Your answers to sexual and reproductive
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Different Methods of Contraception
From hormonal contraceptives to barrier methods and natural methods, the types of birth control available today can be divided into several categories. We’ll explore each of these categories, outlining some of the benefits and risks associated with each option.
1. Natural Methods
Withdrawal, abstinence, and fertility observation (or the calendar or rhythm method).
• In the withdrawal method, the man removes his penis from the woman’s vagina before ejaculation occurs. However, this method is known to have limited effectiveness.
• Periodic abstinence (also known as natural birth control, fertility observation, and the rhythm method) includes a number of methods designed to coordinate the timing of sexual intercourse with the least fertile times of the menstrual cycle.
2. Hormonal Contraception
Pills, injections, implants, and patches work to prevent pregnancy.
• Oral contraceptives (The Pill) are taken to prevent pregnancy and work primarily by inhibiting ovulation. They suppress the hormone activity in the brain and the ovaries. In this way, they prevent ovulation from occurring. They are the most popular method of birth control among women in the Western world. Most oral contraceptives prescribed today are called combination pills because they include two kinds of hormones: estrogen and progestin. Monophasic pills have a fixed dose of hormones throughout the month, while triphasic pills have different levels of hormones for each “active” week to mimic the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle. More recently, monophasic extended cycle pills have been approved. These monophasic pills reduce the frequency of the period by extending the time between the placebo intervals, when a withdrawal bleed is experienced.
• Hormone injections contain the hormone progestin, and are injected into the buttocks, upper thigh, or arm every three months to prevent ovulation.
• An intrauterine device, or IUD, is a small object inserted into the uterus by a health care professional to prevent pregnancy. IUDs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of these work by secreting a hormone, progesterone.
• The vaginal ring is a flexible, plastic ring that a woman places into the vagina. It works by releasing low levels of hormones. It is left in place for three weeks, and then removed for one week during which a withdrawal bleed occurs. Unlike some other devices, the ring does not require a special fitting or placement.
• The contraceptive patch is an adhesive patch that releases hormones into the body through the skin. It is placed on the buttocks, upper arm, or upper torso, and each patch is worn continuously for one week at a time for three weeks and is removed for one week during which a withdrawal bleed occurs.
Hormonal contraceptive methods require a prescription.
Diaphragms, cervical caps, sponges, and male and female condoms that work by physically preventing sperm from entering the female reproductive system.
• A diaphragm is a round rubber dome that is placed inside the vagina to cover the cervix and block sperm from entering. It is meant to be used in combination with a spermicide to reduce the risk of pregnancy.
• A cervical cap is a much smaller, thimble-like rubber device that is inserted into the vagina to provide an airtight seal over the cervix. The cervical cap requires spermicide and can be left in place for a longer period of time than a diaphragm.
• The sponge is a flexible device made of polyurethane and saturated with spermicide. It is placed into the vagina, and prevents pregnancy by blocking the entryway to the uterus and absorbing and trapping sperm.
• The male condom is a sheath worn over a man’s penis to catch sperm and prevent them from entering the woman’s vagina. Condoms can help prevent the spread of some sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.
• The female condom is a strong, soft, polyurethane sheath with a flexible ring at each end. It is inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse and provides protections against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The inner ring aids insertion and secures the device in place while the softer outer ring remains outside of the vagina.
Foams, creams and jellies, and suppositories placed near the cervix before sexual intercourse that works by killing sperm before they enter the uterus.
• Creams and jellies come in plastic tubes and are inserted with a plastic applicator.
• Foams come in aerosol cans along with an applicator, and have the consistency of shaving cream.
• Suppositories are also available and are inserted into the vagina.
Intrauterine Devices (IUD)
A small, T-shaped plastic object inserted into the uterus by a medical professional to prevent pregnancy.
• Exactly how IUDs work is a matter of controversy. Originally, it was thought that they worked by speeding the transport of the egg through the fallopian tube, and reducing chances for fertilization. It was also thought that the IUD produced a mild inflammation in the lining of the uterus, which prevented a fertilized egg from implanting. Today some investigators insist that neither of these theories is correct and suggest that IUDs work by interfering with the transport of both sperm and egg. IUDs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some contain progesterone, and others contain copper.
Sterilization (Vasectomy or Tubal Ligation)
A surgical procedure that provides a permanent means of birth control.
• Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure for a woman that cuts or bands the fallopian tubes so that sperm cannot reach an egg released by the ovaries, nor can the egg reach the uterus.
• A vasectomy is a surgical procedure for a man that ties off the spermatic tubes so that the ejaculate becomes sperm-free.
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