Birth control

Article

August 20, 2022

Contraception refers to means that aim to avoid pregnancy during sexual intercourse. This happens either by preventing fertilization or the attachment of the egg to the uterine wall.

Principle

The goal of contraception is to avoid pregnancy by preventing the egg from being fertilized or attaching to the uterine wall. Contraceptive methods vary widely in reliability, and some methods have negative side effects. However, the health risks of commonly used methods are very small. No contraceptive method is absolutely sure, but if the most reliable methods are used correctly, the probability of an unintended pregnancy is about 1% per year. As the name suggests, a woman's menstrual cycle lasts about a month. During the cycle, the woman's body prepares for pregnancy, the egg matures, the uterus prepares to receive the fertilized egg, and the mucus secreted by the cervix becomes more friendly to semen. Ovulation occurs approximately 14 days before menstruation, and conception can only occur within 24 hours of ovulation. However, the menstrual cycle is quite irregular.

Methods

Natural contraception

Historically, the most commonly used method of contraception is abstinence. In it, the man withdraws from inside the woman before triggering. However, the method is very unreliable, and a third or a quarter of women who use the method become pregnant within the first year. One of the oldest contraceptive methods is the rhythm method. In it, intercourse is avoided when the woman is at her most fertile. The efficiency of the method varies from 80% to even 99%. The advantage of the method is that no contraceptives or drugs are needed. In practice, however, accurately predicting the menstrual cycle is difficult. Observing it requires experience and practice, as well as the willingness to abstain from sex about six days a month. Breastfeeding children also reduces the probability of pregnancy.

Sterilization

Sterilization is the most effective contraceptive method and prevents pregnancy with over 99% probability. In surgery, the man's vas deferens are blocked or cut off (vasectomy). The operation is an easy procedure and it does not affect the man's health or the function of the genitals. The semen otherwise remains the same, but the ability to fertilize is removed. In the sterilization of a woman, the fallopian tubes are blocked or cut, which prevents the egg from entering the fallopian tube to the uterus. Sterilization of a woman is a rather expensive procedure and it takes a couple of days to recover from it. The biggest problem with sterilization is its irreversibility. Since the 1970s, methods have been developed that are more likely to be reversed than before. Restoring fertility requires another operation, the success of which is uncertain.

Mechanical contraception

Condoms and other mechanical contraceptives prevent semen from entering the uterus. Mechanical contraceptives are in principle reliable and do not involve health risks. A condom also prevents the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. However, the reliability is reduced by the fact that not everyone knows how to use them correctly and regularly. A pessary is a rubber membrane that is placed over the mouth of the cervix. Spermicides are chemical compounds used during intercourse that kill sperm. When used with mechanical contraception, spermicide prevents pregnancy with almost 100% probability. Using spermicide alone is not an effective method, and 18% of women who use it become pregnant within a year.

Hormonal contraception

Hormonal contraception is a drug that, by regulating a woman's hormone levels, prevents the release of an egg from the ovary. The most common hormonal birth control method is the birth control pill, which contains synthetic estrogen and luteinizing hormone. The effectiveness of the birth control pill is based on its ky