Understanding Birth Control
Birth control, also called contraception, describes procedures, medications and processes designed to prevent pregnancy. Birth control works through three methods:
- Prevent sperm from reaching the egg. Condoms, spermicides, diaphragms and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are designed to work this way.
- Halt ovulation. Birth control pills are one method to keep a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs that can be fertilized.
- Sterilization. Procedures such as tubal ligations and vasectomies are permanent methods designed to keep a woman from getting pregnant or a man from being able to get a woman pregnant.
Resources & Support
Wellstar’s dedicated physicians and OB/GYNs are committed to improving the health of woman through the most current information and advice involving family planning, including birth control. Our professional staff provides thoughtful, up-to-date consultations on all forms of birth control options ranging from abstinence to oral contraception to advanced devices to surgery. They are specifically trained to help you and other patients to determine what method or devices work best for you and your lifestyle.
Our staff are physicians trained and certified in the state-of-the-art Essure method, a permanent but minimally invasive birth control procedure that can be performed in the comfort of a physician’s office in less than 15 minutes without hormones, cutting, burning or risks associated with general anesthesia or tubal ligation. This procedure is available at all Wellstar offices.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills are common contraception taken orally and contain hormones designed to prevent ovulation, thus keeping a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones in the pill also prevent pregnancy by thickening a woman’s cervical mucus, thus blocking sperm and keeping them from eggs.
If taken as prescribed, birth control pills can be an effective method of preventing pregnancy. Some pills, however, come with some side effects such as bleeding between periods, breast tenderness and nausea, but these effects usually disappear after two or three months.
Condoms and Spermicides
Condoms are made of thin latex and are worn on the penis during intercourse. They are designed to collect a man’s semen, thus preventing sperm from entering the vagina. They are also used to prevent the transfer of sexually transmitted diseases.
If used correctly, condoms can be effective birth control and can be even more effective with spermicide, a chemical that stops sperm from moving and thus preventing them from reaching eggs.
Women may use a diaphragm, a shallow, dome-shaped cup with a flexible rim. Made of latex, the diaphragm is inserted in the vagina, and, when in place, it covers the cervix and prevents sperm from joining with an egg. A diaphragm is most effective when used with spermicide.
Also available are female condoms, plastic pouches that are inserted into the vagina before intercourse and collect semen to keep sperm from entering the vagina, and the sponge, a soft, plastic foam device containing spermicide.
Both the birth control patch, a thin strip placed on the arm three weeks of each month, and the birth control implant, a matchstick-sized rod inserted into the arm and effective for up to three years, are designed to release hormones such as estrogen and progestin. These prevent ovulation, thus keeping a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones in the pill also prevent pregnancy by thickening a woman’s cervical mucus, thus blocking sperm and keeping them from eggs.
A vaginal ring works in a similar fashion but is a small, flexible ring inserted into the vagina once a month for three weeks.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are small, T-shaped devices inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy for between five and 10 years. IUDs affect sperm movement, preventing them from joining with an egg. Some contain progestin to prevent ovulation.
A birth control shot is an injection of a hormone—progestin—that prevents pregnancy. Shots typically last for three months.
If you are certain that you do not want to become pregnant or father a child at any point in the future, you may consider sterilization. For men, this involves vasectomy, a procedure in which the tubes that carry semen within a man’s genitalia are cut and sealed. Women may choose from several sterilization options, including tubal ligation, in which a woman’s fallopian tubes are tied, cut, or sealed, or other procedures designed to block the fallopian tubes.
Wellstar employs the Essure® method, a minimally invasive but permanent birth control procedure that blocks the fallopian tubes.
Emergency contraception helps prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex. As with some other birth control devices, these prevent ovulation, thus keeping a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones in the pill also prevent pregnancy by thickening a woman’s cervical mucus, thus blocking sperm and keeping them from eggs. They might also keep a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.