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Introduction to birth control
The terminology used to describe birth control methods include: contraception, pregnancy prevention, fertility control, and family planning. But no matter what the terminology, sexually active people can choose from an abundance of methods to reduce the possibility of their becoming pregnant. Nevertheless, no method of birth control available today offers perfect protection against sexually transmitted infections (sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs), except abstinence.
In simple terms, all methods of birth control are based on either preventing a man's sperm from reaching and entering a woman's egg (fertilization) or preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the woman's uterus (her womb) and starting to grow. New methods of birth control are being developed and tested all the time. And what is appropriate for a couple at one point may change with time and circumstances.
Unfortunately, no birth control method, except abstinence, is considered to be 100% effective.
Permanent methods of contraception (surgical sterilization)
Sterilization is considered a permanent method of contraception. In certain cases, sterilization can be reversed, but the success of this procedure is not guaranteed. For this reason, sterilization is meant for men and women who do not intend to have children in the future.
A vasectomy is a form of sterilization of a man. A vasectomy ensures that no sperm will exit from his penis when he ejaculates during sexual intercourse.
A vasectomy is usually performed by either a urologist or a general surgeon. Under local anesthesia, the vas deferens (tubes that carry sperm from the testicles into the urethra, also known as ductus deferens) from each testicle is severed. The open ends are then closed off. A vasectomy can be performed in the clinic and involves making two small openings in the scrotum. After a vasectomy, the man may feel tenderness or bruising around the incision site.
A vasectomy does not interfere with the ability of a man to have an erection or the quantity of his ejaculation fluid. After a man has a vasectomy, another second form of birth control should be used until his ejaculate fluid is found to be free from sperm. This usually takes 10 to 20 ejaculations.
Vasectomy reversals are possible, but they tend to be expensive and are not guaranteed to be effective. A vasectomy should be considered a permanent form of birth control.
A vasectomy does not protect a man or his partner from sexually transmitted infections.
Tubal ligation (tubes tied)
Tubal ligation is also known as "having one's tubes tied," or having a "tubal." Tubal ligation is for women, and like a vasectomy, should be considered a permanent form of birth control.
A tubal ligation is performed under general, regional, or local anesthesia and can be performed as an outpatient procedure. The surgeon or OB/GYN uses one of several procedures in order to access a woman's Fallopian tubes (which run from the top part of her uterus to each ovary). A laparoscopy is a procedure in which a small incision is made just below the navel. A viewing tube (scope) can then be inserted through this incision to view and reach the Fallopian tubes. A minilaparotomy is a small incision in the lower abdomen is sometimes used for tubal ligation as an alternative to a laparoscopic procedure.
Once the doctor has access to a woman's Fallopian tubes, they are closed off by using a clip, tying and cutting, or cauterizing (burning) the tubes. The procedure takes anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes.
Side effects of a tubal ligation may include infection, bleeding (hemorrhage), and any effects or complications associated with being under general anesthesia.
A tubal ligation blocks a woman's Fallopian tubes. As a result of the procedure, about 1 inch of each tube is blocked off. An egg can no longer travel down the tube to the uterus, and sperm cannot make contact with the egg. Tubal ligation should have no effect on a woman's menstrual cycle or hormone production.
A woman's tubal ligation can be surgically reversed, usually with more success than in men who have had a vasectomy. About 14% of women in the US seek information about a reversal of tubal ligation.
A tubal ligation does not protect a woman or her partner from sexually transmitted infections (sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs). It is also not an absolute method of birth control because a small percentage of women become pregnant after a tubal ligation. Pregnancy after tubal ligation is uncommon (occurring in less than 2% of women), and the risk of pregnancy appears to be related to age (younger women have more post-tubal ligation pregnancies) as well as the type of procedure used for the sterilization.
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Hysteroscopic sterilization is a nonsurgical form of permanent birth control in which a physician inserts a 4-centimeter (1.6 inch) long metal coil into each one of a woman's two Fallopian tubes via a scope passed through the cervix into the uterus (hysteroscope), and from there into the openings of the Fallopian tubes. Over the next few months, tissue grows over the coil to form a plug that prevents fertilized eggs from traveling from the ovaries to the uterus.
The procedure takes about 30 minutes, can be done in a doctor's office, and usually requires only a local anesthetic. During a 3-month period after the coils are inserted, women must use other forms of birth control until their physician verifies by an imaging test known as a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) that the Fallopian tubes are completely blocked.
Like tubal ligation, this form of sterilization is permanent (not reversible) and is designed as an alternative to surgical sterilization which requires general anesthesia and an incision. About 6% of women who have the procedure develop side effects, mainly due to improper placement of the coils.
This form of sterilization, like other methods of surgical sterilization, does not protect a woman or her partner from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of a woman's uterus and, depending on her overall health status and the reason for the operation, perhaps her ovaries as well. For practical purposes, no woman who has had a hysterectomy can become pregnant; it is an irreversible method of birth control and absolute sterilization. A laparoscopic hysterectomy (removal of the uterus through tiny incisions in the abdomen through which instruments are placed) is possible when there are no complications and no suspicion of cancer. A supra-cervical hysterectomy, which spares the cervix and removes the upper part of the uterus, is also a common surgical technique.
