People choose to use birth control for many reasons; however, preventing an unwanted pregnancy tops the list. Several types of birth control---prescription and over-the-counter---exist to help consumers make educated decisions about family planning. In addition to pregnancy prevention, some consumers choose birth control to help ease or eliminate menstruation or even to help with acne.
In the past, women relied on lactational amenorrhea---breastfeeding---to help space babies. However, with lowered exclusive breastfeeding rates, birth control may become a necessity for helping some families avoid an unwanted pregnancy. According to the Population Reference Bureau's 2003 World Population Data Sheet, the current global growth rate is 1.3 percent. Based on this, the bureau expects the world's population to double in 53.8 years.
Birth control may come in prescription and non-prescription forms. According to Planned Parenthood, the most effective forms of birth control are a vasectomy, female sterilization, intrauterine device or an implant. Planned Parenthood also says the least effective form of birth control is withdrawal after ejaculation or spermicide. Non-prescription methods, such as condoms, aren't as effective.
According to Planned Parenthood, those who undergo a vasectomy, female sterilization or use an IUD or implant will experience less than one pregnancy per 100 users. Those practicing lactational amenorrhea or using the pill, ring or patch will experience two to eight pregnancies per 100 users. Birth control offers a higher rate of pregnancy prevention than simple withdrawal, which can result in 30 pregnancies per 100 users.
In addition to preventing unwanted pregnancies, birth control may offer other health benefits for its users. For women who experience acne during menstruation, birth control pills may help reduce this by slowing down overactive oil glands in the skin. In addition, some birth control pills are designed to reduce or eliminate the frequency of menstruation. Lybrel, the first birth control pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration to eliminate menstruation, gives its users hormonal birth control with no placebo for 365 days a year.
As with any pharmaceutical, birth control does have risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, extended use of birth control may increase the risk of some cancers, such as cervical and liver cancers; however, it may reduce the risk of endometrial and uterine cancers. In addition, birth control pills aren't recommending for women over the age of 35 who smoke, as they may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.