Birth control or Contraception is a way of preventing pregnancy. Contraceptives help protect women from getting pregnant and barrier contraceptives have an additional advantage of preventing catching infections during sexual activity. Adolescents need to learn about contraception to have enough information to make safe and healthy sexual decisions.
Whether married or not, adolescents and adults may suffer major medical, psychological, and social repercussions if they engage in unprotected sexual intercourse, which can include early and unplanned pregnancy, delivery, and unsafe abortion, as well as STIs (sexually Transmitted Infections) such as HIV/AIDS. In a culture like ours, where sexism towards women and girls is prevalent, the repercussions may be far-reaching and impact women's and girls' whole lives.
There are many different birth control options, and we are here to help you figure it out.
What is birth control?
Birth control or contraception methods are any methods, medicine, or device used to prevent pregnancy. One can choose from various types of birth control, and some of these works better than others in preventing unplanned or premarital pregnancy and some may work better depending on your medical history, comfort level and level of commitment. The type of birth control you use depends greatly on your health, your desire to have children, and your need to prevent STIs.
Remember that there is no ‘best’ type of method of birth control for everyone. Before choosing a birth control method, talk to your doctor about:
- Whether you plan on getting pregnant soon, in a few years, or never
- How well each method will work
- Possible side effects
- How often you engage in sex
- How many sex partners you have
- Your overall health, medical-surgical history
This will help you learn about the best types of birth control to prevent pregnancy. It is important to note that any birth control method can fail. However, using an effective method of birth control can significantly reduce your chances of getting pregnant.
What are the different types of birth control options available?
There are various birth control methods:
Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives
Long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARCs for short, are one of the most effective contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. Less than 1% of the users become pregnant during the first year of using these contraception methods. LARCs also have various other medical benefits, including helping with heavy or painful periods.
There are two types of LARCs: The intrauterine device (IUD) and the subdermal implant. However, LARCs are not barrier methods and do not prevent sexually transmitted infections. This is why adolescents who use LARCs must also use a condom or any other type of barrier protection during sexual activity to prevent infections.
- Subdermal Implant: This is a thin, flexible plastic implant that contains a hormone called etonogestrel. The implant is about the size of a matchstick and is placed under the underarm's skin.
- Intrauterine Device (IUD): This is a small, flexible, T-shaped birth control device. It is inserted inside the uterus by an experienced health professional. It is of two types: Copper T IUD and Levonorgestrel IUD.
There are many types of short-acting contraceptives, and they are 90% effective in preventing pregnancy. However, these must also be used with a condom or other type of barrier protection to prevent STIs.
- Progestin Injection: This shot contains a hormone that prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg.
- Contraceptive Vaginal Rings: The ring has etonogestrel/ Ethinyl estradiol hormones that prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. The ring has to be placed inside the vagina once a month. It stays in place for three weeks and is removed for one week. This is the week when the user has their period.
- Transdermal Patch: The transdermal patch has hormones (norelgestromin and Ethinyl estradiol) that get absorbed through the skin. These hormones prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. The patch is removed and replaced every week for three weeks. During the week, when one has their period, the patch is not worn.
- Oral Contraceptive Pills: There are two types of oral contraceptive pills. The combined oral contraceptive pill has estrogen and progesterone, the two sex hormones in females that control the menstrual cycle. This is one of the most commonly used contraception methods in females.
Barrier Methods of Protection
All genders must use a barrier method in addition to one of the above-listed protection methods for all types of sexual activity. In addition to preventing pregnancy, barrier methods help prevent sexually transmitted infections and HIV.
- External Condom: this is the most common barrier method of contraception for teenagers. An external condom or male condom is a latex, synthetic, or natural material designed to fit over the penis.
- Internal Condom: it is a loose-fitting polyurethane sheath with two flexible rings. One ring fits inside the vagina, anus, or mouth, and the other fits outside.
- Dental Dam: A dental dam is a latex or synthetic sheet that a barrier user may place over the penis, vulva, vagina, mouth, or anus. It provides protection from infection during oral sex.
Emergency Modes of Contraception
In an emergency, one can use progestin hormones. Often called the morning-after pill, emergency contraception is a form of birth control that must be used within should be taken within 24/72 hours post unprotected intercourse (as prescribed) to be effective and should not be mistaken for an abortion-inducing drug.
In India, under the National Reproductive and Child Health Programme, the Drug Controller of India has approved only Levonorgestrel 0.75 mg tablets to be used as ECP. This method is often exploited by females and using these pills more than a few times a month which then can disrupt the hormonal cycle leading to irregular heavy menstrual bleeding.
How to choose your birth control?
The best birth control method for you is one that is safe and that you are comfortable using. Also, you need to ensure that you can use it consistently and correctly. Your preferred method of birth control may change over your lifetime and is influenced by many factors, like:
- Your age and health history
- Your reproductive goals
- Relationship factors, including marital status, number of sexual partners, how often you have sex, and so on
- Religious beliefs
- There are differences between birth control methods, like how effective they are at preventing pregnancy, their side effects, cost, and availability.
Knowing your option is a part of the decision process. Moreover, you need to assess yourself honestly and your relationships when choosing a birth control method that is right for you.