What are contraceptive options? / Contraceptive options Definition Contraceptive options comprise of the different ways for men and women to prevent or keep away from pregnancy. There are various kinds of contraceptive options that one can choose from depending on their subjective requirements. One can, hence, decide which method to go with after learning more about the various contraceptive options in India also, like the ones available in the other medically advanced western countries. However, there are many factors that should be considered by the woman and/or the man when they are choosing such contraceptive methods for themselves. These factors include safety, availability, effectivity, and the acceptability of the birth control method.
Different Contraceptive Options:
When choosing a contraceptive option, one should also keep dual protection from the risk of STDs like HIV in mind also. There are birth control options that are highly effective at preventing pregnancy but cannot protect a person against STDs. IUDs and hormonal contraceptives come under such a category of contraceptives. Let’s talk about the different methods of contraception that are there:
- Reversible Birth Control Methods:
- Intrauterine Contraceptives:
1) Copper T IUD (Intrauterine device): This is a small device that is shaped like the alphabet “T”. It is placed inside the uterus of a woman by a competent doctor in order to prevent the chances of one getting pregnant. The failure rate of Copper T is 0.8%
2) LNG IUD (Levonorgestrel intrauterine device): This LNG IUD is a small T-shaped device like the Copper T (IUD). Same as the Copper T, it is placed inside the uterus by a competent doctor. It works by releasing a small amount of Progestin every day which keeps you away from pregnancy. This can stay inside the uterus for 3 to 6 years, depending on the device used.
The failure rate of LNG IUD is 0.1- 0.4%
- Hormonal contraceptive options:
- Implants: An implant includes the insertion of a thin, single rod under the skin of the upper arm in a woman. This rod consists of progestin hormone that gets released into the woman’s body for over 3 years. The failure rate of implants is 0.1%
- Injections: Women also get shots of the progestin hormone in their arms or the buttocks every three months administered by a competent doctor. The failure rate of injections is 4%
- Oral Combined contraceptives: These oral contraceptive options are also called the “pills”. These contain a mixture of the hormones estrogen and progestin prescribed by the doctor. A pill is taken at the exact time every day. If a woman is older than 35 years and smokes or has a history of blood clots or breast cancer then, their doctor may recommend these in such cases. The failure rate of these is 7%
- Progestin pills: Unlike the combined pill, progestin pills contain only the progestin hormone and, that is also a reason why these are called the “progestin-only pills ”. These are also known as mini-pills as they contain only one hormone. These are also to be taken at the same time every day by an individual. It is a very good contraceptive option for women who cannot take estrogen (women who are prone to getting endometriosis, breast cancer, etc.) The typical rate of failure for these is 7%.
- Patches: This refers to the use of patches that are worn on different body parts like the lower abdomen, buttocks, or upper body by the women. These patches release progestin and estrogen hormones in the bloodstream causing a hormonal imbalance and hence reducing the chances of pregnancy. One patch is effective for almost 3 weeks. During the fourth week, one is suggested to avoid using the patch as it is the time for the menstrual period. The typical rate of failure is 7%
- Hormonal Vaginal Rings: in this method, vaginal rings are inserted into the vagina that releases the progestin and estrogen hormones. This ring also is worn for three weeks and then taken out for the week when one is supposed to have her menstrual period. After this, a new ring is worn. The typical rate of failure is 7%.
- Barrier Methods: These barrier methods are placed inside the vagina in order to cover the entire cervix region so as to block the entry of the sperm.
- Cervical cap: It is also known as the diaphragm. It is a shallow cup shaped like a shallow cup. The cervical cap is a thimble-shaped cup. Before sexual intercourse, spermicides are inserted in order to block or kill the sperm. You should, however, visit your doctor for getting a diaphragm that fits you properly because diaphragm and cervical caps come in different sizes. The typical rate of failure is 17%.
- Sponge: These contraceptive sponges contain spermicides and are placed inside the vagina. A sponge gets fitted over the vagina where it blocks the entry of the sperms. These sponges work for as long as 24 hours and these should be left for at least 6 hours after the last intercourse/ sexual activity, after which these are removed and discarded. The typical rate of failure is 14% for women who have never been pregnant and 27% for women who have been pregnant in the past.
- Male Condoms: These are coverings (also called protection) worn by men in order to keep the sperms from getting into the woman’s body and hence, are able to prevent pregnancy. Latex condoms prevent pregnancy but may not provide protection against STDs including HIV. The typical rate of failure is 13%. Condoms can, however, be used only once. You can buy condoms along with KY jellies or even water-based lubricants at your local pharmacist store. Do not use lubricants that are oil-based like oils, lotions, or petroleum jellies with latex condoms as they will weaken the effects of the condoms causing a break or tear in the condom.
- Female Condoms: These are the coverings (protection) worn by women in order to keep the sperm from entering the woman’s body. It is packed with lubricant and is available at your local drug stores. It can be inserted into the vagina even up to 8 hours before sexual intercourse. The typical rate of failure is 21% and it can also help in preventing any STD infections.
- Spermicides: These work by killing the sperms and these come in various forms- spermicidal gels, creams, films, suppositories, or tablets. They are placed in the vagina no longer than an hour before the intercourse. You can leave them in place for at least six to eight hours after the sexual intercourse. You can use a spermicide in addition to a male condom, or a cervical cap as these increase the effectiveness of the birth controls/ contraceptives. The typical rate of failure for these is 21%.
