Birth Control - What is it?

Birth Control - What is it?


Birth control comes in many different forms, and it is intended to prevent pregnancy. Today several different types of birth control can be used by both men and women. While some require a prescription, others can be purchased over-the-counter at pharmacies, grocery stores, and mass merchandisers. Because birth control is so widely available, it prevents many unplanned pregnancies.

Methods of Birth Control

The most common methods of birth control include barrier methods such as male or female condoms, spermicides, intrauterine devices, prescription birth control pills, patches, vaginal rings, or injections, and surgical sterilization. Each form of contraceptive has its advantages and disadvantages, and as a result, different methods are appropriate for different couples. Except for barrier methods like condoms, most types of birth control do not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Birth Control Pills

Hormonal birth control is often the simplest and most effective. It may come in the form of pills, patches, injections, vaginal rings, or implants. Pills need to be taken every day, while patches and rings last for about a month. Birth control injections require a visit to the doctor every three months, and hormonal implants prevent pregnancy for three years. For some women, these methods provide additional benefits including decreased acne, more regular menstruation, and reduced premenstrual symptoms like cramps and mood swings.

Non-Prescription Birth Control

Barrier methods are some of the most common forms of birth control because many do not require a prescription or a visit to the doctor. These products include condoms, films, caps, and foams that are designed to prevent sperm from reaching the uterus. When appropriately used, barrier methods of birth control can be very effective. However, they are often misused and can lead to unplanned pregnancies.

IUD Birth Control

Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are small devices that are placed in the uterus by a doctor to prevent pregnancy. Some are made of copper while others release hormones. These devices can prevent pregnancy for five to ten years, but in some women, they can cause some unwanted side effects. They are recommended for women who have already had children, so they are not appropriate for everyone.

Permanent Birth Control

Permanent surgical sterilization is also an option for men and women who are sure they do not want to have children. These methods are often used by couples who have already had children and do not want to continue expanding their family. Vasectomies and tubal ligations are the most common methods of permanent sterilization. Both procedures are now relatively simple, and complications are rare. Because they are designed to be permanent, these options should only be considered by those who are sure they do not want to have any more children. While reversal procedures are available, they are not always effective.

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