Birth Control is a practice which involves methods or devices to prevent pregnancy. It enables couples to determine whether and when to have children. There are different types of contraceptive methods which allow individuals to choose from depending on their age, health, and lifestyle.

Five main types of contraception

1. Barrier Methods
2. Hormonal Methods
3. Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC)
4. Emergency Contraception
5. Sterilization

Barrier Methods

These are designed to prevent the sperm from entering the uterus. It is a better alternative for those who want to avoid hormonal methods of contraception. There are different barrier methods like male condoms, female condoms, spermicides, diaphragms, cervical caps and so on.

Male Condoms

• A thin sheath made of latex or polyurethane that covers the penis to collect the semen
• Disposed of after a single use
• Can reduce the risk of transmitting STDs

Female Condoms

• Thin and flexible plastic pouches
• The condom is inserted into the vagina before intercourse
• Disposed of after a single use
• Can reduce the risk of transmitting STDs

Spermicides

• Can kill sperm cells
• Used as it is, or in combination with a diaphragm or cervical cap
• Available in different concentration and forms – cream, gel, foam, suppository, and film
• Should be inserted into the vagina not more than 30 minutes before sex and left in place 6 to 8 hours after sex to prevent pregnancy
• Does not prevent the transmission of STDs and may cause allergic reactions or vaginitis

Diaphragms

• Cup made of soft rubber or latex that is inserted into the vagina before sex
• Spermicidal cream or gel should be used along with the diaphragm
• It should remain in place for 6 to 8 hours after sex to prevent pregnancy

Hormonal Methods

• Use hormones to stop or regulate ovulation to avoid pregnancy
• Hormones are introduced through various methods like pills, injections and skin patches
• There are two types of pills – COC (Combined oral contraceptive pill) and POP (Progesterone-only contraceptive pill)
• A woman takes only one pill each day, preferably at the same time
• A contraceptive patch is a thin, plastic patch that sticks to the skin and releases hormones through the skin into the bloodstream
• It is placed on the buttocks, lower abdomen, upper body, or outer arm
• A new patch is applied once in seven days for three weeks; no patch is used during the fourth week to enable menstruation
• The Depo Provera injection is another type of hormonal contraception which is administered on the arm or buttocks once every three months
• While using injectable birth control one should eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D or take vitamin supplements since it can cause temporary loss of bone density

Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC)

• Contraception can remain in place and function effectively for many years at a time
• There are two kinds of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception – IUDs and Implants
• An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy
• A health care provider can remove the IUD when the woman no longer needs contraception or after it has crossed the recommended length of time
• A hormonal IUD releases progestin which causes thickening of the cervical mucus and inhibits the sperm from reaching the egg
• A copper IUD prevents sperm from reaching the egg; if the fertilization does occur, the presence of the device prevents the fertilized egg from attaching in the womb
• An Implant is a matchstick-sized, flexible and plastic rod which is surgically inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm
• The implant releases progestin and can remain in the body for up to 5 years

Emergency Contraception

• Can be used after unprotected sex or if the condom ruptures
• A copper IUD can be inserted within 120 hours of unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy
• Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) should be taken as soon as possible and should not be consumed like a regular contraceptive method
• If ECPs are taken before ovulation, the pills can delay or inhibit the ovulation to allow the sperm to become inactive
• However, pregnancy may occur if the pills are taken after ovulation

Sterilization

• It usually involves surgery and cannot be reversed
Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure carried out in females, in which a doctor ties, cuts or seals the fallopian tubes – the egg cannot reach the uterus, and the sperm cannot reach the egg
Vasectomy is a surgical procedure carried out in males that closes, blocks or cuts the vas deferens – blocks the path between the testes and the urethra, and the sperm cannot leave the testes

Except for sexual abstinence, no method of birth control is 100% effective. Different forms of contraception have different side effects and risk profiles. An open discussion with your health care provider can help you weigh the benefits and risks before you consider choosing a birth control method. The ability to make these choices is fundamental to healthy families and communities worldwide.

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