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Birth Control - Birth Control Methods

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Intrauterine device (IUD)

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device that is placed in the uterus camera.gif to prevent pregnancy. There are two main types of IUDs: copper IUDs (such as ParaGard) and hormonal IUDs (such as Mirena or Skyla). When an IUD is in place, it can provide birth control for 3 to 10 years, depending on the type.

The hormonal IUD typically reduces menstrual flow and cramping over time. On the other hand, the copper IUD can cause longer and heavier periods. But the hormonal IUD can have other side effects, including spotting, mood swings, and breast tenderness. These side effects occur less frequently than with other progestin-only methods.

Barrier methods

Barrier methods (including the diaphragm; cervical cap; male condom; female condom; and spermicidal foam, sponge, gel, suppository, or film) prevent sperm from entering the uterus and reaching the egg. Typically, barrier methods camera.gif are not highly effective, but they generally have fewer side effects than hormonal methods or IUDs. Spermicides and condoms should be used together or along with another method to increase their effectiveness. Barrier methods can interrupt sex, because they must be used every time you have sex.

Condoms (male or female) should always be used if you are at risk of getting or spreading a sexually transmitted infection, such as genital herpes, chlamydia, or HIV.

Fertility awareness (periodic abstinence or natural family planning)

Fertility awareness requires that a couple chart the time during a woman's menstrual cycle camera.gif when she is most likely to become pregnant and avoid intercourse or use a barrier method during that time. Fertility awareness is not a good choice if you need a highly effective form of birth control.

Breast-feeding may work as a form of birth control in the first 6 months after giving birth if you follow specific guidelines. For this method to work, you must breast-feed your baby every time. You can't use formula or other supplements. This is called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM).

Permanent birth control (sterilization)

Sterilization is a surgical procedure done for men or women who decide that they do not want to have any (or more) children. Sterilization is one of the most effective forms of birth control. Sterilization is intended to be permanent, and although you can try to reverse it with another surgery, reversal is not always successful.

  • Tubal ligation or implants. Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure where the fallopian tubes, which carry the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus, are tied, cut, or blocked. A new nonsurgical sterilization technique uses a small metal coil, or tubal implant camera.gif, inserted up into each fallopian tube. Over time, scar tissue grows around each tubal implant, permanently blocking the tubes. Most women are able to return home within a couple of hours after either procedure. You must use another form of birth control for 3 months after receiving tubal implants. At 3 months, you will need to have an X-ray taken to make sure that your tubes are closed.
  • Vasectomy. In this minor surgery, the vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles camera.gif to the seminal fluid (semen), are cut and blocked so that the semen no longer contains sperm camera.gif. This does not interfere with a man's ability to have an erection or enjoy sex. Men must have a sperm count check after having a vasectomy before relying on this for birth control.

Female sterilization is more complicated, has higher risks of problems after surgery, and is more expensive than male sterilization.

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