Methods of Contraception

There are various methods that can be used for contraception. While complete abstinence from sexual activity is the only 100% proven method of birth control, if used correctly these other options offer a high percentage of contraception. Some of the more common methods of contraception are:

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods create a physical barrier between sperm and egg cells so that fertilization cannot occur. The most common forms of barrier contraception are condoms (male and female), diaphragm, cervical cap, and contraceptive sponge. Spermicides, which are a chemical contraceptive that work by killing sperm, can be combined with other barrier methods to help increase protection.

One of the advantages of using a barrier method for contraception is that they generally do not have the side effects that hormonal contraceptives have and most can be obtained without a prescription. For those wishing to prevent pregnancy and protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the condoms (male and female) are really the only ones that can provide this extra protection.

Oral Contraceptives & Prescribed Birth Control Methods

There are a variety of oral contraceptives and other prescribed birth control methods that can be used to help prevent pregnancy. In addition to providing protection against pregnancy they can also help regulate the body's menstrual cycles, relieve heavy menstrual bleeding, pain, and sometimes premenstrual mood problems and bloating.

There are three different kinds of prescribed birth control methods:

Oral Contraceptives

Birth control pills, also called oral contraceptives, come in packs. The most common type has 3 weeks of hormone pills. Some packs have sugar pills for the fourth week, and some do not. During that fourth non-hormone week, you have your menstrual period. After the fourth week (28 days), you start a new pack. There are various kinds of pill packs and brands on the market each providing a variety of symptom relief, length of period (or complete absence of) and side effects. You may find that you like one brand over another and your gynecologist can help you determine which ones work best for you.


The Patch

For those who have trouble remembering to take a pill there is the patch. The birth control patch is a patch that sticks firmly on your skin. You can wear it on your lower abdomen, buttocks, or upper arm. Each patch releases estrogen and progestin through your skin for 7 days. Over a 4-week period, you use one patch each week for 3 weeks, and then no patch for 1 week. During this week, you have your menstrual period.

Vaginal Ring

The vaginal ring is small, flexible, and colorless. It releases a continuous low dose of hormones into the vagina to prevent pregnancy for that month. You insert the vaginal ring yourself and leave it in place for 3 weeks. This gives you continuous birth control for the month. On the first day of the fourth week, you remove the ring and usually have a menstrual period. The exact position of the ring in the vagina is not critical for it to work.

Periodic Abstinence
Periodic Abstinence is also known as fertility awareness, natural family planning, and the rhythm method. This method of birth control involves abstaining from sexual intercourse on the days of a woman's menstrual cycle when she could become pregnant or using a barrier method for birth control on those days.

Because a sperm can live in the female's reproductive tract for up to 7 days and the egg remains fertile for about 24 hours, a woman can get pregnant within a specific window of time -- from 7 days before ovulation to 3 days after. There are various methods to determine when a woman is fertile and are usually based on the menstrual cycle, changes in cervical mucus, or changes in body temperature.

For more in depth information please refer to the Family Planning by Periodic Abstinence Pamphlet

Intrauterine Device
The intrauterine device (IUD) is an object, placed in the uterus, to prevent pregnancy. There are two different kinds of IUD’s available: a copper-containing device which can stay in the body for up to ten years, and a hormone-containing device that releases a progestogen, which can stay in the body for up to five years. Once the device is removed it no longer protects you from pregnancy.

The IUD is more effective than most other forms of birth control, however it does not protect against STD’s. While the IUD is one of the most popular birth controls methods used around the world only 2% of women in the United States use an IUD. The IUD’s on the market today are safe and more effective than those that first came out in the mid 1970s.

The IUD is T-shaped and must be inserted and removed by a your gynecologist. Before inserting the IUD your gynecologist will perform a routine exam, review your medical history, perform a pregnancy test and take a sample of your vagina and cervix to check for infections.

Some women may not be able to use an IUD due to the size of their uterus or a recent abnormal Pap smear. Your gynecologist will be able to determine whether or not you are able to use the IUD. Talk with your gynecologist about the benefits and risks of using the IUD as a method of contraception.