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How To Choose A Contraceptive Right For You
There are a lot of contraceptives available today and choosing the right one is quite a difficult task. There are many variables to take into account such as when you’re planning to have children, if at all, if you have any allergies or conditions that could cause unwanted side effects, how often you have sex, how many sexual partners you have and so on.
Many women just go with the most popular choice of birth control pills without even looking into their side effects or not even knowing that there’s a contraceptive that would work much better in their particular circumstances. Therefore it is important to know what kinds of contraceptives exist today and what their advantages and disadvantages are.
If you are not planning on ever having kids in the future the most effective methods of contraception would be vasectomy and female sterilization.
Vasectomy is a surgical procedure which prevents the sperm from being released and mixed up with semen when a man ejaculates. During vasectomy the vas deferens is sealed on each of the testicles, which is the narrow tube that connects the testicles to the urethra through which the sperm flows out during the ejaculation. By doing so the sperm does not mix with the semen but instead is broken down and reabsorbed by the body and hence the female egg can not be fertilized.
This procedure does not notably affect the volume, appearance, smell or any other characteristics of the ejaculation. Most men feel a little sore afterwards. In some rare cases there can be bleeding, pain and high temperature. If you notice these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. You can have sex when you feel like it, which could be as soon as just several hours after the operation, but you should still be using other means of contraception for a while since there could be some left-over sperm in the tubes leading to the penis. You should keep in mind that once you have a vasectomy you are most likely never going to have kids again. There is a procedure that can be done to reverse vasectomy, but its success rate is very low.
Female sterilization is a surgical procedure which involves sealing or cutting the fallopian tubes, connecting ovaries and uterus, hence making it very hard for the eggs to reach the sperm and become fertilized. Although it is extremely hard for the eggs to pass through, it is not completely impossible. The success rate of sterilization is about 99%, so there is still a 1 in 200 chance of getting pregnant. If you do get pregnant the chance of it being an ectopic pregnancy, where the egg is implanted outside the womb, is very high, so it is important to see your doctor right away due to the high risk of such pregnancies being fatal.
Sterilization doesn’t have any long-term health side effects, it does not affect your sex drive or interfere with your hormone levels and periods. You may experience some slight bleeding and pain right after the sterilization is performed, but unless it gets worse there is nothing to be concerned about. You can have sex as soon as it feels comfortable, but you should use other means of contraception until you get your first period to avoid getting pregnant.
The next way of contraception is a birth control pill. It is an oral tablet that contains the synthetic version of two hormones – progesterone and estrogen. At the beginning of a menstrual cycle the levels of estrogen rise, and the uterus starts to get ready for a fertilized egg by thickening its lining called endometrium. About 14 days into the menstrual cycle the estrogen level peaks and the ovulation occurs, which is the release of an egg by one of the ovaries. After ovulation takes place, progesterone level begins to rise, which continues to prepare the uterus for a fertilized egg for about 7 more days.
If the fertilized egg attaches to the endometrium the conception occurs. If it doesn’t occur, the level of both hormones drops, signaling to the thickened endometrium that it can shed and this is how the menstruation begins. The principle on which all birth control pills work is keeping a constant level of estrogen and progesterone in the body. Without the rise of these hormones the ovary does not get signaled to release an egg and hence there is no possibility of getting pregnant.
There are two types of birth control pills based on what hormones they contain and in what amount: progestin-only pills and combination pills.
Progestin-only pills contain no estrogen. This type of pill does three things. First of all, it makes the body think that you are pregnant thus preventing the ovulation. Secondly, it changes your uterus in such a way that if an egg is still released the pregnancy is much less likely to happen. And finally, it thickens the mucus between the uterus and vagina making it hard for the sperm to pass through and reach an egg.
Due to the lack of estrogen, progestin-only pills are perfect for breastfeeding mothers, since estrogen can worsen the quantity and quality of milk, it is also not associated with risks of heart disease or blood clots, therefore this type of pills is usually recommended for women over 35, women who smoke, overweight or have history of high blood pressure. You may have irregular bleeding patterns once you start taking the progestin-only pill. You may also find yourself feeling hungry more often, which goes away once you are off the pill. This type of pill works most efficient if taken at the same time every day, otherwise if you take it later than 3 hours from your usual time an additional contraceptive should be used for the following 48 hours.
The second type of birth control pills, combination pills, are the most commonly used ones, and as their title suggests contain both estrogen and progestin hormones. Combination pills can be monophasic or multiphasic based on whether the level of hormones stays the same or changes during the first 3 weeks of a menstrual cycle. Monophasic pills contain the same amount of progesterone and estrogen in the first 21 pills with either 7 more placebo pills containing no hormones at all to keep the woman in the habit of taking pills every day, or they can come in a 21-day pack without any pills for the remaining 7 days.
During these last 7 days the menstruation takes place. The newest generation of combination pills Yaz 28 and Loestrin 24 Fe come in 24-day packs, which means that there are 24 active pills and the menstruation only lasts 4 days. Also there are pills like Seasonale that contain 84 active pills followed by 1 week of placebo pills, which means that you will get you period every 3 months. Multiphasic pills contain a different amount of progesterone and estrogen in each pill and have to be taken at specific times. These pills were designed to reduce the side effects of monophasic pills and usually tend to have a lower dosage of hormones per each pill pack following a female body’s cycle more accurately.
There are also continuous use pills which come in packs of 28 pills and have to be taken continuously without any breaks, which means that you will not get a regular period, although you still might get some occasional spotting. Among the advantages of combination pills are decreased menstrual blood loss, less severe premenstrual symptoms, more regular menstrual cycles, and reduced risks of ovarian or endometrial cancers. The possible side effects could include nausea, vomiting, headaches, and spotting. In some very rare cases combination pills might lead to hypertension or blood clots.