- Methods based on Fertility Awareness: Understanding your monthly fertility pattern can be helpful in order for you to plan a pregnancy or to prevent or avoid it. A fertility plan refers to the number of days when you are fertile in a month, days when you are not, and days when there are very unlikely possibilities of you getting pregnant. If you do not wish to get pregnant then either you avoid sex during such days or you use barriers like condoms on such days. Failure rates are found to be varying across these methods. The typical range of failure is between 2 to 23 %.
- Lactational Amenorrhea: For women who have either recently had a baby or for ones lactating (breastfeeding). There are three conditions that should be met which are: Amenorrhea (stands for the absence of menstrual periods after parturition i.e., delivery), or when they are breastfeeding i.e., less than 6 months after the delivery. It is a temporary method for birth control and another method of birth control should be used with it. This comes under the category of contraceptive options after delivery (i.e., contraceptive options after the birth of the child).
- Emergency contraceptives: They should not be mistaken for a regular Or routine method of birth control. It can only be used when one has forgotten to use any birth control method or contraceptive while having sexual intercourse or in case birth control, for example, a condom gets broken during intercourse. Women can take emergency contraceptives up to 5 days after such unprotected intercourse. One should, however, remember that the sooner these pills are taken, the better is their efficiency. Many of these emergency contraceptives are easily available at your local pharmacy.
- Irreversible Birth Control Methods: These methods include the permanent methods of birth control as these can’t be reversed once they are done. One should hence, give a proper and long thought before going for these methods. Although, these are the most efficient methods for birth control. These include:
- Vasectomy: This refers to the operation where male sterilization is done in which the tube which is responsible for the traveling of the semen in the testis is cut and tied to prevent the man’s sperm from going to his penis which is responsible for further ejaculation. This is among the ultimate contraceptive options for males as this stops ejaculation and hence, no egg can be fertilized now. This is an outpatient procedure as the man can go to his place the same day after the procedure has been performed. Recovery time is also less than 7 days i.e., a week. The man then has to only visit his doctor in order to get a sperm count and to make sure it has now dropped to zero which takes about 12 weeks. The typical rate of failure is only 0.15%.
- Tubectomy: This refers to the female sterilization procedure where the fallopian tubes (tubes through which the egg travels) are cut and tied so that no fertilization i.e., meeting of egg with sperm takes place. This is among the ultimate contraceptive options for females as this procedure is similar to vasectomy but here, the female reproductive pathway is blocked. This is also an outpatient procedure as a woman who has undergone this procedure can go to her place the same day and can resume her normal activities just within a few days. This is also a very effective method with a typical failure rate of 0.5%.
Benefits of Contraceptive options:
As we all know now, birth control methods can help us in avoiding pregnancy. But, there are other advantages associated with using birth control methods like contraceptive pills. You may be shocked to know that 14% of the people who use contraceptive pills, use them for other reasons. 50% of other people use these pills for other reasons also, along with the aim to prevent pregnancy. The various advantages associated with these birth control methods are:
- Regular periods: Birth control methods like contraceptive pills help in making your periods regular and hence, even them out so you know the exact timeline when they are really coming. Traditional birth control pills have the hormones progestin and which are very similar to the ones produced by your ovaries. You take the hormone-containing active pills for 3 weeks and then in the fourth week you take the inactive pills. In this fourth week, you have your periods. There are various options that you can use which really help you in controlling your periods in the best working way for you. There are some products that have 24 active and 4 inactive pills also and hence, can make your cycle of a really short duration. This means that you’ll only 4 periods in a year.
- Helps with cramps, PMS, and Anaemia: Taking birth control pills can help you by lowering your risk of heavy menstrual lowering the chances of ovulation, and thinning the uterus lining. Your periods being lighter protect you from getting deficiencies like iron i.e., Anaemia. Due to your periods being lighter, your periods are also less painful and hence, not difficult. If you are having PMS then also, these pills help in reducing the associated symptoms like mood swings, bloating, tender breasts, etc.
- Endometriosis: These pills also help with conditions like endometriosis in which the uterus lining grows outside. Endometriosis can cause painful periods and cramps. Birth control pills directly can’t cure endometriosis but definitely help with the pain.
- Clear skin and less unwanted hair: Birth control pills can help in improving acne and in getting rid of any unwanted hair in the body midline as these can help in reducing the levels of the male hormones produced by your ovaries. An increased level of this male hormone can cause hair growth above your lips, under the chin, between the breasts, down the inner thigh region, etc. You can notice the unwanted hair getting reduced significantly by the sixth month itself. Pills are also considered to be among the great contraceptive options for PCOS patients.
Fewer chances of cancers: Using birth control methods like the pills can lower your risk of developing cancers also, as studies have found 30 to 50 % lowered chances of cancers in women using birth control pills. This benefit can even last after many years of stopping the use of such pills.
There is a time for everything in life. One should, hence, not be compelled to take any decisions in life. Especially, if the decisions are crucial ones like getting or having a pregnancy. If you are someone who does not wish to get pregnant anytime soon or if you don’t want to be pregnant at all, then these birth control methods or contraceptive options are your best bet. There are other benefits associated with the use of these birth control methods also, other than the crucial/main reason to avoid getting pregnant. Modern advancements have led to this point where we have not just a little but almost entire control over the periods and pregnancy. You still need to have a competent doctor who can help you with the choice and administration of the most suitable contraceptive option you can use.