When it comes to birth control options, many couples feel overwhelmed or frustrated. But taking some time to research can help assure that you’ll choose the type of birth control that will work best for you, and which is usually the most effective. Remember, what worked great for your friends may not be the best choice for you.
Here are some of the common birth control options available, and some ideas and explanations as to each.
Physical barriers act like a wall to prevent sperm cells from entering the uterus. Common options include the diaphragm and the condom. The diaphragm is worn inside the woman’s vagina near the cervix, and she must be properly fitted for a diaphragm by her physician. Condoms are a bit less complicated; they are easy to obtain and use.
These chemicals are also intended to create a barrier, but a chemical one rather than a physical one. As the name implies, spermicides kill or render sperm ineffective. Nonoxynol-9 is the chemical most commonly used in spermicides. Experts generally recommend combining spermicide use with other forms of birth control, and they tend to be less effective when used alone.
Hormone Birth Control
Interestingly, hormone-based birth control is only available for women at this point. There are several methods for delivering these hormones into the woman’s blood stream. The hormones are intended to prevent ovulation (the release of an egg cell), and then the hormones are stopped once a month so the woman can have her menstrual period. Hormone birth control commonly comes in the following forms:
* NuvaRing – This silver-dollar-sized ring sits near the cervix, delivering hormones slowly for about three weeks. Then it’s removed and the woman menstruates.
* Pills – “The pill” is well known; the pills are taken daily for three weeks or so and then stopped to allow menstruation. Then the next pack of pills is begun.
* Shot – A shot is available for women who want to prevent pregnancy without daily pills. Depo-Provera is the shot currently being used, and one shot is said to prevent pregnancy for three months.
* Patch – This is another hormone-delivery system – a patch is placed on the woman’s skin where it gradually delivers hormones that prevent ovulation. Like birth control pills, the patch may prevent pregnancy by thinning the uterine lining and preventing a fertilized egg from attaching.
Natural Family Planning (NFP)
NFP does not involve chemicals or hormones, but some couples employ barrier methods during ovulation. The way NFP works is that the couple abstains from sexual intercourse (or “unprotected” sexual intercourse) during the woman’s fertile days of the month. She determines what days she is fertile by using charts and taking her temperature daily (body temperature increases slightly during ovulation).
For those who wish to use a permanent method of birth control, surgery is an option. A woman may get her “tubes tied” (cutting the fallopian tubes so an egg cell cannot travel from the ovary to the uterus) or a man may get a vasectomy (severing the tubes that supply sperm to the seminal fluid).
Make sure you thoroughly discuss your options with your partner and healthcare provider.