Birth control is a spectrum of techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or interrupt pregnancy. Birth control also allows planning the timing of pregnancy. Today there are many safe and effective birth control methods available. Everyone is free to choose the method according to his or her needs. Choosing a method is a highly individual thing and something that is perfect for one person may not work for another. Figuring out which method will be the best involves an honest overview of one’s needs and desires. For example, a person may wish not only to avoid pregnancy but also other sexually transmitted diseases. A person should also discuss possible methods with the partner and consider the risk of allergic reactions or side effects associated with certain methods.
Abstinence is the only 100% effective birth control method. It is defined as a voluntary restraint from sexual activities or any genital contact. It is often hard to abstain from sex and therefore, sexual abstinence is the least practiced birth control method.
Natural family planning
Natural family planning is a method approved by the Roman Catholic Church, which excludes the use of birth control methods other than limiting sexual intercourse to naturally infertile periods: certain days of the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy or after menopause. If a couple goes for this method, a woman will need to chart her periods and monitor changes in the vaginal mucus and basal temperature.
Withdrawal method, also known as the pull out method or coitus interruptus, is a technique in which a man withdraws his penis from a woman prior to ejaculation during the intercourse. Out of every 100 women whose partners use withdrawal, four will become pregnant each year if they always do it correctly.
Sterilization is a surgical procedure that leaves a male or female unable to reproduce. Common sterilization methods include vasectomy in males and tubal ligation in females. Vasectomy involves the cutting and closing of the tubes which connect the testicles to the prostate. Tubal ligation is closing of the fallopian tubes, which would normally allow the sperm to fertilize the ovum.
Hormonal methods include various medications taken by mouth for the purpose of birth control. The most commonly used oral contraceptive pills are the combined oral contraceptive pill and the progestogen only pill, known as the mini pill.
Vaginal ring is also a hormonal method of birth control, actually a drug delivery device designed to provide controlled release of drugs to the vagina over extended periods of time. Intrauterine device works the same way, releasing a low dose of hormones and copper to thicken the cervical mucus.
Barrier methods rely on creating a physical barrier for sperm, so that it cannot enter the uterus and fertilize an egg. The most popular barrier methods are male and female condoms, diaphragm and spermicides. Spermicides eradicate the sperm prior to the intercourse and thus prevent pregnancy. The diaphragm is a cervical barrier made of latex or silicone that creates a seal against the walls of the vagina.