Birth Control and Contraceptives
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How to Protect Yourself and Your Partner
Birth Control refers to any activity, medication or item used to prevent pregnancy. Birth control methods work in different ways to prevent pregnancy, including:
- Creating a barrier that blocks sperm from reaching the egg
- Killing sperm
- Preventing eggs from being released by the ovaries
- Changing the cervical mucus to hinder sperm from moving into the uterus
- Altering the tissue lining the uterus so that a fertilized egg cannot implant
While some contraceptives can help reduce the likelihood of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), the only true way to protect against STDs is to abstain from any type of sexual activity, including oral, vaginal and anal sex.
Types of Birth Control
There are many types of birth control available for women who do not wish to become pregnant. You should always talk to your health provider and your partner to help you decide which method is best for you.
Methods that Do Not Require a Prescription
Abstinence: Not having sexual intercourse.
Spermicides: Foams or creams placed inside of the vagina to kill sperm
Male Condom: A thin tube made of latex or natural materials placed over the penis used to collect sperm. Latex condoms may provide some protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
Female Condom: A liner made of latex or natural materials placed inside the vagina to block sperm from entering.
Natural Family Planning (Rhythm Method): Timing intercourse to avoid "fertile" days using various methods of monitoring body temperature, watching for changes in cervical mucus (hinders sperm from moving into the uterus), and the use of ovulation prediction kits.
Methods that Require a Prescription
Oral Contraceptives (birth control pills): Medication taken daily to prevent ovulation by controlling hormone secretion.
Mini-pill: The mini pill only includes one hormone, progestin, taken daily to thicken the cervical mucus and prevent the sperm from reaching the egg.
Implant: A tiny capsule containing the synthetic hormone etonogestrel, implanted under the skin of the upper arm, preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg for up to three years. Learn more about implantable birth control.
Injection (depo): A progesterone-like drug given by injection to prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. Injections must be repeated every three months.
Patch: A skin patch worn on the body that releases the hormones into the bloodstream.
Diaphragm or Cervical Cap: A dome-shaped rubber cup inserted prior to intercourse through the vagina to cover the cervix.
Hormonal Vaginal Contraceptive Ring: A ring used to release hormones placed in the uterus through the cervix.
Intrauterine Device (IUD): A device placed in the uterus through the cervix by a health care provider, It works by thickens the cervical mucus to make it difficult for sperm to enter the cervix or by preventing the fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus. Also known as Long-Active Reversible Contraceptives (LARC). IUDs containing hormones must be replaced every five years, while copper IUDs can last up to 10 years.
Morning After Pill (Plan B): used as emergency contraception after unprotected sex. Most often not needed for women using LARC.
Birth Control for Teens and Young Adults
Many forms of birth control, including condoms, birth control pills, the patch and the vaginal ring, only work if they are used correctly. If a sexually active teenager is too busy or distracted to use these contraceptives as directed, they are at risk for pregnancy.
Consequently, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine and other international organizations now recommend that long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) methods, including intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants, be offered as “first line” contraceptive options for adolescents.
Teens and young adults (15-24) also show low continuation rates of using traditional birth control methods after one year. Only 11 percent continued using the patch after the first year, 12 perecent continued depo shots, 29 percent continued using a contraceptive ring and 33 percent stayed the pill. However, LARC methods showed a 75% continuation rate after one year.