Contraception or family planning can be simply defined as a way of keeping a woman`s fertility in check. Contraceptives enable a woman to keep her reproductive health in check by determining when to get pregnant. Contraceptives are divided into five major categories, hormonal, surgical sterilization Intra-uterine devices (IUD`s, barrier methods and the natural method of birth control although it does not use any contraceptive devices or drugs. The three main ones have been discussed below.
They include oral pills, injections, implants and vaginal rings) – they contain synthetic hormones which stops ovaries from releasing eggs each month or by thickening cervical mucus hence sperms cannot pass through. Oral pill comes in two forms combined pill (progesterone and estrogen) and progesterone only pill. The injection can last for two up to five years depending on the plan. It is advisable to visit a doctor for injections, prescriptions and placement of vaginal rings or implants to avoid any complications.
Pros of Hormonal Contraceptives
* They reduce menstrual bleeding and cramping which lowers the risk of anemia
* There are less or no periods at all with some type of pills
* Minimizes the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease
* Reduces the risk for ectopic pregnancy
* Can be used after an abortion
* May reduce risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer
* Can be used after an abortion
* They can be used to prevent pregnancy for longer periods
Cons of Hormonal Contraceptives
* If used during early months of breast feeding, milk may be reduced
* They are cumbersome especially for pills that have to be taken on daily basis
* Patches may be impaired if exposed to direct sunlight or high temperatures, which can lead to pregnancy
* Patches release more estrogen than ordinary birth control pills, this has been attributed to formation of hazardous blood clots in the lungs and legs in some women
* They do not protect against sexually transmitted infections
* Some causes irregular periods such as implants
* Some can be impaired if taken with certain medications
* Implants or progestin only pills are likely to cause diabetes
* Some may impair fertility it may take up to two years for one to get pregnant again after withdrawing from the contraceptives.
They include male & female condoms, diaphragm and cervical cap. As the name suggests, they barricade the sperm from reaching the egg.
Pros of Barrier Methods
* Some can help protect against sexually transmitted infections including HIV
* Can be used during breastfeeding period without any effect
* They have no hormonal additives
* Do not affect the body functioning and fertility is not affected
* Condoms are readily available and affordable
Cons of Barrier Methods
* Some have low efficiency such as female condoms and diaphragm or male condoms which can burst
* Condoms can be used for one sexual act, hence interfere with sexual activity
* Some women may be allergic to latex so not effective for them
This is a permanent method. It includes tubal ligation where a woman`s fallopian tubes are blocked hence the egg cannot reach the uterus for fertilization. Men also can undergo vasectomy whereby the sperm duct are cut and tied hence semen does not contain sperms.
Pros of Surgical Sterilization Methods
* These are extremely effective methods of family planning involving simple and safe operation
* They are permanent and not reversible so once done one have no need to worry about pregnancies
* Intercourse is normal and not affected in any way
* No hormones, creams or foams involved
* Cost effective
* Reduces risk of ovarian cancer by 40 percent
Cons of Surgical Sterilization methods
* The procedure involve a surgery
* It is permanent and irreversible, hence one cannot restore fertility
* Does not protect from STIs and HIV.
I prefer the use of barrier methods particularly the female and male condom. This is because unlike all other methods, they provide protection against HIV aids and other STIs. In addition there is no procedure involved in the use of condoms as a contraceptive. The user can easily use them when in need unlike other methods such as pills that require a routine to be followed or sterilization or hormonal methods that require a visit to the doctor.
Speroff, L. & Darney, P. (2011). A clinical guide for contraception. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.