Contraceptives: Having Sex Responsibly

Birth control pills

Starting a family is a huge commitment, emotionally and financially, and it’s more important than ever for young couples to carefully plan this part of their future. This includes using birth control to ensure accidental pregnancy does not happen.

There are many different types of contraceptives for women on the market these days, everything from pill form to devices that are implanted in your uterus. You might have to try a couple of different types before you find the one that works best for you. It is important to do your research because each has its own efficacy, but don’t worry! We have a primer to get you started.

Oral Contraceptives

With birth control pills, it’s important to note that there almost as many different kinds as there are people to take them (not really, but you get the idea), and each can vary greatly in composition. There are a variety of strengths with a wide range of the amount of estrogen and progestin in them. Some women do better with the low dose pills and others need the higher dose. There are also three different types of how the hormones are delivered. Monophasic pills are made to introduce the same amount of estrogen and progestin into your system every day. Biphasic types deliver the same amount of estrogen every day for the first 21 days of your cycle and then a higher dose during the last part of the cycle in order to allow for shedding of the lining (or menstruation). Tri-phasic pills deliver the hormones in a variety of doses during the entire cycle. None of these types have been proven better than the others in preventing pregnancy. What you use will depend on you and your body, so if you notice any issues once you start taking an oral contraceptive, talk to your doctor about possibly switching to a different variety.

Oral contraceptives have about a 91 percent efficacy rate, with most accidental pregnancies resulting from missing pills or taking them sporadically.

Intrauterine Devices

IUD

These are, as they state, small devices implanted inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Out of the brands that are currently FDA approved, there are two types: copper-based and hormone-based. Both use their respective materials to stop sperm from being able to reach an egg, thus preventing fertilization.

IUDs have a 99 percent efficacy rate and are one of the few long-term contraceptives out there, as they can be left in three to 10 years depending on the brands. An IUD must be implanted by a physician, but they can be removed at any time should you decide you want to get pregnant. It is important to note, however, that this will not protect you from STDs.

Contraceptive Implant

This type of contraceptive is surgically implanted in the arm by the physician. They last up to three years, but after that time period they must be removed. This has a very high efficacy rate of 99.99 percent due to removing the human error that’s possible with the pill. This does contain progestin as well, which slowly releases into your system during entire implant period.

Contraceptive Injections

Injections are given by the healthcare provider every three months to prevent pregnancy. The shot contains progestin, that releases over the three month period. It is not reversible, so once the injection has been given, you are effectively sterile for the duration. The efficacy rate is 99 percent, with most unplanned pregnancies resulting from the woman not renewing her injection on time.

The Vaginal Ring

This is a small, plastic ring that is inserted into the vagina and left in for up to three weeks. It is then removed during the period and a new one inserted after the menstrual cycle is completed. Like most other non-condom contraceptives, this does not protect you from STDs. This method is also only about 91 percent effective.

Contraceptive Patch

Contraceptive patch

This is the same hormonal-type contraceptive as the pill but in a patch form. As such it has the same efficacy rate as the pill. You will wear the patch for three weeks, take it off during your period, and replace it with a new one when your cycle is over. Again, these do not protect you from STD’s. There is a higher risk of skin irritation with this method, and there is a chance that the patch can come off if you are careless.

Sterilization

This is the most permanent choice of pregnancy prevention and is available for both men and women. For men, this procedure is called a vasectomy and consists of a surgery that severs or blocks the tubes allowing the sperm to leave the scrotum. This method is almost 100 percent effective; in rare cases, the tubes can manage to reconnect.

There are two types of sterilization for women. One consists of cutting small slits in the abdomen in order to gain access to the fallopian tubes so they can be cut and tied. The other is non-surgical and consists of placing coils inside the fallopian tubes and allowing scar tissue to build up on the coils to occlude the tubes and prevent pregnancy. Both options also have a 99 percent efficacy rate, with a rare one in 200 women whose tubes have grown back together and allowed accidental pregnancy.

Natural Family Planning

Natural planning

If contraceptive solutions do not appeal to you, yet you still want to wait to start a family, there is a natural solution. Be warned, however, that this has proven to be less effective than any of the methods mentioned above.

Natural family planning consists of tracking your 28-day menstrual cycle so that you can avoid sex during your fertile period. Obviously, your body can be unreliable and inconsistent depending on your balance of hormones, so this method is not advised for women with very sporadic periods.

There are other tools/observations that can help you besides just tracking days, including taking a basal body temperature, observing your cervical mucus, and the rhythm method. The overall rate of effectiveness is 76 percent mostly because very few women have a completely regular cycle.

As you can see, there is no 100 percent contraceptive against pregnancy or STDs except abstinence. So, do your research on each type, their effectiveness, and usage, and talk to your doctor to help you decide what will work best for you and your partner. Just remember that something is better than nothing! Statics state that 80 percent of women will become pregnant in one year if no contraceptive is used, and this can be a huge strain on a young couple if you’re unprepared.

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