About Different Types of Birth Control

By Jill Leviticus

  • Overview

    About Different Types of Birth Control
    If the timing isn't right for you to have a baby, choosing an effective birth control method is a crucial decision. Birth control methods range from simple barrier methods to natural methods to hormonal pills and patches. Sterilization is also an option if you are finished having children or are sure that you don't want to ever be pregnant. With so many choices available, you will want to carefully consider your options and choose the method that works the best for your lifestyle.
  • Common Methods

    There are three types of artificial birth control methods available in the United States: hormonal methods, barrier methods and sterilization. Barrier methods work by preventing sperm from reaching an egg. If sperm are unable to reach the egg, fertilization cannot occur. Diaphragms, condoms, cervical caps and sponges are common barrier methods. Hormonal birth control methods prevent pregnancy by inducing a consistent hormone level in the body using the hormones progesterone and estrogen. The ovaries typically release eggs when there is a peak in estrogen levels. Hormonal birth control methods prevent that peak, which means that the ovaries don't release eggs. Hormonal methods include birth control pills and patches, injections, the Norplant implant and the Nuva Ring. Some intrauterine devices (IUDs) may also contain hormones, but the IUD works primarily by changing the lining of the uterus and fallopian tubes. Sterilization methods prevent pregnancy from occurring permanently. Vasectomy is the sterilization procedure used for men. This method involves cutting and sealing the vas deferens, the tubes in the testicles that pass sperm into the semen. Without sperm, pregnancy cannot occur. Tubal ligation is used to permanently prevent pregnancy in women. During this surgical procedure, the fallopian tubes that carry the eggs from the ovaries are cut and sealed. When the tubes are sealed, eggs cannot reach the uterus and sperm cannot reach the eggs, preventing pregnancy.
  • Natural Family Planning

    Natural family planning is a method of preventing conception that does not rely upon medication or devices. Instead, women track changes in their bodies indicating that ovulation has occurred and avoiding having sex during these times. Tracking these changes can be accomplished by taking the basal body temperature, checking changes in cervical mucus, combining both methods into the symptothermal method, or charting the menstrual cycle on a calendar. Because a woman's cycle can sometimes be unpredictable, using natural family planning might not be a good choice if it is very important to you to avoid pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, approximately 25 percent of women using natural family planning methods become pregnant while using this method.


  • Features

    Doctors recommend that you combine birth control pills or other nonbarrier methods with condoms. Condoms are the only means of birth control that provide some protection from acquiring AIDS and another sexually transmitted diseases. If you find it difficult to remember to take a pill or use birth control every day, you may find that the more long-term birth control methods are right for you. Norplant implants work for five years, Depo Provera shots last three months and the Nuva Ring is effective for one month.
  • Benefits

    Birth control puts you in charge of when you will start or add to your family. When used correctly, most artificial means of birth control are over 95 percent effective, depending on the method. Hormonal methods have certain added benefits, such as reducing the length of your period, decreasing premenstrual syndrome, reducing the chance of developing endometriosis, and reducing the risk of uterine and ovarian cancers.
  • Warning

    Hormonal birth control methods, while highly effective, are not the right choice for everyone. If you have had cancer, blood clots, strokes, liver disease, heart attacks or unexplained vaginal bleeding, your doctor will recommend that you use another form of birth control. If you are over 35 and smoke, you shouldn't take the pill because of the increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
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