We explain what birth control methods are, how they are classified, and how they functions. Also, what are its characteristics and risks.
What are the birth control methods?
Birth control methods are the drugs, devices, and behaviors that both men and women can use to prevent pregnancy .
Pregnancy begins with the sexual act, so many birth control methods are applied during the act . On the other hand, some affect the reproductive system , limiting its functioning.
Each birth control method has a different effectiveness , as well as various advantages and disadvantages that are specified in each case.
The most suitable birth control method for each person should be chosen with the advice of a doctor .
It is the most effective form of contraception . Sterilization means that the man or woman is organically incapable of procreation.
It is a surgical intervention that is usually irreversible and includes a different procedure depending on whether the patient is male or female:
- Tubal ligation. It is used to sterilize women and it is a short intervention, of approximately 30 minutes. The fallopian tubes are the tubes that connect the uterus to the ovaries. By cauterizing (sealing) this duct, eggs produced by the ovaries cannot reach the uterus and therefore pregnancy cannot occur.
- Vasectomy. It is used to sterilize men. In a similar way to what happens in the tubal ligation, in this intervention the ducts that transport the sperm produced in the testicles are closed. After the vasectomy, the man can ejaculate, but in his “semen” there are no sperm and, therefore, pregnancy cannot occur.
Intrauterine device (IUD)
It is a small piece of flexible plastic in the shape of a T , which is inserted into the uterus. This procedure cannot be done at home but is done in a health center.
Some types of IUDs do not have hormones but are covered with a layer of copper . As the sperm approaches the uterus, they are repelled by copper . This device can remain in the uterus for up to 12 years without losing effectiveness.
Other IUDs have hormones that prevent the ovulation process or thicken the cervical mucus so that it blocks sperm from coming in contact with the egg.
Subdermal birth control methods are also called “contraceptive implant”, transdermal implant, subcutaneous implant or pellet.
It is a rod only a few centimeters long and a few millimeters in diameter that is inserted into the woman’s arm. This device releases hormones that prevent ovulation (and therefore pregnancy) for up to 4 years.
Although it is also a hormonal birth control method , it is classified separately since it requires minimal surgical intervention.
There are several methods that use the application of hormones in women to prevent pregnancy:
- Pill. It is a drug that is taken daily to prevent ovulation. Its effectiveness exceeds 99%, even if you miss a dose.
- Patch. It is a thin layer of plastic , similar to a protective wound dressing, that adheres to the skin. It must be renewed once a week. The hormones it releases prevent ovulation.
- injections. They are applied once every twelve weeks, during which hormones prevent ovulation.
- vaginal rings They are devices that release hormones and are placed once a month.
All hormonal birth control methods have the advantage of being more than 99% effective when used correctly. However, the more frequent the shot, the more likely it is that the method will not be applied correctly.
On the other hand, hormones cause numerous changes in the body in addition to interacting with various drugs in undesirable ways. Therefore, hormonal birth control methods should always be used under medical supervision.
Barrier birth control methods are those that prevent semen from entering the vagina, placing a physical barrier.
They are usually combined with the use of spermicide, which in many cases is contained in the same product.
- Condom. Also called condoms, they are a cylindrical-shaped layer of latex that covers the penis. It is applied immediately before intercourse begins and is discarded immediately afterwards. It is the only birth control method that also prevents the spread of sexually transmitted diseases .
- Diaphragm. Similar to the condom, it is a hollow cap, but in this case it is inserted into the vagina, blocking the entrance to the uterus, before intercourse. It must remain in place for at least six hours after intercourse. After removal, this device must be washed and can be reused for up to two years.
- Sponge. It is inserted into the vagina up to 24 hours before intercourse and then removed. It is used only once and is discarded and the disadvantage is that its effectiveness decreases significantly (only 80% effective) in women who have already given birth.
They are chemical substances that prevent the movement of sperm and are applied before intercourse.
They can be inserted into the vagina as a suppository, cream or gel , or over barrier methods of contraception (for example, the diaphragm), at least one hour before intercourse.
They have the disadvantage of not being very effective (only 85% effective) when used alone, but they are very effective in combination with a barrier birth control methods.
Interruption of intercourse
Ejaculation outside the vagina is called coitus interruptus and involves withdrawing the penis from the vagina before ejaculating.
This birth control method is not safe (except when combined with a barrier method) since the penis during the entire sexual act secretes substances that may contain sperm.
Avoid fertile days
In a 28-day menstrual cycle, the fertile days are usually from 8 to 19 . If you don’t have intercourse during those days, in theory you shouldn’t get pregnant.
However, it should be noted that not all women have regular menstrual cycles so this method is not appropriate for all women.
The “morning-after pill” is used when a birth control method has been forgotten during intercourse, or when it is suspected that it was not effective (for example, if a condom broke). They are also used in cases of sexual abuse.
It is a drug that must be taken within 120 hours after intercourse , but its effectiveness is greater if it is taken within 24 hours.
Unwanted pregnancies are impossible without sexual activity. Therefore, this birth control method is 100% effective.
However, very few people are able to hold it for long periods, so it is advisable to have another method.
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