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Pregnancy occurs when the sperm meets the egg (fertilization). Contraception, also called birth control, is a method or technique used to prevent fertilization and, therefore, pregnancy.

Types of Contraception

There is a range of safe and effective birth control options available, including pills, sheaths that can be worn on the penis, and devices that can be inserted into the uterus. Two major forms of contraception are hormonal contraceptives and barrier methods.

Hormonal contraceptives: These methods contain hormones (estrogen and/or progestin), which the body absorbs. The hormones alter a woman’s fertility by suppressing ovulation, the process in which an ovary releases an egg. If ovulation does not occur, it interferes with fertilization. Common hormonal methods include the pill, the patch, a shot, and the vaginal ring.

Barrier methods: Barrier methods prevent the sperm from reaching the egg (ova). Common barrier methods include condoms, female condoms, sponges, diaphragms, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). Spermicide

Other birth control methods, called Fertility Awareness Methods (FAMs), provide ways to track ovulation so that you can determine your most fertile days. FAMs require consistent tracking of fertility signs. Sterilization (tubal ligation for women or vasectomy for men) is a permanent option for those who are certain they do not want a pregnancy in the future. In women, sterilization is a surgical procedure that physically blocks the fallopian tubes, the tubes where the egg travels to once it leaves the ovary.

Effectiveness of Contraception

Most birth control methods are highly effective when used properly. However, It is important to remember that the only two birth control methods that help protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are condoms and female condoms. It is good practice to use condoms to help prevent the spread of STDs, even if you rely on another form of contraception.

The effectiveness is some forms of birth control:

  • Birth Control Implant: 99% effective
  • IUD: 99% effective
  • Birth Control Patch or Birth Control Pill or Birth Control Vaginal Ring: 91% effective
  • Diaphragm: 88% effective
  • Condom: 82% effective
  • Fertility Awareness Methods: 76% effective

Which Contraception Method Is Best for You?

Choosing a contraception method is a highly personal decision. There are a number of factors that can influence your choice, including your age, your medical and health history, and any medications you are taking. As you look into birth control, consider the following:

  • How effective is the contraceptive?
  • Will you remember to take an oral contraceptive every day?
  • Are you a candidate for hormonal contraceptives?
  • Are you a smoker?
  • Do want to get pregnant in the next few months or year?

These questions can help you narrow down your options, but be sure to discuss any concerns with your gynecologist or a women’s health practitioner. A reproductive health specialist can review all your options and help guide you to the method that best suits you.

Understanding your body and its rhythms is the first step to a healthy life. If you would like to know more about women’s health and contraception, contact Women Center, Los Angeles, CA to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors.

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