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Contraception varies greatly and which method of contraception is best for a patient is a personal decision. A patient’s health, level of sexual activity, their desire or lack of desire to have children, or more children, and what they find affordable all factors into their decision of which method of contraception works best for them. Various forms of contraception, also known as birth control, include male condoms, female condoms, hormonal birth control pills, vasectomy, tubal ligation, barrier methods, vaginal rings, cervical caps, diaphragms, and intrauterine devices. In most cases, with the exception of condoms and vasectomies, contraception becomes the responsibility of the woman.

Once a patient is considering becoming sexually active, they should be encouraged and informed how to choose a method of contraception that works for them. Abstinence is the only form of birth control that is 100% effective, but choosing a proper contraceptive is a normal part of developing sexual responsibility. The only form of contraception that protects against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is a condom, and it is considered 98% effective.


The majority of birth control pills on the market, or other hormone based birth control, prevent pregnancy in several different ways. Thickening of cervical mucous makes it more difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. The wall of the uterus is changed to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching and growing into a fetus. Hormonal based contraceptives work based on this method including birth control pills, injected birth control, birth control patches, the mini pill and birth control rings. They are called hormonal contraceptives because they alter the hormones in the woman’s body in order to control the effects necessary to prevent pregnancy.
Image: Contraception

Hormone based contraception will not protect against sexually transmitted disease, which includes HIV. There is a risk of side effects associated with birth control. Strokes, heart attacks, and other heart related problems are the most common side effects, especially in women over 35 who smoke.


Condoms are the second most popular choice of contraceptives, although they are the most popular for those who are not in a committed and monogamous relationship. Condoms work by preventing the semen from entering a woman’s body by containing it in the end of the condom. While condoms are not 100% effective, they are considered one of the best forms of sexual protection because they significantly reduce the risk of transferring sexually transmitted diseases as well as pregnancy. Condoms are considered sexual protection, while other forms of birth control are considered only contraceptives.

Condoms come in several varieties such as latex, polyurethane, lambskin, or “natural” varieties, however, only latex and polyurethane are approved for protecting against sexually transmitted diseases. Lambskin and “natural” condoms contain tiny holes which allow infection from person to person, and can still allow for pregnancy under the right conditions.

Condoms for vaginal or anal sexual activity are available and can be determined by their lubrication. Un-lubricated condoms are for oral sexual activities, although un-lubricated condoms can be lubricated with a non-petroleum based product, such as KY lubrication. Lubricating a condom with petroleum based products is not recommended as it has been proven to weaken the condom and make it lose its effectiveness. Lubrication products specifically designed for sexual purposes that are safe for condom use are available.
Birth control
Image: Birth control

There is only one female condom on the market today and it has not undergone enough real world testing to determine its effectiveness. It is designed to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as pregnancy. Most omen who use female condoms do so for sexual protection against female to female transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Methods of birth control that do not use a contraceptive device, such as the withdrawal method and the rhythm method, are no longer considered viable methods of birth control. Withdrawal, which relies on the man removing his penis from the woman just before ejaculation, is considered highly unpredictable. A woman can still become pregnant even if the sperm lands on the outside of the vagina but has the opportunity to enter the vagina. Rhythm methods determined by the woman’s ovulation cycle are equally as ineffective and unpredictable. A woman can ovulate while menstruating. The rhythm method is used more for women wishing to get pregnant by trying to track her ovulation cycles.


Surgical methods of sterilization are contraceptive procedures that are typically used by men or women who are in a life long relationship and have determined they do not want children or do not wish to have more children. These methods are considered 85% permanent, and are costly and often painful if reversed. Surgical methods, such as tubal ligation or vasectomies involve removing or cutting off the supply of the egg or sperm in order to prevent pregnancy. Vasectomies have increased in popularity while tubal ligations have become much less popular. Vasectomies are less intrusive with less recovery time and tubal ligations involve the opening of the women’s abdominal cavity and involve much more recovery time.

Contraception requires the accurate ability to follow a given set of directions, as all contraceptives are only effective when used as directed. Some contraceptives require a prescription while others can be purchased at the local convenience store. Contraceptives come with risks, including but not limited to side effects, stroke, heart complications, infection, and are not considered completely effective. However, the use of a contraceptive drastically removes the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy, and with the use of condoms, cuts down dramatically on the spread of disease.
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