What Birth Control Options are Available for Women?

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Answered by: Sarah, An Expert in the On Birth Control Category
There are so many birth control options available that the information about them can be overwhelming. To further complicate matters, some information about birth control on the internet is false or misleading. However, learning about and understanding birth control options is an important part of life for sexually active women who wish to prevent pregnancy. The several types of birth control include hormonal methods, barrier methods, fertility awareness and sterilization. There are two common formulas used in hormonal birth control. One of the most popular formulas of hormonal birth control is a combination of progestin and estrogen. This combination of hormones is present in many birth control pills, skin patches and vaginal rings. Combination hormonal birth control may help with acne symptoms, ovulation pain, PMS and cramping. The other hormonal birth control formula is progestin-only birth control. With this type of hormonal birth control, progestin is the only hormonal ingredient. Progestin-only birth control is available in the forms of pills, shots, implants and intra-uterine devices. Some women use progestin-only birth control because they are sensitive to estrogen or are breastfeeding. Intra-uterine devices, also known as IUDs, can be copper or progestin-only. An IUD is placed in the uterus by a healthcare professional and can prevent pregnancy for up to ten years.

Barrier methods of birth control come in many shapes and sizes. Barrier methods for women include diaphragms, cervical caps and shields, female condoms and spermicides. Barrier methods work by preventing the sperm from meeting and fertilizing the egg. Barrier methods of birth control usually have fewer and less severe side effects than hormonal birth control methods but are also known to be less effective. Many healthcare practitioners suggest pairing a barrier method with a hormonal method to effectively prevent pregnancy.Fertility awareness is not a very effective method of preventing pregnancy, but is favored among people who do not want to risk the side effects or complications that can be involved with using hormonal or barrier methods of birth control. Fertility awareness is also known as "natural family planning" or "periodic abstinence." With the fertility awareness method of birth control, the woman uses a calendar to map out her fertility cycle and then chooses not to have intercourse during the time she is most fertile.

The final birth control option available for women is permanent sterilization. Sterilization is a surgical procedure that involves tubal litigation or tubal implantation. In tubal litigation, the fallopian tubes are cut or tied off. This is how the phrase "tied tubes" originated. Tubal implants are small metal coils placed in the fallopian tubes by a healthcare practitioner. Over time, scar tissue develops around the metal coils and physically blocks the fallopian tube. Sterilization is permanent and irreversible, so it is only suitable for women who do not wish to have children for the rest of their lives. Some women choose sterilization after they have already had a few children.

It is important for women to communicate openly with their health care practitioner when they decide to begin or change birth control methods. Each birth control option has benefits and draw-backs. The side effects of birth control and the personal health history of the woman need to be taken into consideration when choosing a birth control option. With careful consideration, it is possible to find a birth control method appropriate for any lifestyle.

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