is an emergency pill also known as morning-after-pill. It is a type of drug that prevents the occurrence of fertilization or ovulation and also restricts the possible post-fertilization implantation process of an embryo or blastocyst. These are different from the abortion methods used clinically because the abortion methods act after the process of fertilization has taken place.
B. Intrauterine Device (IUD):
Although IUD is primarily used as a regular contraceptive, it is also used as an emergency contraceptive whenever required.
C. Side effects of using Birth Control Pills
Although there are a few side effects of taking birth control pills, most of them are not very serious and go off once you stop taking the pills. These include:
- Weight gain
- Small amounts of spotting or blood in between the periods
- Swollen or sore breasts
- Mood changes
- Lighter periods
ACHES are the less common but comparatively much more serious side effects of taking birth control pills. In case, you experience any of these side effects you must immediately consult your caregiver. Urgent care evaluation in case of these side effect symptoms is necessary. There is a great possibility that you might be suffering from a serious disorder such as stroke, blood clots, liver disease, gall bladder disease, heart disease or high blood pressure.
The ACHES include:
- Chest pain
- Severe headaches
- Abdominal or stomach pain
- Blurred vision or eye problems
- Aching or swelling in the thighs and legs
What Health Issues Might Limit Your Choices?
There are several birth control methods that are not safe and the decision entirely depends upon the individual whether to continue a particular type of birth control method or to shift to another one. For this, you need to consult your caregiver and take the right decision. Your health and habits also decide whether you should use a particular type of birth control form. If you:
- Are pregnant or have chances of getting pregnant
- Are nursing an infant
- Have a serious health problem such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, migraine or headache
- Are suffering from deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
- Have one of the close family members suffering from blood clots in lungs or legs
- Have been a patient of breast cancer before
- Are suffering from sexually transmitted infection or disease
Then you need to be very careful while choosing a birth control method for yourself.
Do Birth Control Methods Affect Fertility?
It is but natural to worry about the effect of birth control method on fertility as using birth control medications or pills can have direct impact on your fertility level. Methods containing hormones have a tendency to alter some part of your reproductive system as they prevent ovulation as well as implantation of sperm. This is the reason why many caregivers advise caution while using birth control methods.
Although these methods do cause temporary loss of fertility, no serious side effects on the fertility of a woman have been witnessed until now.
When a woman uses hormone birth control such as injection, pills, intrauterine device or implant the hormones will stop releasing the egg from the ovaries of a woman. The research by Mayo clinic suggests that ovulation begins again two weeks after you have stopped taking the birth control measures. Once the ovulation process has started, a woman can conceive anytime. In case of some women though, there can be delay in the re-start of ovulation but this is very rare.
In some women, there can be a phase of infertility after they have stopped using hormone birth control but this is a temporary phase. If you have been using the birth control measures for long time then the increased levels of hormones are retained in your system. Due to this, these hormones present in the body prevent the process of ovulation and implantation. This results in temporary infertility phase. However when the hormone level comes back to normal, the woman starts ovulating. The phase of temporary infertility varies and depends upon the type of hormone birth control you are using.
- A woman using estrogen and progestin birth control pills will have two to three months of temporary infertility phase
- A woman using hormone birth control injection such as the Depo-Provera will have to face six to 12 months of temporary infertility phase
Earlier doctors thought that women who used birth control measures had an increased chance of miscarriage immediately after pregnancy. However, the recent researches suggest that this is not the case and now women can become pregnant safely without any cause to worry about miscarriage.
Medications That Interfere with Birth Control Methods
There are certain drugs that interfere with the effect of your birth control medications. Hence, it is highly imperative that you are aware of such drugs so that the baby blockers you are using become successful in keeping you, kid-free for the span you want to be. Here are mentioned some such related drugs that can reduce the effect of your birth control measures. Talk to your doctor regarding the same and try to find an alternative prescription for it.
Antibiotics affecting the efficiency of birth control pills include:
- Rifampin- drug used for treating bacterial infections and tuberculosis
- Tetracycline-drug prescribed to treat acne
- Ampicillin and Amoxicillin- drugs used to treat UTIs and related bacterial infections
Migraine and Anti-Seizure Medications
- Phenobarbital- prescribed for treating insomnia and seizures
- Topamax- drug prescribed for treating epilepsy and migraines
- Carbamazepine- drug used for treating bipolar disorder, epilepsy, schizophrenia and ADHD
- Griseof ulvin-prescribed for treating skin infections such as athlete’s foot
- Nystatin-prescribed for treating infections such as yeast infections’
Medications for Anxiety
Antidepressant medications such as:
HIV medicines can alter the hormone levels within your body and thus indirectly can lower the effectiveness of your birth control pill. So, consult your caregiver for a backup measure.
Medications for Respiratory Problems
Theophylline-prescribed for treating respiratory diseases such as asthma or COPD
Since natural supplements do not list the drugs used in the product, it is advisable that you consult your caregiver and discuss with him the natural supplements or remedies you are taking. This is truer in case of natural supplements used for treating depression related problems such as St. John’s Wort or even Soy products.