Family planning is a way for a woman to plan if and when she becomes pregnant. Family planning methods exist in a number of forms, including the use of birth control, medical surgery, or the practice of natural, non-chemical ways. Each method has its own possible side effects, which vary from method to method.
Condoms are one of the most popular barrier methods. There are both male condoms, which are thin latex or polyurethane sheaths used to cover the penis, and female condoms, which are polyurethane sheaths secured inside the vagina. Irritation or allergic reaction, especially to latex, is a possible side effect. Other barrier methods are spermicide-filled diaphragms and vaginal sponges. Side effects to these devices include possible allergic reaction to spermicides, urinary tract infection and, in rare cases, toxic shock syndrome.
For women, the sterilization surgery is called tubal ligation, during which the fallopian tubes are cut and sealed or blocked to prevent eggs from uniting with sperm. The comparable surgery for men, during which the tubes that carry sperm are cut and sealed, is called a vasectomy. The side effects can include pain and discomfort from the surgery as well as, in rare cases, complications due to the anesthesia used during the surgery. While these sterilization methods are typically viewed as permanent, they can often be reversed.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are T-shaped devices inserted into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. Some IUDs contain copper, which interferes with sperm movement. Others release synthetic progestogens, which prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation). One of the more common side effects of IUDs is irregular bleeding, cramping and longer menstrual cycles. There is also risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease. Up to 10 percent of women spontaneously expel the IUD during the first year.
Hormonal methods, which deliver a combination of synthetic estrogen and synthetic progestogen into the body to prevent ovulation, include “The Pill,” skin patches and contraceptive vaginal rings like NuvaRing. Depending on the amount of hormone levels they deliver, these methods can cause a variety of side effects, like nausea, weight gain, mood changes, dizziness and irregular menstrual cycles, and may even lead to heart attack or stoke. Progestogen-only methods, like Provera and Implanon, may cause irregular bleeding, breast tenderness and weight gain.
Also called natural family planning, fertility awareness-based methods are ways to track which days of the month a woman is ovulating and thus most likely to get pregnant. One way a woman can track ovulation, known as Calendar Charting, is by looking at her past menstrual cycles to estimate which days in the future she will ovulate. Another way is by monitoring her cervical mucus for changes in consistency, a sign of ovulation. She can also monitor her Basal Body Temperature to track her infertile days. Although a high rate of failure is associated with fertility awareness-based methods, there are no medical side effects.