Don't want to worry about getting pregnant? Have you and your partner decided you don't want to have any more kids? Are you done for good or are you just done for now? There are lots of different birth control options out there besides taking the pill and using condoms. And you don't necessarily have to have your tubes tied or get a vasectomy if you're done having kids for good. Read on to learn more about several different contraception methods to find out which one(s) might be right for you and your partner.
19 Birth Control Pill
Birth control pills, or oral contraceptives, are taken once a day to prevent pregnancy. The pills contain hormones that work to keep conception from occurring. The hormones will prevent ovulation which means no egg is released from the ovaries. No egg, no pregnancy. The hormones in birth control pills can also make cervical mucus thicker, which makes it harder for sperm to get to the egg.
Birth control pills are very effective but it is important to remember to take one every day, at the same time. The effectiveness of the pill can be lowered if you miss or forget a pill, take a pill late, are taking other medications, or are overweight.
Birth control pills are also pretty safe but you should talk to your doctor if you smoke, have a risk of blood clots or high blood pressure, or other conditions that could increase the risks associated with using oral contraceptives.
Some birth control pills can lighten your menstrual flow and ease discomfort from cramps and PMS. There are some pills available that keep your period away for several months at a time. Some women experience unwanted symptoms when starting the pill, like nausea, irregular bleeding, or lowered libido. It's important to find a pill that works for you, so talk to your doctor about the many different options available.
18 Male Birth Control Pill
When it comes to male birth control, for years, condoms or getting a vasectomy were the only options. Thankfully, times are changing and researchers believe a male birth control pill may be available in a few years.
Coming up with an effective form of male birth control is a little more complicated than women's birth control methods. For a woman, you need to be able to stop ovulation. For a man, you need to lower the sperm count to the point where pregnancy is impossible but you also need to make sure that, like other forms of contraception, it's temporary or reversible.
In addition to oral medications that reduce or stop sperm production or stop sperm from swimming, tests are being done on gels that men can rub onto their skin to lower their sperm production. Vasalgel is a gel that is injected into the vas deferens (the tube that sperm swim through, that is cut during a vasectomy) to block sperm. The gel injection is also reversible; it can later be flushed out of the vas deferens and male fertility will resume.
There are many different kinds of condoms made out of many different materials, like latex, plastic, or lambskin. They can prevent pregnancy and also protect you from STDs, that is, except for lambskin condoms. Because these are a natural material, they are porous, and don't provide protection from infection.
Condoms can be coated with lube to prevent pain and irritation during sex and to keep the condom from breaking. Some condoms are coated with a spermicidal lubricant which goes a step further in preventing pregnancy. If you're going to add extra lube, make sure it's water based; some oil-based lubricants can damage the condom and lower its effectiveness.
Condoms come in different sizes, textures, colors, and even flavors. (Although, beware of some funky-colored or novelty condoms; these aren't really approved for preventing pregnancy or protecting against STDs.)
If you're using condoms, make sure your partner uses a new one if it gets dry, slips off, or breaks. Make sure he rolls on a new condom every time you have sex or if he loses his erection. Using condoms correctly makes them very effective.
16 Female Condom
A female condom is a pouch that is inserted into the vagina. It has two flexible rings on each end; the ring with the closed end holds the pouch inside your vagina and the other ring stays outside the vaginal opening. Just like the male condom, the female condom collects semen and keeps sperm from entering the vagina.
In addition to preventing pregnancy, the female condom can also help prevent sexually transmitted infections. Some women claim they increase pleasure and that inserting them can even be part of foreplay. They can also be inserted up to eight hours in advance of sexual intercourse so you don't have to interrupt the heat of the moment.
An IUD (intrauterine device) is a small, T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus by a doctor to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. Some IUDs contain hormones that prevent an egg from implanting in the uterus. The hormonal IUD may lighten menstrual flow. It needs to be replaced every 3-5 years.
Other IUDs are made of copper. They work by releasing copper ions into the uterus and cervical fluids and killing sperm. The copper version may cause heavier bleeding and cramping. The copper IUD needs to be replaced every 10 years.
Both IUDs are highly effective at preventing conception and are believed to start working immediately, although depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle when the IUD is inserted, it may take up to seven days for full protection against pregnancy. Once the IUD is removed, the woman quickly becomes fertile again.
Is the sponge worthy of being your form of birth control? (You've seen Seinfeld, right? Get it?) The sponge is a small piece of foam that contains spermicide. It's inserted into the vagina before having sex and prevents pregnancy by covering the cervix so that sperm can't get past it. The spermicide in the sponge also keeps sperm from swimming.
