Contraception Methods

Contraception refers to the prevention of pregnancy using temporary methods which subsequently allow a return to fertility. In contrast, sterilization is a permanent way of preventing pregnancy.

There are various different contraception methods. After she is informed of these, each woman, with medical guidance, should choose the one that suits her best.

Natural contraceptive methods: These are based on abstention from sex during the fertile days of each cycle. Four different methods can be distinguished according to the techniques used, and these are: the rhythm method, the basal body temperature method, the cervical mucus method (or Billings’ method), and the syntothermic method.

Artificial contraceptive methods: These can be divided into three groups, depending on the method used:

  1. Barrier methods.

    These prevent sperm from reaching the uterus. Male and female condoms, diaphragms, spermicidal creams etc. all fall into this group.

  2. Hormone methods (the pill).

    These are medicines containing two different hormones, oestrogen and gestagen, which modify the normal function of the ovaries and thus prevent ovulation. They can also affect the female reproductive system in other ways.

    Since they were discovered these drugs have been modified, both by reducing the dosage and changing the way they are introduced. The guidelines have also been altered in order to reduce harmful side effects.

    contraception methods

    The contraceptive pills refers to tablets which come in packets of twenty-one (sometimes twenty-eight), marked with the day of the week as a reminder to make sure that they are taken properly. One pill should be taken every day at the same time for three weeks. During the next seven days the pill should not be taken, and at this point menstruation should occur. The process then begins again with the next packet. The pill is also available in a twenty-eight day packet, when a tablet is taken every day and menstruation occurs during the fourth week when the tablets taken are placebo pills.

    The contraceptive patch, similar to a square sticking plaster, it is placed anywhere on the skin (other than the breast). The skin must be clean, dry and without hair. The medicine is absorbed through the skin. The treatment consists of three patches which are used on a weekly basis. After removing the third, the patch is not used for a week, when menstruation occurs, and the process then continues with the new patch. The patch should be checked every day to make sure that it is correctly attached.

    The vaginal ring is a plastic, transparent, flexible ring that is easily inserted into the vagina. The medicine is absorbed through the vaginal mucus.

    The ring is inserted once a month, and it is removed after three weeks. Menstruation occurs during the fourth week. The ring does not cause feelings of discomfort during sex.

    Every method is safe as long as the relevant guidelines are followed. A complete medical checkup is necessary before beginning any treatment. During the checkup, further details of the advantages and disadvantages of the chosen method are discussed.

  3. Intrauterine method: IUD.

    This is a small object which, when placed within the uterus, prevents gestation by inhibiting the progression of the spermatozoa and/or by producing an aseptic inflammation in the endometrium which helps to prevent the implantation of the ovular sac.

    The base of the IUD is made of plastic or polythene; the most common shapes are the “T” and the anchor. The vertical rod has a tiny copper wire wrapped around it and sometimes a hormone deposit with gestagens.

    The IUD is effective as soon as it is inserted, usually after menstruation. A gynaecological checkup must take place beforehand, to check for any problems which might make the use of the IUD impossible, and to decide which type of IUD is most appropriate.

    Sterilization: This is a permanent treatment. It is an irreversible surgical procedure that can be performed on both men (when it is known as a vasectomy) and on women (when it is known as a tubal ligation).

    A vasectomy consists of cutting the tubes which allow spermatozoa to leave the testicles. The operation is performed under local anaesthetic on an outpatient basis and lasts between fifteen and thirty minutes. It is not effective immediately, and further tests should be carried out over a period of some weeks to ensure that no spermatozoa are left after several ejaculations.See Andrology.

    Tubal ligation is the electro-coagulation and/or cutting of both Fallopian tubes. The egg cannot pass through the tubes and this eradicates any risk of the egg coming into contact with the spermatozoa. The sterilisation is performed by laparoscopy, which requires a general anaesthetic and some hours of hospitalisation. Sometimes, tubal ligation is carried out by Caesarean section.

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