Does active sex life always come with a fear of unwanted pregnancy? Read on to know the various birth-control measures available to strengthen your family planning initiatives.

How Does Birth Control Work?

AIDS, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, and the stress attached with all of these can drag a perfectly normal person under immense pressure. With the world population doubling every 39 years and with teenagers getting sexually experimental before time, it is high time that the much-propagated sex-education is taken seriously. However, even more necessary is to educate teenagers against unprotected sex. Yes, not only do they deserve to know about their bodies and its natural processes, they also need to know how to avoid the natural hazards of such processes. And not only the teenagers, even young couples who want to restrict their off-springs to 1 or 2 should know about the birth control measures that they can adopt. And birth control doesn’t mean only condoms or pills. It is a wide range of alternatives to choose from depending upon comfort and personal choice. You need not become chaste anymore to avoid pregnancy; a simple awareness can change your life completely.
Birth Control Methods
1. Physical Methods Of Birth Control
Physical methods, as the name suggests, are methods in which the body is physically tampered with, temporarily or permanently, so that the sperm does not reach and mate with the eggs. Some of these methods are also effective at checking the occurrence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). They include both the barrier and hormone methods.
(i) Barrier Methods
These methods provide a physical impediment to the sperms from reaching the ovaries.
(a) Male Condoms
This method completely bars the sperms from making any contact with the vagina. Hence, it is most efficient against STDs. These are thin rubber sheaths that can easily be rolled over erect penis. These contraceptives are single-usage and have a success ratio of 88 – 98%. They are the most common in birth control because they are inexpensive and convenient in terms of availability and usage.
(b) Female Condoms
It is a thin polyurethane sheath that contains two flexible rings. One of them serves as an internal anchor while the other remains outside the vagina after insertion. These single-usage condoms are 88-98% effective but being expensive and bulkier than male condoms, are less popular.
(c) Diaphragm
It is a dome shaped latex rubber device with a spring rim which fits behind the woman's pubic bone and has a firm flexible ring, which helps it press against the vaginal walls. It must be used with spermicides and is inserted into the vagina to cover the area around the cervix. It is 82-94% effective and has minimal STD protection. It is less common because it requires both a prescription and a physician for fitting and once fitted it needs to be refitted in the event of any physical changes like weight-gain or pregnancy. It blocks the sperms from reaching the cervix.
(d) Vaginal Spermicide
These can be foams, jellies, creams, sponges, or films. They contain chemicals that either kill or immobilize sperms. They must be applied at least 15-20 minutes before intercourse. All spermicides have a different way of being put to place. While foams and gels need applicator, films and sponges are manually inserted in the vagina. Spermicides are convenient, easily available and also act as lubricants. Their success rate is 74-94% but they cannot be trusted as the only birth control measure. They do not provide any STD protection and may cause allergies and irritation to some women.
(ii) Hormonal Methods
These methods prevent ovulation from occurring in a female body by altering normal hormonal activities. These include oral contraceptives and certain other injectables which are effective against pregnancies but do not provide any STD protection.
(a) Depo-Provera
This injectable form of progesterone is given every 12 weeks to inhibit ovulation. It alters the uterine lining and thickens the cervical mucus so that the sperm cannot penetrate it. Although being 99.7% effective, it is generally not a preferred form of contraceptive because of its side effects. Long-term irreversible side effects include untimely menopause and impotence while short-term side effects like spotting cannot be reversed for at least 3 months after the injection.
(b) Intrauterine Device (IUD)
An IUD, as the name suggests, is a device, which is inserted into the uterus. It immobilises sperms to prevent fertilisation and is 98-99% effective. An IUD is inserted by a clinician and is replaceable every 10 years. It is a T-shaped device, coated with either fine copper wire or a contraceptive hormone which is left in the uterus. A short string descends through the cervix into the vagina.
(c) Nuva Ring
A Nuva Ring is a flexible transparent ring that is inserted and stays in the vagina for 3 weeks post, which it is removed to allow menstruation. It provides a month-long contraceptive protection. The ring once inside, discharges a low dose of hormones continuously to prevent fertilisation and provides 98-99% protection against pregnancy. The side effects include headaches, weight gains, vaginal infections, and nausea.
(d) Oral Contraception – The Pill
It is the most common birth control measure. The pill inhibits ovulation and alters the uterine lining and/or thickens the cervical mucus so sperm cannot penetrate it. Most packets contain 28 pills of which seven are of different colour and neutral effect. Menstruation usually occurs between 21 – 28 days of the cycle. It is 97-99.5% effective and must be prescribed. It corrects erratic menstrual process, may reduce the risk of breast cancer, and is conveniently available. This contraceptive does not interfere with intercourse but a prior medical check-up is a must.
(e) Emergency Contraceptive – The Morning After Pill
This pill contains high doses of oral hormones, which delay ovulation and interfere with implantation. It can be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse and is 75% effective. Its prolonged or frequent use may render uterine lining unsuitable for implantation. It is ideal for cases of method failure or forced intercourse but generally hazardous to potency.
(f) Sterilization
It is a surgical procedure, which renders a person permanently infertile. It is best suited for couples who have enough children already. For men, it is called Vasectomy and keeps the sperms from being released while ejaculation still occurs. In women, it is called a tubal ligation in which a surgical cutting prevents the egg from the ovaries to the uterus for fertilisation. It is 98-99% effective and does not diminish sex-drives but it is permanent and generally irreversible.
2. Behavioral Methods
These are behavioral alterations, which do not involve the use of any physical or hormonal methods to avoid pregnancies.
(i) Abstinence
Staying away from intercourse is the best birth control under conditions when no other alternative is available. It is 100% effective at both avoiding pregnancies and STD protection. It can be adopted due to various reasons.
(ii) Withdrawal
Withdrawal means interruption of the intercourse by the male partner just before ejaculation so that the sperms do not reach the vagina. It is 81-90% effective at controlling pregnancies but provides no protection from STDs and also diminishes the pleasure of intercourse.

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