Contraception, also known as birth control practice is prevention of pregnancy by preventing conception and implantation. Numerous methods of contraception are in practice and include barrier or hormonal method, withdrawal, natural family planning, abstinence, and sterilization (surgery). Some of these methods are confined for women and others for men and some of the methods are reversible and some are permanent methods.
- Natural family planning method: Natural family planning (NFP) or fertility awareness does not require medication, physical devices, or surgery to prevent pregnancy. This method relies on the woman’s body physiology to know the time of ovulation. This method involves monitoring different body changes such as basal body temperature or cervical mucus variations. The woman then abstains from unprotected sex for approximately 7 to 10 days when she may have ovulated. This is often referred to as the Billings Method of Contraception.
- Barrier methods form a physical barrier to obstruct the sperm from entering a woman’s uterus. The most common barrier method is the male condom.
- Hormonal methods: In this method synthetic hormonal preparations containing oestrogen and progesterone will be taken orally (pills), implanted into body tissue (Implanon), injected under the skin (Depo-Provera), absorbed from a patch on the skin (skin patches), or placed in the vagina (NuvaRing). These methods work by preventing ovaries from releasing an egg for fertilisation. It also thickens the mucus around the cervix, making it difficult for sperm to penetrate and also thins the lining of the womb decreasing its ability to accept a fertilised egg. The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device made of copper or impregnated with progesterone (Mirena IUD) that is inserted into the uterus. It works by thickening the mucus around the cervix and by thinning the womb’s lining, making it difficult to accept a fertilised egg.
- Tubal Ligation or Vasectomy: This method is a permanent solution and is meant for men and women who do not intend to have children in the future. Male sterilisation involves vasectomy, a surgical blocking of the vas deferens, the tubes through which sperm pass into the semen. Female sterilisation involves a tubal ligation, a surgical procedure that blocks the fallopian tubes which carry the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus.
The choice of a particular method of contraceptive also depends on individual’s age, health, frequency of sexual activity, number of sexual partners, future pregnancy, wishes to have children in the future, and certain medical conditions. Therefore always discuss with your doctor about the choice of birth control method.