If a woman has other chronic medical problems that may be helped by a hysterectomy (such as abnormally excessive menstrual bleeding, uterine fibroids, uterine growths), than this may be an appropriate procedure for her to consider. Otherwise, contraception should be considered a secondary benefit and not a sole reason to have the procedure.
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REFERENCE: ACOG. Hysteroscopic Sterilization.
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Birth Control OptionsBirth control is available in a variety of methods and types. The method of birth control varies from person to person, and their preferences to either become pregnant or not. Examples of barrier methods include barrier methods (sponge, spermicides, condoms), hormonal methods (pill, patch), surgical sterilization (tubal ligation, vasectomy), natural methods, and the morning after pill. Side effects and risks of each birth control option should be reviewed prior to using any birth control method.
Birth Control MethodsWhat are your birth control options? Learn about birth control side effects and effectiveness. Discover birth control methods such as birth control pills, birth control shot, implant, patch and more.
Think You Know Birth Control QuizWhat is the best form of birth control? Take this quiz to find out about hormonal, surgical, barrier, and natural methods!
Hormonal Methods of Birth ControlThere are several different hormonal methods of birth control. The hormones can be estrogen and/or progesterone. The hormones can be taken by mouth, implanted into body tissue, absorbed from a patch on the skin, injected under the skin, or placed in the vagina. Common types of hormonal birth control include: "The Pill" (oral contraceptives), injection (Depo-Provera, Lunelle), the patch (Ortho-Evra), and the vaginal ring (Nuvaring).
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure in which the uterus is removed. There are a variety of surgical techniques for performing hysterectomies, which include vaginal hysterectomy, total hysterectomy, laparoscopy-assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH), supracervical hysterectomy, laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy, radical hysterectomy, and oophorectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy hysterectomies.
Complications include infection, pain, and bleeding. The type of hysterectomy performed is dependent on the woman and the reason for the procedure.
Hysteroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed to diagnose and treat women's conditions, for example, abnormal vaginal bleeding, congenital abnormalities of the female genital tract, scarring from previous procedures, and removal of uterine fibroids or tumors.
Hysteroscopy may be recommended for evaluating a number of gynecological problems, including scarring, or adhesions, from previous uterine surgery or instrumentation such as dilation and curettage (D&C).
IUD (Intrauterine Device for Birth Control)
An IUD (intrauterine device) is a birth control method designed for a woman. The IUD is a small "T" made of molded polyethylene plastic coated with barium so that, if need be, it can be seen on X-ray.
There are two types of IUDs 1) Intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) including the ParaGard, Copper 7, and Mini-7; and 2) Intrauterine system (IUS) including Progestasert and Mirena.
Side effects of the IUD include spotting, infection, infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and heavy menstrual bleeding. Risks and complications of the IUD are miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, and increased menstrual bleeding.
Low Testosterone (Low-T)Low testosterone (low-T) can be caused by conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, liver or kidney disease, hormonal disorders, certain infections, and hypogonadism. Signs and symptoms that a person may have low-T include insomnia, increased body fat, weight gain, reduced muscle, infertility, decreased sex drive, depression, and worsening of congestive heart failure or sleep apnea. Low-T can be treated with testosterone therapy in the form of gels, injections, pellets, or skin patches. Side effects of testosterone treatment include acne, anxiety, hair loss, headache, and change in sex drive (libido).
Natural Birth ControlNatural methods of contraception are considered "natural" because they are non-mechanical and non-hormonal. Fertility awareness methods (FAMs) are based upon knowing when a woman ovulates each month. Natural methods of birth control include: the calendar rhythm, basal body temperature, mucus inspection, symptothermal, use of an ovulation indicator testing kit, withdrawal, lactational infertility, douching and urination, and abstinence.
Pregnancy Myths QuizBeing pregnant is a delicate time for both mother and baby. Take this quiz to separate the myths and facts about being pregnant, and learn the truth behind healthy pregnancies!
Pregnancy Planning (Tips)
Pregnancy planning is an important step in preparation for starting or expanding a family. Planning for a pregnancy includes taking prenatal vitamins, eating healthy for you and your baby, disease prevention (for both parents and baby) to prevent birth defects and infections, avoiding certain medications that may be harmful to your baby, how much weight gain is healthy exercise safety and pregnancy, travel during pregnancy.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms and SignsPregnancy symptoms can vary from woman to woman, and not all women experience the same symptoms. When women do experience pregnancy symptoms they may include symptoms include missed menstrual period, mood changes, headaches, lower back pain, fatigue, nausea, breast tenderness, and heartburn. Signs and symptoms in late pregnancy include leg swelling and shortness of breath. Options for relief of pregnancy symptoms include exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women (STDs)Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are among the most common infectious diseases in the United States. STDs can be spread through any type of sexual activity involving the sex organs, the anus or mouth, or through contact with blood during sexual activity. Examples of STDs include, chancroid, chlamydia, gonorrhea, granuloma inguinale, lymphogranuloma venereum, syphilis, genital herpes, genital warts, trichomoniasis, pubic lice (crabs), and scabies. Treatment is generally with antibiotics; however, some STDs that go untreated can lead to death.