One of the most significant factors that has contributed significantly to a woman’s health is the widespread availability of effective, safe and affordable contraceptives. Today, a woman can choose from a broad range of birth control solutions – condoms, pills, IUD (Intra-Uterine Devices) and many more.
This presents a new problem – how do women choose from the array of contraceptives available in the market? The answer depends on several factors like – age of the user, past medical history, side effects, risk factors, lifestyle factors like ease of use, cost and availability and several other variables.
This is where contraceptive counseling comes into the picture.
As the name implies, during this session, a specialist, usually an obstetrician, a gynaecologist or a physician, analyses all the factors listed above and offers you guidance on which option works out the best for you.
Before we take a look at the benefits of going in for a counselling session before contraceptive use, let’s get the basics right.
What is Contraception?
It’s a broad term that denotes all methods of birth control. Birth control is essential to plan a family, space the gap between one kid and the next and to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Additionally, a few birth control methods also protect you against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Contraceptives are available for both men and women.
Types of Contraception
Contraceptive methods can be divided into three major categories broadly.
- Short-term contraceptives
- Long-term contraceptives
- Emergency contraceptives
Each of these three categories can be further classified into different types of birth control methods.
Methods of Contraception
This refers to how the contraceptive device works. Let’s take a look at the popular ways.
- Hormonal Birth Control
As the name suggests, these contraceptives work by modifying the hormones produced in a woman’s body. By altering hormone production, it prevents ovulation and thus fertilisation. Hormonal birth control methods are only available for women. Some of the popular options include vaginal ring, injection IUD, implant, patch or the popular birth control pills.
- Birth Control Pills
This is one of the most highly prescribed methods of contraception by ob-gyns and healthcare providers. Pills are hormonal birth control methods specifically designed for women. Safe, effective and highly convenient to use, these contain a combination of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone that prevent pregnancy by suppressing ovulation. Apart from suppressing ovulation, pills also cause thickening in the lining of the cervix, thereby preventing the sperm from fertilising any eggs, that may have been released.
These pills are available in a 21-day pack. The first pill has to be taken on the first day of your menstrual cycle. You have to take one pill on every day of the cycle, followed by no pills for seven days. You start with a fresh pack on the first day of the next cycle.
- Barrier Contraceptives
These are available for both men and women. As the name implies, it acts as a barrier; thereby preventing the sperm from entering the uterus and the egg, thus avoiding pregnancy. Some of the popular types of barrier birth control include condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, sponges and more.
- Intrauterine Devices
Known as IUD in short, these devices are implanted directly in the uterus. A physician or an ob-gyn places the device in the woman’s body. IUDs are made of levonorgestrel or copper. It lasts for several years, but the device can be removed if needed.
It’s a surgical method of birth control. This option is available for both men and women. For men, it’s known as a vasectomy, and for women, it’s known as tubal ligation or tubectomy. It’s a permanent method of birth control. Though it can be reversed, it’s very rare and complicated.
Coming to the big question,
Which form of Contraception Works for Me?
No “single” answer works for all. Each method has different advantages and disadvantages. Contraception advice that works for one person will not work for another. While some women prefer long-term protection options like sterilisation or IUD, especially those who have finished growing their family, while others opt for barrier or hormonal methods due to its convenience.
With birth control counseling, you know about the benefits as well as side-effects of each contraceptive. Your healthcare professional or ob-gyn will work with you to know about your lifestyle, sexual activity and choose the right type of contraception that best suits your needs.