Some women may have trouble using the sponge if they are allergic to the material it is made out of or the spermicide contained in it. Some women also complain about having difficulty inserting or removing the sponge.
The good news about the sponge is that it's available without a prescription and can be picked up at a drugstore. It can be inserted well in advance of sexual intercourse and is usually not felt by your partner. It doesn't contain any hormones so it is safe to be used if you are breastfeeding.
A diaphragm is a small, shallow, reusable cup that is inserted into the vagina. It covers the cervix and keeps sperm from swimming into your uterus. Diaphragms need to be used in conjunction with spermicide to be fully effective. A diaphragm can be inserted right before sex or a few hours beforehand. Whenever it goes in, though, it needs to stay put for at least six hours after you have sex.
Some women complain of difficulty inserting and removing the diaphragm but it's kind of like using and removing a tampon. You can ask your doctor about an inserter if you need help in that department. Some diaphragms are one-size-fits-all; for others, you may need to be fitted.
12 Cervical Cap
The cervical cap is very similar to the diaphragm. It's inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix and is used with spermicide to stop sperm from swimming. It doesn't contain any hormones and it can't be felt by you or your partner. It can be inserted up to six hours in advance of intercourse, and left in place for up to 48 hours at a time. After sex, the cervical cap should be left in place for eight hours.
Just like some diaphragms, you will probably need to be fitted for a cervical cap.
Some women have trouble inserting and removing the cervical cap. Depending on the size or your partner or the movements during sex, the cervical cap can be shifted out of place.
Many forms of oral contraceptives have three weeks of "active" pills and then a week of "inactive" pills. When you take the inactive pills, you end up getting your period. This is basically the same concept behind the birth control patch but instead of taking the hormones orally, they are absorbed through the patch you wear on your skin.
Because the patch works a lot like the pill, there are many of the same advantages: lighter periods, less severe PMS and cramps, relief from acne. It can also cause some of the same disadvantages of the pill, like nausea and irregular bleeding.
The patch is worn on the back, your upper arm, your stomach, or your butt. You change it on the same day of the week as when you first applied it. (If you first apply it on Monday, you'll take it off and put a new patch on Monday.) Just like the pill, the patch is more effective if you remember to change it at the same time on the same day.
The birth control ring works a lot like the pill or the patch. It's a small, bendable ring that is inserted into the vagina. It's left in place for three weeks, and then you take it out on the fourth week. The ring releases hormones that halt ovulation and thicken cervical mucus to keep sperm from swimming.
If you're not great at remembering to take a pill every day, the ring might be a good choice for you. You only have to put one in once a month. If you're comfortable with inserting and removing a tampon, the ring really isn't much different.
Once you remove the ring, you'll probably get your period. You can also get pregnant pretty quickly after you stop using the ring, so if you don't want to get pregnant, consider using a backup method of protection.
Rather than taking hormones orally in a birth control pill, contraceptive injections gradually release a hormone into the bloodstream. Some are given every eight weeks, some are given every 12 weeks. Much like the pill, contraceptive injections work by stopping ovulation so that no egg is released. The injections also thicken cervical mucus so that sperm can't swim, and thins the lining of the uterus so that an egg can't be implanted.
If remembering to take a pill every day isn't your thing, contraceptive injections may be the birth control method for you. You only have to go to the doctor's office for your shot (in your butt, thigh, or abdomen) every two or three months. On the other hand, because the hormones are released slowly, this form of birth control is long-lasting. You won't become fertile again until the injection wears off completely.
Like the pill, injections can also help with PMS symptoms and heavy menstrual bleeding. However, some women may experience irregular bleeding when they first start the injections.
The contraceptive implant is a thin, matchstick-like rod containing progestin that is inserted just under the skin of the non-dominant arm. Progestin stops the ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens cervical mucus to block sperm. Having the implant inserted doesn't require an incision and takes just a minute. You can't see it but it can be felt under the skin. Once inserted, the implant can remain in your arm for up to three years.
The implant is highly effective in preventing pregnancy. The best part is that once it's in, it's done. You don't have to consider contraception for another three years. Side effects of the implant are emotional changes, changes in appetite, weight gain, irregular bleeding or lack of a period altogether. It also does not protect against STDs.
