Sexually active individuals who do not wish to start a family have numerous choices when it comes to preventing pregnancy. Contraception gives women the ability to control when they want to have children. From condoms and spermicides to intrauterine devices and pills, there are many different ways of preventing pregnancy. Each option comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.
All contraception methods fall into one of two categories: barrier or hormonal. Here is a look at what sets these two methods apart and some of the benefits and drawbacks of each category.
Barrier Contraception Methods
As the name implies, barrier methods work by stopping sperm from physically entering your uterus and impregnating you. These methods do not use drugs or hormones to stop pregnancy from occurring. They are based on a simple premise: if sperm do not reach an egg, they cannot fertilize it and lead to pregnancy.
The most recognizable example of a barrier contraception method is a condom. These are usually made from a very thin piece of latex and are designed to stop semen from coming into contact with a woman’s reproductive tract.
When condoms are used correctly every time a couple has sex, they are considered 98 percent effective. However, there is a small possibility that they could slip off or break during sexual activity, in which case you could be at risk of a sexually transmitted infection or pregnancy.
Female condoms are also available. These are worn inside the vagina and work in the same way as male condoms, stopping semen from entering the vagina.
Diaphragms, or cervical caps, are another type of barrier contraception. These circular domes are made of silicone and inserted into the vagina prior to having sex. They cover the cervix, blocking sperm from entering. However, their reliability is not as effective as that of condoms; when used correctly and in conjunction with spermicide, they have an efficacy rate of 92 to 96 percent.
Hormonal contraception uses hormones to stop ovulation from occurring, which is another way of preventing pregnancy. There are many different types of hormonal birth control available.
The birth control pill is the best-known type of hormonal contraception. It is taken orally and contains artificial versions of female hormones that work to stop the release of an egg from occurring so sperm cannot fertilize it. It is more than 99 percent effective when taken correctly, but it is important to remember to take it each day at the same time. Some types of medication and illnesses with vomiting or diarrhea may make it less effective, however, and it has a low risk of serious side effects like blood clots.
Another popular hormonal form of birth control is a hormonal intrauterine device, or IUD. These T-shaped devices are inserted by a doctor into your uterus. They remain there and release a small amount of the hormone progestin into the body for a period of several years. This makes cervical mucus thicker, which means sperm can’t get through to an egg, and also stops eggs from leaving the ovaries in the first place so they cannot be fertilized. This prevents pregnancy and can sometimes reduce bleeding during periods as well.
Hormonal IUDs are easily reversible and do not affect fertility. There also a nonhormonal copper IUD option.
Other forms of hormonal contraception include skin patches and implants. The birth control patch is worn on the body and typically needs to be changed weekly. It delivers the hormones estrogen and progestin to the body to prevent pregnancy. This method is not suitable for women who have a body mass index of 30 or higher, however, due to the risk of blood clots.
The implant, meanwhile, is a small rod containing the hormone progestin that is inserted under the skin, usually in the upper arm, and can offer protection from pregnancy for around three years. It may cause irregular or unpredictable bleeding but is a highly effective method of birth control.
Preventing the Spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections
One of the most important differences between barrier methods of birth control and hormonal options is the fact that hormonal contraceptives do not offer any degree of protection from sexually transmitted infections.
Male condoms are the only form of contraception that can stop the transmission of sexually transmitted infections as they provide a barrier not only to semen but also to pathogens. However, this does not mean that those who wish to avoid STIs must choose condoms for contraception as well; you can use a dependable hormonal birth control method like the pill or implant to avoid pregnancy in conjunction with condoms when you are concerned about the risk of STIs.
Contact the Women’s Health-care Professionals
To learn more about the different types of birth control available and find a solution that meets your needs, get in touch with Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness today to schedule an appointment.