If you’re sexually active, you need to take precautions to protect your health and, unless you’re attempting to conceive, to prevent pregnancy. Here are five methods of contraception.
1. Birth Control Pills
Hormonal contraception is typically taken in the form of combined hormonal pills or progestin-only pills. Different options work differently. Some prevent ovulation and others thicken cervical mucus and thin the lining of the uterus to make it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg and for eggs to attach to the womb. One of the most common types of emergency contraception also comes in pill form. There are a couple of brands, but a well-known term for them is “morning-after pills.” These pills can be taken up five days after unprotected sex or sex during which an external contraception method was ineffective, such as when a condom breaks.
There are two sterilization options available: tubal ligation, or female sterilization, and vasectomy, or male sterilization. Tubal ligation seals the fallopian tools, permanently preventing the possibility of conception. This is an invasive surgical procedure, doesn’t protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and is irreversible. A vasectomy seals the vas deferens, preventing sperm from leaving the testes. It also doesn’t prevent STI transmission, but is a less-invasive procedure and, in some cases, may be reversible.
Condoms are thin sleeves or coverings that can be slipped over penises to catch semen and keep sperm from entering the vagina. They are effective, non-invasive and non-medical birth control tools that are also highly effective at preventing the transmission of STIs. You don’t need a prescription to purchase or use condoms and they’re available in most grocery stores and pharmacies. They are also made from a variety of materials, including latex, plastic and in some cases, animal membranes. If you or your partner have a latex allergy, you should still be able to find a brand of condoms that works for you.
4. Fertility Awareness
Another non-medical, non-invasive method of birth control is fertility awareness. Fertility awareness methods, also called FAMs, the rhythm method and natural family planning, involve tracking the menstrual cycle so you can figure out what dates you’re ovulating, or most fertile, each month. FAMs are most effective when used in conjunction with another method of birth control, such as condoms.
You can find a couple of different options for contraceptive implants, including hormone rods inserted under the skin of your upper arm and T-shaped intrauterine devices (IUDs) inserted into the uterus. IUDs may be made of copper or contain hormones. Both options are nearly 100% effective and can be removed. However, they must be implanted by a qualified doctor and replaced after a period of time, typically three years or so. Like condoms and FAMs, implants do not protect against STIs.
There are many contraception options, of which these are only a few. You may try several different methods before finding one that works for you, or use multiple methods concurrently to cover all your bases. Discuss your options with your doctor before making any decisions.