There are a number of family planning options available to couples today. Some of these are hormonal, while others are barrier methods. The right choice for you will depend upon any health considerations, your own preferences and whether you are looking for long- or short-term contraception. Doing your own research is the best way to make a good contraceptive choice and allow you to worry about growing your family only when you are ready.
Birth control started as soon as humans made the connection between sexual intercourse and pregnancy. Not surprisingly, many of these methods were ineffective, irritating and to the modern mind, downright strange. Contraceptive developments, including natural skin condoms, rubber condoms and cervical caps, occurred during the 19th century. Poor quality and functionally useless contraceptives, including Lysol disinfectants, were popular throughout the first half of the 20th century. Finally, in 1960, Enovid, the first oral contraceptive pill comes onto the market. Improvements in the pill continued, alongside other hormonal contraceptive options that came onto the market in the 1990s.
Hormonal contraceptives offer many family planning benefits. They have a high effectiveness rate, are easy to use and are well tolerated by many women. They do not require a partner’s support or cooperation. Hormonal family planning options on the market today include oral contraceptives, injectable contraceptives like Depo-Provera, hormonal intrauterine devices or IUDs such as the Mirena IUD and vaginal rings, marketed as the Nuva-Ring. These products all use either estrogen or progesterone or a combination of the two hormones to prevent pregnancy. Estrogen containing contraceptives do pose some risk of blood clots and may have a number of irritating less significant side effects.
Barrier methods for family planning include condoms, female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps and contraceptive sponges. All are typically combined with a spermicidal foam or gel. Many of these options are available over the counter. Some barrier methods, including condoms and female condoms, can provide protection against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Barrier methods do not have any side effects other than possible skin irritation, assuming no allergies are present.
Sterilization is a popular family planning method for couples who feel their family is complete. Male sterilization, called vasectomy, is an outpatient procedure during which the vas deferens, the tubes that transport sperm, are severed and tied off or cauterized. See a urologist for more information about this procedure. Women have two choices for sterilization procedures. The first is a traditional surgery, often performed in a minimally invasive way. The alternative is a product called Essure. Essure works by inducing scarring in the fallopian tubes and is a relatively easy in-office procedure. All sterilization procedures provide a high degree of effectiveness with minimal side effects once the individual has recovered, and vasectomy and traditional tubal ligations can be reversed with some success.
Natural Family Planning
Some couples opt to avoid barrier, hormonal or surgical contraceptives when making family planning choices. Natural family planning requires carefully monitoring cervical fluid, cervical position and basal body temperature to determine when ovulation has occurred and the couple can have intercourse without worrying about pregnancy. Sex is avoided during fertile periods. Similar methods are used along with barrier methods for couples opting to use the Fertility Awareness Method to avoid conception. The rhythm method relies solely on a calendar and the assumption of a 28-day cycle and is not an effective contraceptive choice.