Contraceptive methods are key to global health, preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and controlling the population. They are used by sexually active women and men. The most appropriate choice of a contraceptive method is determined by the situation and the personality of the couple, or the person who decides to protect himself.
Humans reproduce naturally through sexual intercourse once the biological age for having children is reached. Reproduction is controlled by the ue of contraceptive methods. Contraceptives, which are different methods to prevent pregnancy, can include: hormonal, artificial or natural, oral, or injected. There are also emergency contraceptives.
- Hormones that are ingested by women commonly come in the form of pills.
- Artificial contraceptives can be mechanical barriers such as condoms, or spermicides, and surgical methods.
- Natural contraceptives involve family planning by studying the menstrual rhythm and its variants.
There are now contraceptives for men. One method consists of an injection that reduces the number of spermatozoa to minimum levels. Its effects are reversible. Each person must choose a contraceptive method according to his own situation.
The most important characteristics of contraceptives
Contraceptive methods have different characteristics that should be analyzed when choosing one, in order to achieve the goals for which it is being used.
- Efficacy: represents the risk of getting pregnant even though a contraceptive method is used.
- Safety: The woman’s health should be guaranteed, and women with certain health conditions may need to restrict their use of contraceptives.
- Acceptability: What is an advantage for some may be a disadvantage for others. Each person should choose the most suitable method for their needs.
- Ease of use: When using a certain method, how easily can it be used correctly?
- Availability: Some contraceptive methods are available free of charge in certain health systems.
- Reversibility: It is also important to know if the method is reversible. You should understand if fertility can be regained after discontinuing its use.
- Cost: The cost of contraceptives is significant for young people who often have limited financial resources.
Classification of contraceptive methods
These methods are reversible. That means that if you discontinue their use, the woman can become pregnant. They can be natural or not. In other words, they require the use of mechanical or chemical procedures, such as barrier or hormonal methods.
All permanent contraceptives are irreversible. After the procedure, (to either a man or a woman) the couple will not be able to conceive a child.
Permanent methods are surgical, and can be performed on men (vasectomy) and on women (tubal ligation).
Types of Contraceptives
1. Barrier methods
- Condoms: there are no contraindications. It is one of the best methods to prevent sexual illnesses.
- Spermicide: this acts as a chemical barrier, and prevents sperm from reaching the uterus.
- Female condom: this protects against unwanted pregnancies and STDs.
- Diaphragm: This a silicone elastic dome, placed in front of the cervix. It does not cover the mucosa of the vagina, so it is not recommended to prevent STDs.
- Vaginal sponge: It is a polyurethane foam device with spermicide. It must be removed 6 hours after sexual intercourse. It does not prevent STDs.
2. Hormonal contraceptives
- Birth control pills: They must be used with a medical prescription. They can help with various health problems, but can also have side effects.
- The mini progestin pill: It was created because of side effects caused by the estrogen in normal contraceptive pills.
- The morning after pill (Plan B): This contains a high dose of hormones and should only be taken in emergencies, within 72 hours after sexual intercourse.
- Contraceptive patches: This is an adhesive patch that is placed on the skin and replaced every 7 days.
- The vaginal ring: This is a ring that releases estrogen and progesterone. It lasts for 3 weeks.
- Contraceptive injections: These have similar benefits and side effects to the pill.
- Contraceptive implants: This is a highly effective contraceptive. It is a subcutaneous implant that consists of a small plastic device that releases hormones. It lasts 3 years.
3. Permanent contraceptives
- Vasectomy: This is a simple surgery in which the vas deferens is cut.
- Tubal ligation: This is performed surgically or endoscopically.
4. Alternate natural methods
- Menstrual calendar method: This consists of estimating a woman’s ovulation days and avoiding sexual intercourse on those days. Ovulation days normally occur around the 15th day of the menstrual cycle.
- Pull-out method: In this method, the penis pulls out before ejaculation. However, if the man fails to pull out on time, pre-seminal liquid contains small traces of sperm and the woman can become pregnant.
- Cervical mucus: A few days before ovulation, the cervical mucus becomes more elastic. This means that a woman’s fertile period has begun.
- Breastfeeding: Lactating women do not ovulate. However, many factors influence the effectiveness of the natural contraceptive method, and it should be done carefully.
Is the prolonged use of contraceptives harmful?
So far, there is no indication as to whether prolonged use of birth control pills is detrimental. On the contrary, they actually decrease the possibility of having an ectopic or extrauterine pregnancy. Oral contraceptives do not accumulate in the woman’s body, nor does the woman require a period of rest from using the pill.
A healthy woman may take birth control pills (as long as a doctor recommends them) from her first menstruation (menarche) to the last (menopause) without the need to interrupt intake. With an annual gynecological checkup, a woman can use birth control pills for as long as she is fertile and wishes to avoid pregnancy.
The need to take breaks while taking birth control pills is a myth of uncertain origin.
See this article: Irregular Menstruation: Why Does It Happen?
Risks of taking breaks while using birth control pills
- A woman will lose contraceptive protection; the pills do not cause sterility.
- She will have to use another method of contraception that may be less effective.
- This new method may be unfamiliar and she may use it incorrectly or inconsistently.
- On certain occasions, the woman doesn’t know how or can’t negotiate the use of a condom with her partner.
- Beginning to take birth control pills again after a break can cause adverse side effects that had already disappeared.
- There are women who stop taking pills and go through periods of amenorrhea (lack of menstruation), this tends to be confused with pregnancy and makes calculation of ovulation dates difficult.
In short, it is safe to take birth control pills for long periods of time while you want to avoid pregnancy. Contraceptives have no prescription time limit as long as recommended gynecological annual checkups are performed, and no sickness is present during treatment that would call for the use of the pills to cease.
Sometimes isolated cases occur in which the doctor may recommend taking breaks that interrupt contraceptive treatment, or changing the brand. These periods of rest only help increase the likelihood of an unplanned pregnancy. Pill consumption and the appearance of side effects are different for every woman.
However, if you have never felt anything out of the ordinary, and after 2 or 3 years you start feeling apathetic, tired, dizzy, moody, or you have no desire to begin or continue sexual intercourse, you should halt treatment. It’s a good idea to let your body have one or two menstruations on its own.
Side effects you could have after taking the pill for many years
- Decreased libido.
- Anxious or depressed mood
- Bad migraines
- Increased vaginal infections such as candidiasis.
- A feeling of heaviness in the legs and appearance of varicose veins.
- Also, studies have shown that the pill increases the risk of breast and cervical cancer. On the other hand, it reduces the risk of ovarian cancer.