7 Rhythm Method
The rhythm method is also known as the calendar method and is a form of natural family planning. By tracking your menstrual history, you can identify the days you are most likely to ovulate. If you're trying to conceive, this method can help you get pregnant. If you're looking to avoid pregnancy, it can help you there, too! (Although, it can't protect you from any STDs.)
If you're trying to avoid getting pregnant, you can't have unprotected sex during your most fertile days. You will need to use some sort of barrier method of birth control or avoid having sex altogether.
Some women also pay attention to other signs and signals from their body to determine if they are in the fertile window of their menstrual cycle. For example, you can check your cervical mucus or your body temperature. There are also lots of fertility apps on the market to help you track your menstrual cycles, predict your fertile window, and pinpoint ovulation.
You do have to be very careful, though. If you have irregular menstrual cycles, this method might not be the best for you. Medications, illnesses, stress, and other factors can also throw off your menstrual cycle.
6 Pulling Out
If there's no sperm present to fertilize an egg, you can't get pregnant. If you don't want to use contraception, and you're comfortable with the fact that there's still a slight risk of pregnancy, you and your partner can rely on the pull out or withdrawal method.
Men who use the pull out method must be able to know when they about to reach the point of no return when ejaculation can no longer be stopped or postponed. If your partner can't accurately predict when this moment will happen, the withdrawal method will not be as effective. Even if a man pulls out in time, pregnancy can still happen. The pull out method doesn't prevent the transmission of STDs, either.
Spermicides are chemical contraceptives that come in the form of jelly, foam, cream, or suppositories. Spermicide kills sperm before they make it into the uterus. Spermicides by themselves aren't a 100% reliable form of protection against pregnancy and should be used with another barrier method of protection, such as a condom, diaphragm, or cervical cap.
Different spermicides are inexpensive and can be found in drugstores; a prescription is not required to obtain them. They do not contain hormones and do not have any long-term effects on the male or female reproductive systems. They also do not provide any protection against STDs.
In a way, breastfeeding is sometimes thought of as an all-natural form of birth control. The hormones that are released during milk production are the same hormones that suppress the release of an egg, thus causing many nursing moms to notice a delay in the return of their periods after childbirth.
This delay is known as lactational amenorrhea, and it can be very effective in preventing pregnancy. However, to keep your anti-ovulation hormones up, you have to breastfeed frequently, and this includes overnight. It also helps to avoid giving your baby bottles and pacifiers, and to delay starting solid foods.
Some nursing women can go more than a year before getting a period again; however, as baby nurses less (due to eating more solid foods or sleeping longer stretches at night), a woman's fertility may soon return.
3 Tubal Ligation
Tubal ligation is surgery that is done to close off the woman's fallopian tubes; it's also known as getting your tubes tied. It's a permanent form of birth control that closes or cuts off the fallopian tubes to prevent pregnancy. The eggs can't travel through the fallopian tubes to the uterus; sperm can't travel to the egg.
Tubal ligation can be done after a vaginal birth or right after a c-section. It can also be performed as an outpatient procedure. The doctor will make a small incision or two to insert a laparoscope and the necessary surgical instruments. If you had a c-section, the doctor can use that same incision. The doctor will cauterize, clip, or clamp off sections of the tubes to seal them shut.
Surgical attempts to reverse or repair the tubal ligation can be done but they don't always work.
If you and your partner are absolutely sure that you don't want to have children, a vasectomy is a permanent form of male birth control. In a vasectomy, the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm from the testicles and allows it to mix in with semen before ejaculation, is surgically cut or clamped shut. This blocks sperm from being released during ejaculation. The body will still produce sperm but it won't be released and will eventually just be reabsorbed into the body. There are several different methods of performing a vasectomy.
It can take a few months for all of the sperm in the body to be ejaculated or reabsorbed, so your partner will need to revisit the doctor to have his sperm count tested to make sure that it's at zero. Otherwise, there's still a chance that you could get pregnant.
A vasectomy shouldn't affect your partner's sex drive, ability to achieve an erection, or reach orgasm.
Essure is a non-surgical method of permanent female sterilization. No incisions are required. No hormones are used. A doctor inserts flexible coils through the vagina and cervix and into the fallopian tubes. After a few months, tissue grows on and around the coils. The tissue growth eventually creates a barrier that blocks sperm from reaching eggs and prevents conception.
The FDA has reported some adverse reactions to Essure. Some patients have complained of persistent pain, abnormal or irregular bleeding, and allergic reactions. Some women end up having the device surgically removed. In some cases, the device has resulted in unintended pregnancy.