Birth Control (cont.)

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Introduction to birth control types and options

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If a woman is sexually active and fertile (physically able to become pregnant) she needs to ask herself, "Do I want to become pregnant now?" If her answer is "No," she must use a method of birth control (contraception).

If a woman does not want to get pregnant at this point in her life, does she plan to become pregnant in the future? Soon? Much later? Never? Her answers to such questions can determine what birth control method she and her male sexual partner use now and in the future.

Birth control can be described a number of ways. Terms include contraception, pregnancy prevention, fertility control, and family planning. However, no matter what the practice is called, sexually active people can choose from various methods to reduce the possibility of their becoming pregnant. Nevertheless, no method of birth control available today offers perfect protection against sexually transmitted infections in women, and sexually transmitted infections in men (sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs), except abstinence.

About one in two pregnancies in America are unplanned. That is, more than three million of the 6.4 million pregnancies annually are unplanned. Moreover, about two thirds of unplanned pregnancies - two million - are unwanted..

Half of these unplanned pregnancies happen because a couple does not use any birth control, and the remainder occur because the couple uses birth control, but not correctly.

In simple terms, all birth control methods are based on either preventing a man's sperm from reaching and entering a woman's egg (fertilization) or preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the woman's uterus (her womb) and starting to grow.

Birth control methods can be reversible or permanent. Reversible birth control means that the method can be stopped at essentially any time without long-term effects on fertility (the ability to become pregnant). Permanent birth control usually means that the method cannot be undone or reversed, most likely because it involved surgery. Permanent methods include vasectomy for the man or tubal ligation for the woman.

Birth control methods can also be classified according to whether they are a barrier method (for example, a condom) that blocks sperm, a mechanical method (for example, an intrauterine device [IUD]), or a hormonal method (for example, the "pill").

"Natural" methods do not rely on devices or hormones but on observing some aspect of a woman's body physiology in order to prevent fertilization.

Direct responsibility for most of the birth control methods currently available rests with the woman. Health care professional input and advice may sometimes be essential in choosing appropriate birth control. New methods of birth control are being developed and tested all the time. What is appropriate for a couple at one point may change with time and circumstances.

Unfortunately, no birth control method, except abstinence, is considered to be 100% effective. Teaching youth that it is okay to say "no" to sex until they are ready can help when it comes to curbing the numbers of teen pregnancies.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/14/2014

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Birth Control - Types Question: What type of birth control do you use and why?
Birth Control - Preferred Methods Question: If you have used different types of birth control, what is your preferred method? What do you like about it?
Birth Control - Education Question: Many of us learn about birth control in school. How and from whom did you learn about birth control?