Family planning, also known as contraception or birth control, is a way to control unwanted pregnancies. Many methods of family planning are available, so each couple should be able to find one that is right for them.
Talk to your health-care provider to determine the best type of birth control for you. When picking out the best method of contraception, a doctor factors in your health and whether you have and want children.
Abstinence is the act of avoiding sex, whether sexual contact altogether or just intercourse. This method of family planning is the only one that is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and protecting against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Abstinence can be difficult to maintain and allows for little spontaneity.
Birth Control Pills
Many types of birth control pills are on the market. Pills keep a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs, thus preventing fertilization. Birth control pills are 95 percent effective with standard use.
The mini pill contains only progestin, while the combination pill contains both progestin and estrogen. Women who take these forms of the pill must be sure to take it at the same time each day or risk getting pregnant.
Another type of birth control pill is taken continuously for 3 months.
Birth Control Ring
The small, flexible birth control ring is placed in the vagina, where it releases a steady supply of progestin and estrogen hormones. The ring stays in the vagina for 3 weeks, after which it is discarded. The ring is over 99 percent effective when used as prescribed. The ring may cause unwanted side effects such as nausea and weight gain.
Condoms are thin latex coverings that form a barrier between sperm and the vagina. When used as indicated, condoms are 95 to 97 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and have the added bonus of protecting against STDs. Female and male varieties are available, and they come in a wide range of colors and styles.
Also known as natural family planning, fertility awareness is the act of abstaining from intercourse on a woman’s fertile days, when she is most likely to become pregnant. To follow this method, women need to accurately and precisely chart their fertility, either through basal body temperature changes or changes in cervical mucus, or by following the calendar.
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small copper or plastic device inserted into the uterus that creates a hostile environment for sperm. Some IUDs release small amounts of hormones. IUDs last from 5 to 12 years and are an effective method of birth control but should only be used by women in monogamous relationships who have already given birth.
Spermicides are creams, jellies or suppositories that stop sperm from moving. Spermicides can be conveniently purchased from drugstores and are easy to use, but they are not effective when used alone. Spermicides are most effective when used with another method of family planning, such as condoms.
Women and men can be sterilized. In women, tubal ligation is performed to cut off the fallopian tubes so eggs cannot be released into the uterus for fertilization. Men have a vasectomy, where the tubes that carry sperm are blocked. Sterilization is nearly 100 percent effective, but should be considered a permanent decision.