Choosing a contraceptive method is a very personal and sometimes confusing choice. There are many factors to consider, including your health, your desire for children in the future, your moral and spiritual beliefs, and even convenience. In spite of the factors involved and the many birth control options available to you, most methods can be categorized into one of two categories: artificial birth control or natural family planning. Here’s everything you need to know about artificial birth control.
Artificial birth control can be defined as any product, procedure or practice that uses artificial or unnatural means to prevent pregnancy. Barrier methods such as condoms and diaphragms, hormonal methods such as the pill and IUDs, and surgical sterilization procedures such as a vasectomy or hysterectomy are all considered to be artificial birth control methods. The withdrawal method is considered by some to be artificial birth control, as well.
The term “artificial birth control” is most frequently heard in relation to religious teachings on family planning. Many religious groups encourage the use of natural family planning as opposed to artificial birth control, believing that using artificial contraception is contrary to God’s will. Certainly, though, there are also non-religious people who choose not to use artificial birth control for personal, ethical or medical reasons.
The barrier method is one type of artificial birth control and as the name implies, barrier contraceptives use some sort of barrier to prevent sperm from reaching an egg. Available barrier contraceptives are male condoms, female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps and contraceptive sponges. Spermicides act as a chemical barrier and therefore also fall into this category.
Any type of hormonal contraceptive is considered to be artificial birth control. Although the birth control pill is probably the most common hormonal contraceptive, it’s far from being the only one. Other available hormonal contraceptives are the birth control patch, the vaginal ring, Depo-provera injections, Lunelle injections and the intrauterine device (IUD).
The final type of artificial birth control is surgical sterilization. For men, the sterilization procedure is called a vasectomy. For women, both tubal ligations (also known as having one’s tubes tied) and hysterectomies cause sterilization. It’s important to understand, though, that a hysterectomy is typically performed for medical reasons, including cancer or endometriosis. For this reason, a hysterectomy is not usually considered artificial birth control.
If you have decided that artificial birth control methods are not right for you but you aren’t yet ready to have a child, you may want to consider natural family planning. Natural family planning involves tracking your temperature or cervical mucus changes to determine your fertile days. On those days, you abstain from sex to avoid pregnancy. The rhythm method–finding your ovulation date based on your menstrual cycle–and withdrawal are also considered by some to be natural family planning methods.