A Guide to Contraception

There are many myths that surround contraception. Perhaps you think you won’t get pregnant the first time you have sex, or that you can’t get pregnant when you have sex during your period. The only way to prevent pregnancy is with an effective contraceptive method. It is important to decide on a method and have a contraceptive plan in advance of sexual activity, so you will want to make an appointment with your health care provider prior tp engaging in sexual activity.

There are several different hormonal methods of contraception. For women who can’t remember to take a pill everyday there are also rings used inside the vagina, patches worn on the skin, hormone shots given every three months, and implants placed under the skin that last up to three years.

An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a very effective, long term method of birth control. A visit to a health care provider is necessary for insertion and removal of the device. An IUD can deliver low doses of hormones, or for women who are unable to tolerate hormones a non-hormonal copper IUD is also available.

Barrier methods physically prevent sperm from reaching an egg. Condoms are very popular because they don’t require a prescription or a visit to a health care provider. Sponges are also available in many drugstores without a prescription. Diaphragms and cervical caps require a visit to a health care provider for fitting and should always be used with spermicide.

Surgical methods are permanent and usually cannot be reversed. These methods should only be considered when you are certain that you will not want to have any more children. Having your tubes tied, or tubal ligation, is done under general anesthesia. A vasectomy is usually done in a health care provider’s office with local anesthesia.

Every woman should know about emergency contraception. If your chosen contraceptive method fails there are two methods for preventing pregnancy after sexual intercourse has already occurred. Plan B, or the morning after pill, is a higher dose of the hormones found in birth control pills. It is also possible to have an IUD inserted up to five days after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy.

Most contraception education is focused on teenagers or young adults. The contraceptive needs of older women are often neglected, but no less important. Most contraceptive methods can safely be used in older women. Many older women may be hesitant to discuss contraception with their health care provider, especially older women who are returning to dating after a divorce. Women of all ages should find a health care provider they feel comfortable discussing their contraceptive needs with, especially before they become sexually active or join a dating service.

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