Twentieth Century Birth Control

Effective birth control methods have been quickly introduced and repeatedly improved since the 1960s. While condoms and the birth control pill are very popular, there are other forms of contraceptives used by many women. However, none of these offer any protection against sexually transmitted infections(STIs). It is important to use a condom with these contraceptives, as it is the only effective form of protection against STIs. Also, neither the birth control pill or condoms alone offer 100% protection against pregnancy so it is always a good idea to use an additional form of birth control with these methods. It's also important to take note that some hormonal birth controls can come with negative side effects.

Many people like to use spermicides to increase their protection against pregnancy. Spermicide can be bought as a cream, jelly, film or suppository. To use spermicide, a woman inserts it directly into her vagina just before sex. Since it will dissolve in the vagina, it’s important not to insert it too long before sex. Spermicide works by immobilizing sperm so that it can’t continue on and meet the egg. On its own, it is only 71% to 85% effective. Using it with a condom or other types of birth control will improve its effectiveness.

Spermicide is widely available and is usually sold alongside condoms. They can range in price, depending on what brand and type you buy. For example, contraceptive foam costs about $13 while spermicidal film costs about $11.

Contraceptive Sponges
The contraceptive sponge has become such a popular choice with women that Seinfeld even centered an episode around the Today Sponge, coining the phrase "sponge-worthy." The sponge is a disposable barrier device, usually made of polyurethane foam and infused with spermicide, which is inserted into the vagina. It prevents pregnancy first by blocking sperm from entering the uterus and then by absorbing and immobilizing sperm. Many women love the fact that it can be inserted prior to having sex and can be left in place anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. Like condoms, the sponge is quite affordable and prices range depending on which brand you buy. They can be found online and in most drugstores and are 82% to 91% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Since it is not a hormonal form of contraception, there are few side effects. However, the sponge can shred or tear and some women have increased yeast infections when using the sponge.

Diaphragm and Cervical Cap
These two contraceptive methods work in similar ways although they are slightly different by design. A diaphragm is a shallow cup shaped like a dome that has a flexible rim. It fits in the vagina and covers the opening to the cervix. A cervical cap looks more like a thimble and is fitted to sit tightly on the cervix. Both need to be used with spermicidal cream or jelly. Neither can be used when you have your period. A diaphragm is effective 84% to 94% of the time while a cervical cap is effective 84% to 91% of the time.

Since diaphragms and cervical caps come in different sizes, you will need to see a doctor to get fitted for one. Some women have an allergy to latex or may get frequent bladder infections by using this method. Rarely, the cervical cap can cause abnormal cervical cell growth during the first few months. Although this side effect usually corrects itself, in some cases it may require medical treatment. Diaphragms and cervical caps range in price from about $15 to $75. They can be reused.

Birth Control Patch
One complaint by women who used birth control pills was that they found it inconvenient to have to take a pill every day. As a response, a contraceptive patch was created.

Similar to the pill, the birth control patch uses synthetic forms of estrogen and progestin to prevent an egg from being released. The patch itself is a thin plastic square that you stick on your buttocks, stomach, upper outer arm or upper torso. Unlike the pill, you put a new patch on once a week for three consecutive weeks and then go one week with no patch. The patch is most effective when you change it on the same day every week. It is assumed to be just as effective as oral contraceptives in preventing pregnancy.

Side effects for the patch are similar to those associated with the pill and can include a change in your weight, nausea and mood swings. You may also find that your skin is irritated where you apply the patch. The birth control patch costs about $30 to $35 dollars a month and can be prescribed by your health care provider. It is best suited for those women who are under 35, in good health and who smoke less than 15 cigarettes a day.

The Ring
This is another new development designed to quell the complaints of users of the birth control pill. The ring (or Nuva Ring) works much like the pill in that it releases estrogen and progestin over a period of three weeks to prevent ovulation. The ring itself is small and flexible and is inserted into your vagina. Only one ring per month is necessary and it is left in place for three weeks. During the fourth week you will get your period. For some women, there is a slight chance that their period will stop. The ring is assumed to be just as effective as the pill.

Side effects are similar to those experienced by pill and patch users but may also include increased vaginal discharge and vaginal irritation or infection. You can get the ring through a prescription. They cost between $30 and $35 a month. If you are a heavy smoker, over 35 or in poor health, this method is not recommended for you.

DMPA (Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate)
This form of contraception is more commonly known as Depo-Provera and is best described as a birth control shot. Like the pill, DMPA uses progestin to prevent ovulation. The progestin is given through an injection to the buttocks or arms every 12 weeks. Not only is it convenient and effective (97% to 99.7% effective), it also offers some protection against cancer of the uterine lining.

Since you receive a potent hormonal shot, DMPA does affect your menstruation. Some women find that they have fewer and lighter periods, while others report having longer and heavier periods. You may also have increased spotting between periods. Many women find that after using DMPA for a year or more, their periods stop completely. It can take up to a year for your period to return once you stop receiving the shots. Other side effects include headaches, nausea, dizziness, sore breasts, depression and nervousness among other things. Each injection costs $50.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)
IUD’s (also known as contraception coils) are about 99% effective and are used by 85 million women worldwide. An IUD is shaped like a ‘T’ and is inserted into the uterus by your health care provider. IUDs that contain copper can stay in place for up to 12 years while those that have progestin need to be removed after five years. IUDs work by preventing fertilization and the implantation of an egg.

Some problems caused by IUDs include increased spotting, menstrual flow and cramps. It is also possible to puncture the uterus when it is inserted (this is easily fixed, though) and there is the possibility of infection. Also, up to 7% of IUDs are naturally expelled from the uterus in the first year. Although IUDs initially seem a bit pricey (ranging from $175 to $400), they are actually one of the more cost effective methods of contraception.

Only a health care professional should insert and remove an IUD. If you are considering getting one, talk with a health care provider first to make sure you are suited to this method of contraception. It is not recommended that teenagers use this form of contraception.

Emergency Contraceptives
While many birth control methods are very effective, there is always the chance that they will fail. If your contraception has failed, you may want to consider using emergency contraception. The emergency contraceptive pill(ECP), also referred to as Plan B emergency contraception, is a pill that contains high doses of hormones, similar to those found in other forms of birth control. It helps prevent ovulation. It does not cause an abortion and will have no affect on an egg that is already fertilized. Taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, ECP is 75% to 89% effective.

Not all women are suited to all types of birth control. Talk with a health care provider for more birth control information and see what’s best for you.

The Future for Men
Up until recently, much of the focus has been on female contraceptives. This is because researchers found it easier to prevent pregnancy than to prevent the production of sperm. However, researchers have begun to move the spotlight onto male contraceptives.

A male birth control pill is currently being used in clinical trials. Other forms of contraception, including implants, injections and even battery-powered capsules are all in the works. Researchers are also looking into the potential for unisex forms of birth control. Considering the gains made in birth control methods during the twentieth century, the twenty-first century is sure to provide some exciting developments in contraception.

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