What are the safe methods to avoid pregnancy?

Various safe methods are available which can help women to avoid pregnancy. This includes

Condom

  • They are the only form of contraception’s that protects against most STIs, as well as prevent pregnancy.
  • Male condom is rolled onto an erect penis and act as a physical barrier (Figure 1).
  • Female condom is placed into the vagina right before sex.

Figure 1: Male and female condom


Diaphragm

  • A diaphragm is a barrier method of contraception that is placed inside the vagina as shown in Figure 2, but it doesn’t protect against STIs.
  • Spermicide is applied to diaphragm before each use.
  • When used with spermicide, the Center for Diseases Excellence (CDC) estimates that the diaphragm is close to 90% effective.
  • Diaphragm is inserted few hours before intercourse and should leave it in place for 6 hours after sex, and removes it after 24 hrs.

Figure 2: Diaphragm


Cervical cap

  • A cervical cap is a soft silicone cup that is placed deep inside the vagina. It covers the cervix to stop sperm from reaching an egg shown in Figure 3.
  • This effectiveness of the cervical cap varies according to sources, but Planned Parenthood estimate that its effectiveness ranges from about 70 to 85%.
  • It does not protect against STIs.

Figure 3: Cervical cap


Sponge

  • The contraceptive sponge is made of polyurethane foam and contains spermicide which blocks or kills sperm. It is placed deep inside the vagina to block entry to the uterus.
  • Used alone the sponge is 76 to 88% effective, but using it with a condom reduces the risk of pregnancy and STIs.

Spermicide

  • Spermicide is a chemical that inactivates sperm, and is used with forms of barrier contraception, such as condoms, but not with the sponge.
  • If used alone, spermicide should be inserted close to the cervix at least 10 minutes before sex. It remains effective for 60 minutes and is approximately 71% effective.

Hormonal methods: Hormonal forms of birth control prevent conception by stopping ovulation, i.e. the release of an egg from the ovaries. But it doesn’t protect against STIs. Includes:


Contraceptive pills

  • The oral contraceptive pill is the most commonly reported method of contraception by women and are approximately 95% effective. There are two forms of the pill as shown in Figure 4:
  • The combined pill, which contains estrogen and progestin: Combined pills should be taken daily, as per the instructions. The pill pack often contains some pills that are free of hormones. When taking these pills, women will have a monthly period.
  • The mini-pill, which contains only progestin: Mini pill is administered at the same time everyday without a break. Women taking the mini-pill will not necessarily have a scheduled period.

Figure 4: Contraceptive pills


Patches

  • According to the National Health Service (NHS), the contraceptive patch is 99% effective when used correctly. With typical use, it is closer to 90% effective.
  • Women can place contraceptive patches on the back, buttocks, stomach and upper arm.

Contraceptive injection

  • The injection contains a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone shown in Figure 5. It is given into a woman’s buttock or the upper arm, and over the next 12 weeks, the hormone is slowly released into their bloodstream.
  • According to the CDC, when used correctly, it is over 90% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Contraceptive injection

  • The injection contains a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone shown in Figure 5. It is given into a woman’s buttock or the upper arm, and over the next 12 weeks, the hormone is slowly released into their bloodstream.
  • According to the CDC, when used correctly, it is over 90% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Figure 5: Contraceptive injection


Vaginal ring

  • Vaginal rings are small, plastic ring placed in the vagina for 3 weeks (Figure 6).
  • The ring must be removed for 7 days to allow for a menstrual period before a inserting a new ring.

Figure 6: Vaginal ring


Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) and implants: These are long-term contraceptive devices. The NHS state that they are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy and they do not protect against STIs. Following are the features of IUDs

  • It is a small, T-shaped device is made from the material containing progesterone hormone or plastic and copper and is fitted inside a woman’s uterus by a trained healthcare provider.
  • It's a long-acting and reversible method of contraception, which can stay in place for 3 to 10 years, depending on their type. There are two types of IUDs:
    • Hormonal: Once fitted, an IUD lasts for at least 5 years before it needs replacing. IUD’s do not completely stop ovulation but act as contraception by thickening the cervical mucus to prevent sperm entering the uterus, as well other hormonal changes.
    • Copper-based: It is a hormone-free IUD covered in copper wire, which destroys sperm trying to enter the uterus. One IUD can prevent pregnancy for approximately 10 years shown in Figure 7.
  • IUDs containing coppers are 99% effective and the ones containing hormones are 99.8% effective.

Figure 7:Intrauterine devices


Implants

  • Implants are small, flexible rod is placed under the skin in a woman’s upper arm, releasing the hormone progestin into the body, which prevents ovulation.
  • Implants must be replaced every 3 years.
  • The CDC estimates that implants are also greater than 99% effective for contraception.

Family planning

  • Natural method of avoiding pregnancy involves tracking the menstrual cycle and avoiding sex when a female is in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle.
  • Many women’s use the following signals to work out whether they are ovulating or in their fertile window:
    • Measuring basal body temperature
    • Taking note of the quality and quantity of the cervical mucus
    • Logging the start and end times of their cycle details over several months
  • According to the CDC, natural family planning methods are about 76% effective when followed accurately.

Sterilization

  • Sterilization is the process of completely taking away the body’s ability to reproduce through open or minimal invasion surgery, available for both female and male and is performed in a hospital with general anesthesia.
  • It is a permanent method of contraception, suitable for people who are sure they never want children or do not want any more children.
  • The NHS state that these procedures are typically over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, but they do not protect against STIs.

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