Family planning and contraception
Contraception, also known as birth control, refers to any activity, medication or equipment used to prevent pregnancy. There are many types of birth control available for women who do not wish to become pregnant.
While some methods of birth control—such as abstinence and condoms—do not require physician involvement, others require a visit to a physician for an examination and a prescription, including:
- Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
These are medications that are taken daily to prevent ovulation by controlling pituitary hormone secretion. Usually, oral contraceptives contain the hormones estrogen and progestin.
Unlike the traditional birth control pill, the mini-pill has only one hormone, progestin. Taken daily, the mini-pill thickens cervical mucus and prevents the sperm from reaching the egg. The mini-pill also can decrease the flow of your period and protect against pelvic inflammatory disease and ovarian and endometrial cancer.
Implanon is a type of implantable contraception that consists of a small sticklike rod placed beneath the skin of the inner upper arm. The rod slowly releases etonogestrel, a hormone similar to progesterone. Effective for three years, Implanon must be inserted and removed by a health care provider using a minor outpatient surgical procedure. Possible side effects include irregular, missed or painful periods, weight gain, acne, headaches, breast tenderness, hair loss, changes in mood and/or libido, abdominal pain and an increase in blood pressure. It is important to have regular follow-up appointments with a health care provider.
This is a progesterone-like drug given by injection to prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. The effects last for about three months and another injection must be given to continue birth control effectiveness.
- Monthly injections
This is a contraceptive that combines two types of hormones, estrogen and progestin, in a monthly injection. These hormones work to prevent ovulation and continue regular menstrual periods. The injection must be repeated every 28 to 33 days to be effective.
This is a skin patch worn on the body that releases the hormones estrogen and progestin into the bloodstream. It is most effective in women who weigh less than 200 pounds.
- Diaphragm or cervical cap
A diaphragm is a dome-shaped rubber cup with a flexible rim that is inserted through the vagina to cover the cervix. This type of birth control must be inserted prior to having sexual intercourse.
- Hormonal vaginal contraceptive ring
This is a ring that is placed inside the vagina around the cervix. The ring releases the hormones estrogen and progestin.
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
An IUD is a device placed in the uterus through the cervix by a physician. The IUD works by preventing an egg from being fertilized in the tubes or from attaching to the wall of the uterus. IUDs containing hormones must be replaced annually, while copper IUDs can last up to 10 years.
- Intrauterine system (IUS)
The IUS is a small T-shaped device that is placed inside the uterus by a physician. It releases a small amount of hormone each day to prevent pregnancy.
- Nonsurgical sterilization
A thin tube is used to thread a tiny, spring-like device through the vagina to the uterus into each fallopian tube. A material in the device causes scar tissue to develop and permanently plug the tubes.
Surgery that results in the inability to become pregnant includes the following:
A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus and usually the ovaries and fallopian tube. This is a permanent form of birth control.
- Tubal ligation or tubal occlusion ("tying the tubes")
Tubal ligation is surgery to cut, cauterize, or band the fallopian tubes to prevent the egg from being transported to the uterus. Tubal ligation is designed to be a permanent method of birth control. Although certain types of tubal ligations can be reversed, the reversal procedure may not be successful.
- Tubal sterilization Essure system
This permanent form of birth control can be done as an outpatient procedure without a surgical incision. During the procedure, a thin tube is used to thread a tiny, spring-like device through the vagina to the uterus into each fallopian tube. A material in the device causes scar tissue to develop and permanently plug the tubes after about three months. Other forms of birth control must be used during that time and an X-ray or ultrasound must be done to confirm that the tubes are blocked.