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Birth Control: A Guide To Safe Sex

Mar 13, 2008
The most reliable forms of birth control are 1 to 5 percent effective, and include oral birth control pills, injections, implants, and IUD's. Other forms of birth control, including male condoms, female condoms, diaphragms, and spermicide have a 14 to 20 percent risk of failure to protect you.

While there are many types out there, all of which are outlined by the FDE as methods for birth control, we're ready to give you a simplified outlook on what types of birth control are out there, and how to get them. Of course, everyone should remember that the ONLY form of birth control that is 100% effective is abstinence, but having safe sex is an excellent way to protect yourself otherwise. We'll start with the types of birth control you can get over the counter at any drug store.

Male Condom This is a sheath of material that fits snuggly but not tightly around the penis to be used during sexual intercourse and is good for only one use. The male condom is the most common form of over the counter birth control, and can be found at grocery, drug, or convenience stores. They are made of latex, but can also be made of lambskin or polyurethane for people allergic to latex products. Latex is the best kind of condom to get, so if you're not allergic to latex, this will provide the best protection for this style of birth control. Condoms cannot be used with oil based lubricants such as Vaseline, other petroleum jellies, lotions, or oils. Male condoms can be used with sexual lubricants such as Astroglide or KY Jelly. See our article on how to put on a condom for proper usage instructions. Condoms protect against pregnancy, STDs, herpes, and AIDS or HIV. There are many slang terms for male condoms including rubbers, love gloves, sheaths, rain coats, jimmy caps, and covers. Male condoms should never be used with female condoms, but can be used with spermicide or the oral birth control pill.

Female Condom This is a polyurethane tube with rings at either end, the small flexible ring at the closed end inserted vaginally to protect the uterine tract against male ejaculation. These are good for only one use. Female condoms can be found in drug stores with the other personal items. Female condoms protect against pregnancy, STDs, herpes, and AIDS or HIV. They should never be used with a latex condom, but can easily be used in conjunction with the oral birth control pill and/or spermicide. Female condoms aren't as reliable as male condoms for protection because of their penchant to slip out during intercourse, and the looseness of the top opening.

The Sponge This is a soft, round piece of foam inserted into the vagina up to six hours before sexual intercourse that is impregnated with spermicide. Works by sitting in front of the cervix and effectively barring sperm from penetrating to the uterus, as well as killing sperm and absorbing it like the eponymous sponge. Lasts for twelve hours at a time, for as many times as you want to have intercourse. The sponge should be left in for six to eight hours after intercourse to ensure all the sperm is dead. Do not use the sponge during your period. Some people are allergic to the material of the sponge or the spermicide. The sponge can be difficult to remove. The sponge is, on average, only 82% effective.

Spermicide Spermicide is a chemical sold over the counter that kills sperm. This is placed one dose at a time within the vagina at least ten minutes before sexual intercourse. Spermicide comes in foam, cream, and jelly forms. Spermicide is viable for an hour, but you must use a new dose every time you have intercourse. Do not rinse your vagina for six to eight hours after intercourse to make sure all the sperm is dead.

It is best to go see your doctor before choosing any form of birth control, as he or she can recommend a good choice for you. There are also several kinds of birth control that are just as effective, if not more so than the over the counter methods, which are approved by the FDA because they can only be gotten from a doctor. These by-prescription-only methods also include surgical methods of birth control, and are longer term choices.

Oral Birth Control Also known as The Pill or Oral Contraceptives, oral birth control is a pill that a woman takes once a day, every day, to prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs. These are usually distributed in packs of 28 pills, seven of which are placebos to simply keep the woman on track of when she is supposed to take them. Being on the pill has several benefits for women including shorter, lighter, and less painful periods. It can also help regulate your periods and even help you have better skin. Being on the pill also has several risks including risk of blood clots, mood swings, headaches, and breast tenderness. Anyone thinking of taking the pill should speak with their doctor first.

