Contraceptives – various types and methods

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Sexually active and not yet ready to have a baby? There are many forms of contraception you could use. Read on for a brief overview of these methods.

Contraceptives – various types and methods

There are many ways to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Broadly, they fall under the following:

Natural Methods of Birth Control

These methods are based on the concept of abstaining from sex during a women’s fertile period – or the period during which she is not ovulating.

The most popularly followed method is the Rhythm Method. The rhythm method is based on the woman’s menstrual cycle and usually involves abstaining from sex during the middle of her cycle, when she is ovulating. There is a formula for calculating these “unsafe” days, but this period is largely unreliable as even the most regular cycle can change anytime.

Another method some women use is called the Lactational Amenorrhoea Method. This is based on the assumption that a woman’s fertility is low while she’s breastfeeding. While studies show that during the first six months of regular feeding (every four hours), a woman’s fertility is low, this method CANNOT be relied upon and chances of getting pregnant are high.

The Withdrawal Method relies on the ability of the male to withdraw from the woman just before ejaculation so that he discharges outside her vagina. There are some major drawbacks to this method:

(i) The pre-ejaculation fluid may contain some sperm that could lead to conception.

(ii) It requires great discipline on the part of the male partner and chances of an accident are very high.

(iii) It may lead to sexual dissatisfaction for one or both of the partners.


Barrier Methods 

As the name suggests, these methods involve the use of a barrier between the sperm and the eggs to prevent conception.

Condoms refer to contraceptive sheaths that cover the penis during sex to prevent conception. Condoms are one of the safest methods of birth control and have the added benefit of providing protection against STIs.

To learn how to use a condom, check this out. For further information on condoms, read this.

Although not used extensively in India, the Vaginal Diaphragm is another example of a barrier contraceptive. The diaphragm, which is a soft rubber cup-like device used with spermicide, is inserted into the woman’s vagina.

Hormonal Methods

The most common hormonal method of birth control used by women is Birth Control Pills. These are pills taken by a woman everyday that inhibit the monthly release of the egg from the ovary, thus preventing pregnancies. While they do not safeguard a woman from STIs, birth control pills are popular as they are reliable and do not interfere in satisfaction derived from sex.

Get more information on birth control pills here.

Intrauterine Contraceptive Devices

IUD or IUCD is a small, plastic T-shaped contraceptive method that is placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are of two kinds – copper and hormone-based.

The copper IUD works by obstructing the movement of the sperm as it moves towards the egg and prevents fertilization.

The hormone-based IUD is fitted with a capsule containing the hormone progesterone. This hormone is released in a sustained manner and acts as a contraceptive.

Check this out for more information on IUDs.

Permanent Methods of Birth Control

Men who desire permanent contraception can go in for a vasectomy. This involves a surgical cutting of the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles. This method is mostly irreversible.

Women can go for Tubal surgeries, wherein the fallopian tubes are cut or blocked so that the eggs cannot go down to the uterus.

Emergency Contraception

Also known as the morning-after pill, this is a form of post-coital contraception. In other words, it’s used after sex in case precautions were not taken earlier. While this pill is great for avoiding unwanted pregnancies, experts caution against its indiscriminate use. It must be remembered that the morning-after pill must be taken only in case of emergencies and is not a substitute for other forms of contraception like condoms, birth-control pills and IUDs.

For more information, read this.

Photograph by Patti Adair, via

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