Eighty-five percent of women who use no contraceptives during vaginal intercourse become pregnant each year. The only truly safe method is abstinence or refraining from having sex. You can make your sex "safer" by becoming educated on the forms of birth control and contraceptives and choosing the method that is best for you. Other contraceptive methods can greatly reduce your pregnancy risk.
Your contraceptive needs may change throughout your life. Consider what type of contraceptive is best for you. Being sexually active increases the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STD's).
Contraceptives can be broken down into four categories:
- Hormonal or Chemical
- Combined pill: "The pill" is a series of pills that prevents a woman from ovulating, or producing eggs. The pill protects from pregnancy but does not protect against any STD's. The pill must be taken every day or chances of pregnancy increase. When taken properly, the pill provides excellent protection from pregnancy.
- Mini pill: This pill is different from the combined pill in that it does not always prevent ovulation but rather creates a thick cervical mucous and thin endometrium, which interferes with sperm motility and implantation. Like the combined pill, it prevents pregnancy but does not protect against any STD's. It also provides excellent protection from conception.
- Depo-Provera: This shot, taken every three months, prevents ovulation and interferes with sperm motility and implantation. Depo-Provera does not protect from STD's but gives excellent coverage against pregnancy.
- Norplant: In this method, six capsules are implanted in the upper arm which prevent ovulation and interfere with sperm motility and implantation. Norplant is functional for five years but can be removed at any time. Norplant does not protect against STD's, but provides excellent protection against pregnancy.
- LUNELLE: Lunelle is a shot with the combination of hormones estrogen and progesterone given every month to prevent the release of eggs, thicken cervical mucus to keep sperms from joining eggs, and prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. This method is more than 99% effective. However, it does not provide an effective protection against sexually transmitted infections. It may cause some side effects (such as irregular bleeding and nausea) and rare but serious health risks, including blood clots, heart attack, and stroke.
- IUD: The IUD is a small device inserted into the uterus that causes sperm immobilization and speeds ovum transport. This method may be used continuously for ten years. This method does not prevent STD's but provides excellent protection against pregnancy.
- Male Condom: The male condom is a protective covering made of latex that fits over the penis and keeps semen from entering the vagina. The condom is easily accessible and inexpensive. Proper use of condoms lowers the risk of STD's and unwanted pregnancy.
- Female Condom: The female condom is a polyurethane sheath that lines the entire vagina and partially covers the external genitals. The female condom can be inserted up to eight hours prior to intercourse. The female condom provides good protection against both unwanted pregnancies and STD's.
- Spermicides: These products are inserted into the vagina and kill viruses, bacteria, and other organisms. Spermicides are available over the counter and when used alone provide fair protection against STD's and unwanted pregnancies. Spermacides can also be used as a back-up to male condoms.
- Diaphragm and Cervical Cap: The cervical cap and diaphragm are both flexible rubber barriers used with spermicides. They are placed into the vagina to cover the cervix and are inserted before intercourse. These methods provide fair coverage against unwanted pregnancies and good/fair coverage against STD's.
- Total: This is the only perfect method for safe sex. Current abstinence does not necessarily mean virginity.
- Family planning: This method is when couples do not engage in sexual activity during fertile times. This method gives good/fair protection against pregnancy, but does not prevent STD's.
- Female: This usually involves an operation which results in blockage of the fallopian tubes. This is a permanent procedure meaning the option of future pregnancies does not exist. Sterilization provides excellent prevention against pregnancy but does not protect against STD's.
- Male: This procedure, known as a vasectomy, involves severing the tube in which the sperm travel from the testes to the penis. This procedure is permanent as reversibility is far from a certainty. It provides excellent prevention against pregnancies, but does not protect against STD's.
For more information about contraception choices contact UND Student Health Services.
v Planned Parenthood Dot Org. (www.plannedparenthood.org/bc/bcfacts1.html)
v American University, Student Health Center. (www.american.edu/healthcenter/question_center/mapill.html)
v Health World Online, Nutrition Programs, Nutrient Program for Oral Contraceptives. (www.healthy.net/asp/templates/Article.asp?Id=1260)
v National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Women's Reproductive Health. (www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/drh/wh_women.htm)
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