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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. Unlike IUDs that were used in the 1970s, present-day IUDs are small, safe, and highly effective.

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; cervical shield; 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).

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