Family planning and birth control options for women
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The days are long gone when native rings, arm bands, padlocks and potash powder were used in the prevention of pregnancy. Family planning has greatly evolved and have been improved upon from what it used to be known for far back in the 18th century. Wikipedia defines family planning as the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births which is achieved through use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of involuntary infertility.
There are different factors that affect the choice of birth control methods to be used including religion, tradition, family expectation, child preferences, and financial wellbeing among others.
Family planning is a basic right of every living human and should be made available to men and women. Women under the age of 15 and above 35, those who have delivered four or more children, those who have experienced high risk pregnancy or are with chronic illness are especially in need of birth control options.
Types of family planning methods
Intra-uterine contraceptive devices (IUCD’s)
This birth control option does not require any kind of medication, device or surgery. It involves:
Abstinence: This method is inexpensive and is practiced only by couples with self-control. Avoiding sexual intercourse is the surest way to prevent pregnancy.
Withdrawal method: this method is also known as coitus interruptus. It is a birth control method in which the penis is removed from the vagina before sperm is ejaculated during sexual intercourse. It does not guarantee a 100% protection and is hence not considered safe.
Lactational Amenorrhea Method: this method of family planning requires a nursing mother to exclusively breastfeed her child with no supplements for a period of 4 hours during the day and 6 hours at night. When practiced effectively, this method prevents the return of menstrual periods for at least 6 months.
Fertility awareness-based methods: This is based on the ability of a woman to discover physiological changes associated with ovulation. When these changes are observed, the woman ensures she has no sexual intercourse and thus prevents pregnancy. It is not suitable for women with irregular menstrual periods.
Hormonal birth control method
Oestrogen or progesterone (or both) are hormones which when introduced into your body either orally, by implant or by injections interfere with a woman’s system to prevent pregnancy.
Types of hormonal contraceptives:
Oral contraceptives: These are birth control pills taken by mouth. They work by suppressing ovulation, thickening the cervical mucus thereby preventing sperm penetration and reducing sperm transport. They are highly effective and do not interfere with intercourse. Side effects could include absence of menstrual period (amenorrhea), nausea, vomiting and irregular bleeding.
Injectable contraceptives: injectable contraceptives are hormonal contraceptives which may contain oestrogen and progestin or progestin only. They are given at muscle sites of the skin by intramuscular injections. It is long acting, culturally acceptable, and suitable for women of all reproductive ages.
Contraceptive implants: Progestin-only contraceptives are inserted under a woman’s skin through a minor surgery. This method has long lasting effects ranging from 1-5 years, does not require regular visit to clinic, and allows return of fertility immediately implants are removed. Speak to a Gynaecologist on suitable implants for you.
Sperms are prevented from entering the womb by chemical action or mechanical obstruction in this type of method. Variations of this method include;
Chemical barrier method: This requires chemicals or spermicides placed in the vagina to kill sperms. They are placed on the vagina before sexual intercourse. Examples are spermicidal creams and jellies, foaming tablets and vaginal suppositories. It is safe, cheap, and easy to use. It does not interfere with one’s menstrual cycle. Its disadvantage lies in the fact that it could cause irritations, interfere with intercourse and may be difficult to hide from partner.
Mechanical barrier method: classified into male and female types, they both are physical agents that destroy sperms.
Male condoms: This is a thin rubber sheath usually worn over the penis before sexual intercourse. It works by preventing pregnancy and reducing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. It is an inexpensive, highly effective birth control option and is widely available and accepted.
Female condoms: It is a soft pouch that is usually inserted into the vagina. This barrier method prevents the sperm from meeting the egg and stops the direct contact of penis and vagina thereby preventing pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Side effects are rare and it can be used during breastfeeding.
Diaphragm: It is a temporary artificial contraceptive inserted into the vagina before intercourse. It is safe for most women except those who have bladder infections. It might be expensive to some and requires special care and storage.
Cervical caps: They are similar to diaphragms and are also effective in preventing pregnancy and spread of sexually transmitted infections.
Intra-uterine contraceptive devices (IUD’s)
These are small objects made from plastic materials and placed in the uterine cavity. It could be Copper or Progestin. They work by forming a barrier to implantation and make the endometrial lining hostile to sperm. It is highly effective than most contraceptives and is long acting. Its disadvantage is that it requires screening, must be done by trained healthcare providers, needs regular check-ups and increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Voluntary surgical contraception is a permanent method of contraception that involves the removal of some parts of the male or female reproductive system. Vasectomy is carried out on men while the bilateral tubal ligation is done on females. It is a permanent surgical procedure and requires special counselling by a certified doctor to avoid regrets later.
Family planning offers one the opportunity to choose as many children as they want and as well as determine the spacing of each of them. Different family planning options are available to both men and women of reproductive age. If you are still not sure of which of the aforementioned option is most suitable for you, kindly Consult a Doctor for professional assistance.
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