The Diaphragm or Cervical Cap These two are similar devices that are placed inside the vagina over the entrance to the cervix, usually with spermicide. The diaphragm is shaped like a dome while the cervical cap is a thimble sized latex cap. You have to go to your doctor to be fitted with a diaphragm because there are different sizes. He or she will tell you how to use it properly, and how to clean it. There are three types of diaphragms: o Coil Spring Diaphragm - This type is for women with strong vaginal tone and is free of genital abnormalities. o Flat Spring Diaphragm - These are for women with a shallow pubic arch or moderate descent of the bladder or rectum. o Arching Spring Diaphragm - This other type is intended for women with weak vaginal tone, moderate descent of the pelvic organs, or with the uterus bent far forwards or backwards. After sex, the diaphragm or cervical cap must remain in the vagina for six to eight hours. The diaphragm or cervical cap is ineffective at preventing STD's. Both should not be used during your period.

IUD The IUD is a T shaped implant with a small string at the long end of the T that is put inside the uterine cavity. There are two types of IUD. o Copper IUD - Remains in place for up to ten years at a time. o Progesterone-releasing IUD - These have a reservoir of progesterone that lasts for about a year, and has to be replaced annually. Works by hampering the sperm's travel through the uterine cavity and thickening the cervical mucous. The IUD can help women with painful periods feel better and have less bleeding. This does not protect against STDs. The IUD can only be implanted by a doctor, and anyone considering it should speak with their doctor before making this decision.

Implants (Progestin Implants) This birth control system involves small, thin tubes filled with synthetic Progestin that are implanted under the skin in the upper arms. This works just like the pill, and can last up to five years, depending on how many tubes are implanted. Two tubes is the minimum and gives women two years of protection. Six tubes is the maximum and gives women five years of protection. After the tubes are worn, they are removed, and a new set can be surgically placed. The implants do not protect against STDs.

Depo-Provera (aka The Shot) The shot is an injection of progesterone that does the same thing that the pill does, stopping ovulation. Anyone using the shot needs to have one every three months, or four times a year. The shot can stop the period instead of just lessening it. The shot does not protect against STDs or AIDS/HIV. The shot also works instantly, so the day you get the shot, you're protected. The Depo-Provera shot is the most popular brand of the shot. The shot also has the same risks as the birth control pill.

Vasectomy Vasectomy is the term for male sterilization. For this outpatient surgery, small incisions are made in either side of the scrotum and sections of the tubes that carry a man's sperm are removed and tied off. The sperm can no longer move from the testes to the penis and therefore there is no possibility of pregnancy, because when the man ejaculates, there is no sperm. This does not protect against STDs. This procedure is irreversible, so most men have sperm frozen in a sperm bank if they want children later. The surgery does not affect performance or libido.

Female Sterilization Female sterilization or "having your tubes tied" is a surgical procedure where a woman's fallopian tubes (tubes that lead from the ovaries to the uterus) are implanted with small blockers that cause scar tissue to grow and effectively stop eggs from dropping into the uterus. This is a surgical procedure, so it has to be done in a hospital. This does not protect against STDs or AIDS/HIV. This procedure cannot be reversed. Female sterilization carries the risk of ectopic pregnancy with it though that is very rare. A woman's periods don't stop, and she does not go into menopause any sooner than her body normally would have.

The Morning-After Pill A highly controversial form of birth control, the morning after pill is a prescription drug taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, or when other methods of contraception have failed. The pill releases a high level of hormones into the body, making it very hard for the egg to survive, as well as sloughing off the layer in which the egg would attach to for pregnancy. The morning after pill is only 75% effective, and can harm the forming fetus, which may result in needing therapeutic abortion. This method also causes severe discomfort for the woman, including up to 48 hours of severe flu-like symptoms. There is much controversy around the morning-after pill, including the right to life debate.

Always talk to you partner about contraception, so that at least one of you is covered, and never assume that the other person is going to take care of it. Thinking about contraception during foreplay might kill the mood a little, but not as much as a screaming baby.
About the Author
Devin Hansen is the author of two books, and his weekly blog can be found at www.inhumanimal.com
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