Statistically the next most effective contraception method is a contraceptive injection. These shots deliver synthetic hormones to your body via an injection, usually into your buttock. The shot keeps you unable to get pregnant for a considerable amount of time ranging from 2 months to a full year. There are currently 3 different types of shots: Depo-Provera, which is the most commonly used progestin-only shot that protects you for 12 weeks, Noristerat, which is also a progestin-only shot that provides protection for 8 weeks, and Lunelle, which contains 2 hormones, progesterone and estrogen, and protects you for 30 days.
The contraceptive shots work the same way as the pills do – they stop you from ovulating, thicken the mucus in your cervix therefore making it very hard for the sperm to pass through, and thin the lining of the uterus making it hard for the egg to attach. The advantage of a contraceptive shot is that once you get it you don’t have to worry about anything for a considerable amount of time, when compared to having to remember to take a pill every day at a certain time. You can also have spontaneous sex without having to worry about getting a condom or inserting something first. Among the most common side effects of contraceptive shots are heavy, prolonged and irregular periods, headaches, weakness, dizziness, considerable weight gain and delayed return of fertility after the term of the shot.
The next contraceptive method is an intrauterine device (IUD). It is a small object inserted through the cervix into your uterus that protects you from getting pregnant for up to 10 years. IUDs are usually inserted during your period when the cervix is slightly open and you are less likely to get pregnant, although it can be done at any time. The procedure takes 5-15 minutes and you might feel slight cramping afterwards. IUD is effective immediately after the insertion. It can be removed at any time, although if removed around the time of your ovulation there is a chance of getting pregnant if you had a recent intercourse. T
here are two types of IUDs – copper-based such as Paragard and hormonal such as Mirena. Both of these types of IUDs work in the same way by interfering with the movement of the sperm and not allowing it to fertilize the egg. The hormonal IUDs also prevent ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus preventing the sperm from entering the uterus by releasing progesterone. If you get a vaginal infection while using an IUD there is a high risk of developing a serious pelvic infection, which can lead to loss of fertility. For this reason IUDs are not recommended to women who have multiple partners since their risk of getting an infection is higher. With time IUD can become embedded in the uterus walls, which does not interfere with its contraceptive function but poses a risk of surgery to remove it or becoming sterile.
If you become pregnant while using IUD you should get it removed since it can cause miscarriage, premature birth or ectopic pregnancy, which is usually fatal. Both copper and hormonal IUDs can lead to longer, heavier and more painful periods, although it is less common with hormonal IUDs. Mirena IUDs can cause ovarian cysts, which typically disappear. The advantage of IUDs is that you can have spontaneous sex, they are long-lasting and reversible at any time, they are effective immediately after being inserted and require no daily attention.
The next contraceptive method is condoms. There are two types of condoms – male and female. Male condoms are much more popular than female ones, although they are equally effective (around 98%). Male condoms are thin sheaths made of latex or polyurethane for those who are allergic to latex, which are placed on the penis once it’s erect to trap the sperm when a man climaxes. The effectiveness of male condoms depends on the person using them.
If the condom is handled gently to prevent ripping and no lubricants that can make holes in latex condoms are used, male condoms are a very safe method of contraception. Female condoms are thin sheaths of polyurethane with one closed end that goes into the top of vagina before intercourse. Since female condoms are made out of polyurethane they are not likely to be damaged by any lubricants or cause allergies. Just like with male condoms, the effectiveness of female condoms depends on the person using them.
Provided that the condom is correctly inserted into vagina and the man doesn’t go outside of it, female condoms are a very effective contraceptive. One of the greatest advantages of condoms is that they protect from sexually transmitted diseases. They are cheap, available without prescription, do not affect fertility and have no side effects that other contraceptives have. Their biggest disadvantage for a lot of people is the fact that putting on a condom can be a mood-breaker or a disruption of spontaneous sex.
Another method of contraception is contraceptive caps. There are two types of them – the diaphragm and the cervical cap. Diaphragm is a thin rubber dome with a flexible rim that is inserted into vagina and sits over the cervix held in place by vaginal muscles. Diaphragms have spermicide that kills sperm thus preventing fertilization. A cervical cap is much smaller. You have to put it directly onto the cervix to provide a barrier to the sperm. It is used with spermicidal creams that kill the sperm. Cervical caps are not used as often as diaphragms, they are usually used by women who can’t keep a diaphragm in due to their vagina’s unusual shape.
Both diaphragms and cervical caps should be left in place for 8 hours after intercourse. They both are prescription only and should be fitted by a doctor. If your weight fluctuates more than 10 pounds they should be refitted. The advantage of diaphragms and cervical caps is that you can still have somewhat spontaneous sex, you just have to make sure to insert the diaphragm 2 hours before or even earlier for a cervical cap. If sex doesn’t happen it is safe to keep the diaphragm or cervical cap in for up to 30 hours. If you use the diaphragm while you are on your period there is usually no sign of it and you can still keep having sex as usual.
Diaphragms and cervical caps are easy to carry around, they do not affect your menstrual cycle or fertility. The disadvantage of contraceptive caps is they do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, they have to be fitted by a doctor and might require to be refitted, some women can have allergic reactions to rubber. Diaphragms may increase the risk of bladder infections. Women who have toxic shock syndrome should use a different type of contraception.
Now that you know about all the available options, next time you plan on having sex make sure to choose the contraceptive that best suits your situation instead of using the one that all your friends use or the one that’s most advertised on television. Pick the contraceptive specific to your needs and enjoy your sex life to the fullest without having to worry about your protection!
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