Do you want to enjoy sex without the fear of conception or pregnancy? Are you looking for a short-term reversible solution? Then you should know about barrier methods and hormonal contraceptives. Many a times, women, men and couples are faced with the dilemma of what type of family planning method to choose. The most popular short-term, reversible birth control methods are hormonal contraceptives and barrier methods. Before you decide which one to choose, you should understand how each method works – in terms of the underlying principles, effectiveness, cost, user-friendliness, need for a doctor’s prescription, protection from sexually transmitted infections, whether you would be a suitable candidate for the method in terms of health, etc.
How conception takes place?
Men have sperms that are produced in the testes in millions each day. It is a continuous process that begins at puberty and extends up to the end of their fertile age. Meanwhile, women have ovaries that produce eggs or ovum in monthly cycles under the influence of hormones, namely estrogen, and progesterone, from puberty till menopause. During intercourse, the sperms travel up the female genital tract, and if it meets an ovum, it gets fused with it. This is known as fertilization. This fertilized ovum then gets implanted on the wall of the uterus and develops into a fetus.
Why do you need contraception?
You may be a couple, or a single person, whose goal is to avoid unintended or unwanted pregnancy. It can be for spacing births as part of family planning efforts, or to avoid getting pregnant while living in with your partner. So, contraception helps you enjoy your sex life without the worry of getting pregnant.
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This birth control method revolves around the concept of preventing the sperm from contacting the egg. There are various options in this – male condoms, female condoms, diaphragm, and cervical cap.
These are made up of latex rubber. It has to be worn properly on an erect penis before insertion and care have to be taken to avoid slipping, rupture, etc. After sex, the condom is carefully removed and disposed of without spilling the semen collected inside it.
The various salient features of male condoms are as follows:
- Economical option
- Easy to procure
- Can be used by any male
- Does not require a doctor’s prescription to buy
- Short-term and reversible method of birth control
- Effectiveness is high
- No side effects
- Easy to dispose
- Offers protection against sexually transmitted infections
There are reported cases of latex allergy. Consequently, alternatives to latex condoms are available, such as polyurethane condoms. The condom works best when used with a lubricant. It can be water-based or non-water based, depending on the material of the condom. There are also flavored condoms to counter the smell of the latex.
The female condom works under the same principle but has its own drawbacks. Unlike male condoms that can be worn easily, it is not so easy to use. The cost is very high compared to the male condom.
In this method, the diaphragm smeared with a spermicide acts as a barrier in the vagina. It prevents the entry of sperms into the uterus. The features of a Diaphragm include:
- It has to be worn six hours (minimum) before the actual act of sex and has to be removed within 24 hours for cleaning
- It can be reused
- It provides no protection against sexually transmitted infections
- It causes infection of the urinary bladder called cystitis
This is similar to diaphragm but is thimble-shaped and smaller in size. It is coated with a spermicide and placed on the cervix. It has to be removed within 48 hours of intercourse and can be reused. It has no effects on cystitis.
This method targets the hormonal cycle of the woman. During the monthly cycles, the ovum is released on the day of ovulation, with the thickening of the uterine lining and thinning of the cervical mucus. The hormones estrogen/progesterone or progesterone causes these physiological changes;
- Delaying ovulation thereby disrupting the normal cycle
- Thickening the cervical mucus, making it tough for sperms to navigate
- Thinning the lining of the uterus, which makes the implantation of the fertilized ovum difficult
The salient features of hormonal contraceptives are:
- Requires a medical checkup and consultation with your physician before starting
- Has to be taken regularly without missing a dose
- In the case of progesterone only pill, the pill has to be taken at the same time every day
- Has side effects
- Requires lot of commitment from the woman
- Is highly effective
- The user should have fair knowledge of this method
- Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections
Now that you know the essentials of barrier methods and hormonal contraceptives, it is up to you to choose a method of contraception after weighing the pros and cons of each method. It is best to decide what your goal is and then opt for the appropriate method of family planning.