What is Birth Control?
Birth control, also known as contraception, is used to prevent pregnancy. Any device, practice, or substance taken to prevent pregnancy from occurring in any way is a birth control method. Birth Control methods fall into three main categories: Hormonal (those that use hormones to prevent pregnancy), Non- Hormonal (those that do not use hormones to prevent pregnancy), and Natural methods. There are several different methods of birth control, so if you are sexually active or thinking of becoming sexually active and want to prevent pregnancy from occurring, you have a lot of options. Sometimes the amount of different methods can be overwhelming, but speaking with a trusted health professional and doing your own research should help you figure out what methods you’d like to try. Sometimes it can take a few tries to find the right method for you, so it’s important to work with a health professional and be honest about how you feel about the birth control method. This overview will help you be better prepared to speak with a health professional about what birth control methods you’d like to try.
Hormonal Birth Control methods regulate the change in hormones during a female’s monthly cycle to prevent ovulation and thicken cervical mucus to make it an uninhabitable environment for sperm. This is done through a combination of different synthetic hormones that mimic estrogen and progesterone that are naturally produced and control the menstrual cycle. Many of these methods require a visit to a health professional or pharmacy, but the visit is typically fairly short, depending on the method. Common hormonal methods include:
- Contraceptive Patch
- Depo Provera
- Oral Contraceptives
- Some Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
Non- Hormonal Methods
Non- Hormonal methods of birth control work to create a barrier between the sperm and the egg or to immobilize sperm so they can’t swim through the vagina and reach the egg. Many of these methods can be purchased over the counter and can be used in conjunction with a Hormonal method of contraception to help increase the chance of preventing pregnancy. For example, a female can have an IUD inserted and still use condoms, either internal or external, to prevent pregnancy. Common non- hormonal methods include:
- Cervical Cap
- Internal (Female) Condom
- External (Male) Condom
- Some Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
Natural methods of birth control do not involve any medications or devices to prevent pregnancy but rather rely on behavioral practices and familiarity with the menstrual cycle. These include withdrawal (“pulling out”), abstinence, and fertility awareness-based methods where you refrain from sexual activity during the ovulation window. While these methods are free and easy to hide, menstrual cycles can be unpredictable and it can be hard to stop ejaculation, so it would probably be best to use another form of birth control if you’re planning on having sex.
How to Pick a Birth Control Method
You should work with a health professional to decide what methods of birth control may be right for you and your sex life. Below are several helpful questions to consider when picking a method.
- How easy is it to use and store? Can it be hidden?
- Does it protect me from STIs?
- How often do I need to replace or take it?
- How much does it cost? Is it easy to get?
- Does it eliminate or reduce my period? Are there any health benefits?