Birth Control

What is Birth Control?

Birth control is a method, device or medicine used to prevent pregnancy or conception. It is also called contraception.

Types of Birth Control Methods

The various types of birth control methods include:

Natural Method

It is also known as the rhythm method and involves avoidance of sex during ovulation to prevent fertilization of the egg by the sperm.

Withdrawal Method

It involves withdrawal of the penis just before ejaculation. It is not a very effective option and may lead to unwanted pregnancy.

Sterilization Surgery

Male and female sterilization involves surgically cutting, tying, sealing, or removing the tubes that carry the sperm or egg to prevent their meeting which causes pregnancy. This is a permanent method and most often cannot be reversed. In women, the fallopian tubes are blocked preventing the sperm from reaching the egg whereas, in men, the vas deferens are blocked which carry sperm to the ejaculatory ducts.

Hormonal Implants or Intrauterine Device (IUD)

These devices release hormones to prevent ovulation (release of an egg), the meeting of egg and sperm or implantation of a fertilized egg in your womb (uterus).
Examples: Mirena, copper IUD, Implanon, Contraceptive injections, etc. 

Hormonal Pills

These pills are consumed orally and act by interfering with ovulation and possibly the fertilization processes. They include pills that should be taken every day and emergency contraceptive pills to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.

Barrier Method

It involves the use of condoms, cervical caps, diaphragm, sponges, vaginal rings, etc. Barrier methods form a barrier preventing the meeting of sperm and egg. Some of these methods such as condoms may prevent STDs; however, they are not 100% reliable. Most of these can be purchased from a local supermarket or drugstore without a prescription.

Choosing a Birth Control Method

Avoiding sex completely is the only option to completely prevent pregnancy. With other methods, the effectiveness of birth control methods depends on several factors.

Consider the following questions when choosing the right birth control method for you:

  • Is it easy to use?
  • Is a prescription necessary?
  • How effective is it in preventing pregnancy?
  • Can it protect against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)?
  • Are you planning a pregnancy in the future?
  • Are you breastfeeding?

Health Effects of Birth Control Methods

Most of the birth control methods are safe and do not cause side-effects. However, if you are pregnant, previously had cancer, have a history of blood clots, or have certain medical conditions it is best to consult your doctor about selecting the right method for you.

Hormonal Birth Control Methods

The use of hormonal birth control methods cause some side-effects in some women including:

  • Irregular bleeding
  • Tenderness of the breasts
  • Weight gain
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Mood changes

Advantages of Birth Control Methods

Some advantages of the various birth control methods include:

  • Helps to prevent an unwanted pregnancy
  • Allows couples to plan pregnancies
  • Some birth control methods may be used to control heavy menstrual bleeding
  • May prevent menstrual cramps, pelvic disorders, anemia, and some other medical conditions

Free or Low-cost Birth Control Methods

Some family planning clinics provide free birth control and it is usually covered by most medical insurances.

  • ACOG
  • AIUM
  • American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists
  • NYU langone Medical center
  • American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities
  • UpToDate