women can become pregnant from the time they are in
their early teens until they are in their late 40s.
Birth control (or contraception) helps a woman plan
Birth Control Works
woman has two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus.
Each month, one of the ovaries releases an egg into
a fallopian tube. This release of an egg is called ovulation.
A woman can get pregnant if she has sex around the time
of ovulation. If a sperm meets an egg in the fallopian
tube, fertilization (the joining of egg and sperm) can
control methods work in a number of ways. They may:
Block the sperm from reaching the egg
Keep eggs from being released each month
Change the lining of the uterus
Thicken the mucus in the cervix so sperm cannot easily
pass through it
are many methods of birth control. The greatest benefit
of effective birth control is that it allows a woman
to plan her family.
hormonal birth control, a woman takes hormones like
those her body makes naturally. These hormones prevent
control pill: The most used method of hormonal birth
control is the birth control pill (oral contraceptive).
The pill is safe and highly effective when taken each
With implants, match-size, soft plastic tubes are
placed just under the skin of the upper arm. Implants
provide birth control for up to five years. The hormones
in implants may make your periods irregular.
One injection of hormonal birth control provides birth
control for three months. This means a woman needs
only four injections each year. During the time that
the injection is effective, you don't have to do anything
else to prevent pregnancy. You may have irregular
contraception: If a woman has sex without any type
of birth control, she may be able to use a type of
backup birth control called emergency contraception.
In this method, high doses of certain birth control
pills are taken within 72 hours (three days) of sex
without birth control. Emergency contraception greatly
reduces the chance that a woman will become pregnant.
It is not as effective as using birth control on a
regular basis, though.
IUD is a small, plastic device that contains copper
or hormones. It is inserted and left in the uterus.
The hormonal IUD must be replaced every year. The copper
IUD can remain in place for up to 10 years. The IUD
does not protect against sexually transmitted deseases
(STDs). The IUD is best suited for women who have given
birth to at least one child.
methods include the diaphragm, cervical cap, condom
(male and female), sponge and spermicides. The diaphragm,
cervical cap, sponge, and male and female condom act
as physical barriers. They keep the sperm from getting
to the egg. These methods are used with spermicides
to further lower the risk of pregnancy.
withdrawal method prevents pregnancy by not allowing
sperm to be released in the woman's vagina. This requires
the man to take his penis out of the woman before he
ejaculates. Drawbacks are that sperm can be present
in the fluid produced by the penis before ejaculation.
family planning also is called periodic abstinence or
the rhythm method. This method can work only if you
do not have sex during those times in your menstrual
cycle when your chances of becoming pregnant are greatest.
for women and men works by permanently blocking the
pathways of egg and sperm. This is done by surgery.
For women, both fallopian tubes are closed by tying,
banding, clipping, or cutting them or by sealing them
with electric current. This is called tubal ligation.
men, vasectomy involves clamping, cutting and sealing
the tubes that carry sperm to the penis. Sterilization
is meant to be a permanent form of birth control. If
there is a chance you may want to have a baby later,
you should not choose this method.
any given time, a couple may find one method of birth
control suits their needs better than others. All methods
have a chance of failure. Most birth control failures
result from not using birth control correctly each time.
matter which method of birth control you choose, be
sure that you know how it works, how to use it, and
what side effects may occur. Even with methods that
do not need a prescription, you need to learn how to
use the method. A doctor, nurse or family planning counselor
can teach you. The more you know about birth control
and your own needs, the easier it will be to choose
a method that's right for you.
excerpt from ACOG's Patient Education Pamphlet is provided
for your information. It is not medical advice and should
not be relied upon as a substitute for visiting your
doctor. If you need medical care, or have any questions,
please contact your obstetrician-gynecologist. Copyright
(c) September 1999 The American College of Obstetricians
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