Pregnancy occurs when a man's sperm reaches a woman’s egg. A woman’s ovaries usually produce an egg every month. After a man ejaculates, the semen that is released contains millions of sperm; only one is needed to fertilize a woman’s egg to begin a pregnancy. Contraception or Birth control tries to prevent pregnancy by: 1) keeping the egg and sperm apart, 2) by stopping egg production, or 3) by stopping the combined sperm and egg (fertilized egg) from attaching to the lining of the uterus.
According to the WHO, “a woman’s ability to choose if and when to become pregnant has a direct impact on her health and well-being”. The WHO has also acknowledged many advantages to contraception; some include:
Some of the more common methods of contraception are described below.
*Remember, no matter what contraceptive you choose, you still need to use a condom to protect you from Sexually Transmitted Infections.
These contraceptives can last from 3 to 10 years. There are two long-acting, reversible methods available, the IUD and the Implant. Because these methods are ‘Reversible’, a woman can become pregnant once she stops using them. These methods also do not interrupt sex.
A) Intrauterine Device (IUD)
There are 2 different types of IUDs available.
1) The Copper T Intrauterine Device (IUD) is a small, flexible, plastic that is shaped in the form of a “T”; it has copper wire wrapped around it.” It is placed inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy (fertilization), and can stay in for up to 10 years.
2) The Levonorgestrel Intrauterine System (LNG IUD) is also a small, plastic, T-shaped device that is placed inside the uterus. It releases a small amount of progesterone hormone each day to prevent ovulation. The LNG IUD stays in your uterus for up to 5 years.
The implant is made up of small, plastic rods about the size of a matchstick. The rods are put under the skin in the inside of the arm and they slowly release a hormone called progesterone, which prevents ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary). They work for up to 5 years.
Permanent contraception, also called sterilization, prevents all future pregnancies. It is very difficult or impossible to reverse. (You must be sure that you do not want any more children before choosing sterilization as a form of birth control!)
C) Female sterilization
Female Sterilization also called Tubal ligation or “tying tubes” is an operation to permanently prevent pregnancy. The Fallopian tubes are blocked or sealed to prevent the eggs from reaching the sperm and becoming fertilized. The procedure can be done in a hospital or in an outpatient surgical center.
Male sterilization or Vasectomy is a form of Permanent contraception for men who will not want more children. It involves an operation to keep a man’s sperm from going to his penis, so his ejaculate never has any sperm in it that can fertilize an egg.
REGULAR ROUTINE METHODS
These contraceptive methods need to be remembered between once a day and once every 3 months. All of them are reversible, do not interrupt sex, and are methods that contain hormones.
E) The Pill
There are two types of pills available. The Combined Oral Pill (COP) contains the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The Progesterone-only Pill (The POP or Mini Pill) only contains progesterone.
A doctor usually prescribes these pills. The hormones inside them block pregnancy by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg every month (ovulation). A pill is taken at the same time each day for 21 days, and then afterward there is a seven-day break when no pill is taken. During that week you would have a “period-type” bleed, and then you start taking the pill again after those seven days. (Some pills come in “every-day packs”; these packages have 28 pills. There are 21 active pills and seven inactive/dummy pills in a pack; one pill is taken each day without any break.)
F) The Patch
The contraceptive patch is a small sticky patch that releases hormones into the body through the skin to prevent pregnancy. This skin patch is worn on the lower abdomen, buttocks, or upper arms. It releases the hormones progesterone and estrogen into the bloodstream, and blocks pregnancy by preventing the release of an egg from the ovary. A new patch is placed once a week for three weeks. During the fourth week, a patch is not worn, so you can have a menstrual period.
G) Hormonal Vaginal Contraceptive Ring
The vaginal ring is a small, soft, plastic ring that you place inside your vagina. It releases a continuous dose of the hormones estrogen and progesterone (or progesterone only) into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy. The hormones prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. The ring is worn for 3 weeks, (every day and night), and is taken out for the week you have your period, and then you put in a new ring after 7 days.
The contraceptive injection steadily releases hormones, which prevents the release of an egg each month (ovulation). There are two types, monthly injectables contain two hormones, (estrogen and progesterone) and are given once per month. There are also Progestin-only injectables (contain only progesterone) and are given every 3 months (eg. Depo-Provera).
SINGLE USE METHODS
These methods have to be used every single time that you have sex. They are hormone free, inexpensive and are widely available. However they may interrupt sex and are not as effective as the previous methods.
Spermicides are sperm-killing substances inserted deep in the vagina, near the cervix, before sex. They work by causing the membrane of sperm cells to break, killing them or slowing their movement; this keeps sperm from meeting an egg. They are available in several forms (foam, gel, cream, film, suppository, or tablet). They are placed in the vagina no more than one hour before intercourse. You leave them in place at least six to eight hours after intercourse.
A diaphragm is a soft latex cup that covers the cervix (plastic and silicone diaphragms may also be available). The rim contains a firm, flexible spring that keeps the diaphragm in place. It is usually used with spermicidal cream or foam to improve effectiveness. Most diaphragms come in different sizes and require fitting by a specifically trained provider.
K) Male Condoms
Male condoms are Sheaths, or coverings, that fit over a man’s erect penis. They work by forming a barrier that keeps sperm out of the vagina, preventing pregnancy. Condoms keep infections in semen, on the penis, or in the vagina from infecting the other partner. Condoms can only be used once. They can also be used with water-based lubricants.
L) Female condom
The female condom is a sheath or lining that fit loosely inside a woman’s vagina; it is made of thin, transparent, soft film. It has flexible rings at both ends. One ring at the closed end helps to insert the condom; the ring at the open end holds part of the condom outside the vagina. They work by forming a barrier that keeps sperm out of the vagina, preventing pregnancy. It can be inserted up to eight hours before sexual intercourse.
Anyone can use contraception! A woman can use birth control even if:
Injections are best given into the hip, the upper arm, the buttocks, or the front of the thigh.
Contraceptive injections, (like many other forms of birth control that use hormones):
(Cannot get lost in the woman’s body)
I hope these tips on CONTRACEPTION were helpful; Remember, your health is invaluable.
By Dr. J. Lawarna Matthew
World Health Organization Contraception Guidelines
National Health services
Visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/what-is-contraception/ for more information