Sexual development is something every adolescent has to go through. Understanding and valuing safe sexual health is crucial at this stage in their lives. To help young people make healthy choices regarding their sexuality, parents and teenagers alike should know the details and differences among birth control methods available today.
Here’s everything you need to know about birth control:
What Is Birth Control?
Birth control is a term used to refer to any method of pregnancy prevention. Also known as contraception, it may involve the use of particular devices, medicines, or even surgery.
Most methods of birth control are reversible, while one or two are considered permanent. Some birth control methods may be better suited to your situation than others – be sure to consult a trusted adolescent-medicine specialist about which type of contraception is right for you or your loved one.
Here are the different types of birth control:
Natural Family Planning
In this method, sexual partners time their unprotected sex in order to avoid pregnancy. You can achieve this by monitoring your ovulation, which is when an egg is released from the ovary before moving down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. Natural family planning (NFP) involves abstaining from unprotected sex in the days before and during your ovulation. NFP involves tracking your menstrual cycle and the condition of your cervical mucus to help predict ovulation. However, note that the reliability of this method can vary dramatically, depending on the accuracy of your prediction.
Barrier birth control methods involve stopping sperm from entering the uterus or gaining access to an egg. Barrier methods must be used each time you have sex to be effective – and even then, improper usage can result in pregnancy. Here are some barrier method examples:
Condoms are made of thin material placed over the penis or inside the vagina. They are usually made of latex or polyurethane. An added benefit of using condoms is protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Diaphragms or cervical cups are inserted inside the vagina. This dome-shaped cup helps to keep sperm out of the cervix, the part of the uterus closest to the vaginal canal. It is used with spermicide to kill sperm.
Like the diaphragm, this small sponge covers the cervix. It also contains spermicide to kill sperm.
Spermicides contain chemicals that kill sperm upon contact. It is placed in the vagina before sexual intercourse and can come in different forms, including:
You use spermicides with a diaphragm, contraceptive sponge, or similar devices.
Hormonal Medication and Devices
These types of birth control methods use hormones to safely stop ovulation or create changes that prevent sperm from reaching or fertilizing an egg. There are two main groups of these methods:
Short-Acting Hormonal Methods
You must use short-acting hormonal methods daily, weekly, or monthly to be effective. Examples include birth control pills, the vaginal ring, contraceptive patches, and injections.
Birth control pills are the most commonly used type of birth control. They must be taken orally once a day at around the same time each day.
A vaginal ring is a thin, flexible material inserted into the vagina. It releases hormones that suppress ovulation for three weeks before needing replacement.
Contraceptive patches release hormones into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy, similar to vaginal rings. Replace them weekly.
Contraceptive injections are administered by your doctor or healthcare provider every few months, typically. The injections are usually given at the hip, buttocks, or arm.
Long-Acting Hormonal Methods
Unlike short-acting methods, these types of birth control can last for years after administration or insertion. Examples include copper and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs) and contraceptive implants.
A copper IUD is an IUD wrapped in copper and without any hormones. It works by steering sperm away from and preventing it from reaching the egg. These devices can last from 3 to 10 years before needing replacement.
Hormonal IUDs release a small number of hormones into the body to thicken the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg. They can last up to 5 years before needing replacement.
Contraceptive implants are thin, flexible rod-shaped devices that release hormones that can prevent pregnancy for up to 3 years. It is placed under the skin of the upper arm and can be removed at any time.
These birth control methods are permanent and available for men (vasectomy) and women (tubal ligation). They involve surgically altering the male and female reproductive systems to prevent sperm or eggs from traveling to their intended targets.
How Effective Is Birth Control?
For the most part, birth control only works when you use it as directed. Whichever method you choose, make sure to apply or take it consistently and follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.
Doctors recommend using at least two birth control methods for the best results. An example of this is using condoms and birth control pills. Should the condoms fail, the hormones from the pills can still prevent pregnancies. This specific 1-2 punch can help prevent STIs as well as unintended pregnancy.
Contraception Near You in Purchase, NY
It can be overwhelming to learn about birth control, especially if you don’t know where to begin. Our adolescent-medicine specialists provide a fully confidential environment here at BridgeSpan Medicine. You can learn and ask questions regarding contraception without fear of judgment.