Birth Control Options

by April Reinhardt
(last updated September 5, 2008)

When a fertile woman is sexually active, there is always the chance of becoming pregnant. If a woman and her male sexual partner determine that they do not want to conceive a child, then they can chose from myriad birth control options to prevent pregnancy. There are two basic methods of birth control—physical and behavioral. Within each method, there are many options from which to choose.

Physical birth control options include barrier, hormonal, intrauterine, and sterilization:

  • Barrier options are spermicidal foam, film, and gel; condom, diaphragm, sponge, and cervical cap. These options inhibit the sperm and egg from joining, physically block the two and preventing conception.
  • Hormonal contraceptives control hormonal exposure to the body and are taken orally, injected into the body, absorbed through the skin, or placed into the vagina. Examples of hormonal birth control are birth control pills, implants, injections, patches, and the vaginal ring.
  • Intrauterine devices are small, T-shaped pieces of equipment inserted through the vagina, resting at the base of the cervix. These devices emit copper into and around the uterus, with the copper acting as a spermicide.
  • A permanent birth control option is sterilization—tubal ligation in women and vasectomy in men. Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure blocking a woman's Fallopian tubes so that an egg cannot travel down the tube to join with sperm. Likewise, a surgical vasectomy blocks sperm from leaving the penis by cutting the man's sperm duct and blocking the ends of the duct.

Behavioral birth control options include fertility planning, coitus interruptus, abstinence, and lactational infertility:

  • Fertility planning is a means of preventing pregnancy whereby sexual partners abstain from having sex during the woman's fertile period. A couple can chart a woman's cycle when she is most likely to become pregnant, and avoid sex during that time.
  • Also known as the withdrawal method, coitus interruptus involves precise timing. The man must withdraw his penis from the vagina before ejaculation, preventing the sperm from entering the vagina.
  • Abstinence is the only 100% effective means of birth control. No sexual activity with a partner means that no sperm will fertilize an egg, so a pregnancy won't occur.
  • Lactational infertility occurs naturally in breastfeeding women having just given birth, and before their normal menstrual cycle returns. During that time, a woman is considered infertile since ovulation doesn't occur.

Active sexual partners wishing to prevent pregnancy should use some form of contraception. The only 100% effective form of birth control is abstinence from sex. Choosing methods of birth control to fit your lifestyle, after exploring options and discussing them with your doctor and sexual partner, will help you form a solid family planning plan.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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