Which Birth Control Method Is Best for You? IF A BABY IS NOT ON YOUR "TO.DO" LIST JUST NOW, CONTRACEPTION IS A MUST. HERE, DR MIRIAM STOPPARD LOOKS AT THE VARIETY OF METHODS ON OFFER

The Mirror (London, England), July 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

Which Birth Control Method Is Best for You? IF A BABY IS NOT ON YOUR "TO.DO" LIST JUST NOW, CONTRACEPTION IS A MUST. HERE, DR MIRIAM STOPPARD LOOKS AT THE VARIETY OF METHODS ON OFFER


Byline: MIRIAM STOPPARD

To mark World Population Day yesterday, a ground-breaking global Family Planning Summit was held in London hosted by the Government to raise awareness and provide an additional 120 million women in the world's poorest countries with life-saving contraceptives and services.

But contraception is an issue that affects all women everywhere and if you need advice on family planning read my comprehensive guide to see what is the right type for you depending on age and circumstance.

WHAT METHOD IS BEST FOR ME?

The best method for you is the one that is most effective, but effectiveness can be judged by two criteria: theoretical and actual. Invariably, the latter has a high failure rate due to human error.

The least effective, largely because of the human element, are the so-called "natural" methods, the ones that rely on determining safe periods and abstaining from intercourse during that time. As all the medical complications of pregnancy outweigh those of taking the combined pill, getting pregnant is always more risky than taking the pill. Contraceptives with the greatest risk are those with the highest failure rate.

Your choice of birth control will probably change during your fertile years. No one method is ideal for a long time, punctuated as it may be by planned pregnancies and changes in sexual partners.

NATURAL METHODS

These methods include the oldest forms of contraception but with the highest failure rates:

Periodic abstinence

This means abstinence from intercourse during the time of ovulation and is based on calculations using the calendar, plus the rise and fall of the woman's body temperature and an ovulation-predictor kit. Using these indicators, you can decide to abstain from penetrative sex during ovulation. The failure rate is high as ovulation is difficult to be certain of.

Withdrawal

Another ancient method with a very high failure rate is where the penis is withdrawn just before ejaculation. While it doesn't require discussion at family planning clinics and there's no financial cost, it leaves much of the responsibility with the man. The failure rate is very high because often men wait too long and it only takes a tiny bead of semen to get you pregnant.

Downsides: These methods are hopeless for women with irregular cycles and so have a high failure rate. They require a strong commitment from both partners. Although there are no risks to health, there may be to relationships and, with a comparatively high failure rate, problems of unwanted pregnancy. The techniques need at least six months to become established and for you to work out what's normal for you.

Barrier methods

These methods physically block the sperm from reaching the ovum or they chemically inactivate them:

Male condom

A latex rubber or plastic sheath placed over the erect penis before penetration. It should be lubricated with a water-based lubricant - never use anything oily or greasy - and freed from air so that it doesn't burst inside the vagina. It also prevents the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, especially Aids.

Female condom

As effective as the male condom, it's designed to line the inside of the vagina. It consists of a lubricated plastic sheath with an anchoring ring to keep it in place within the vagina and an outer ring that holds the sheath open to allow insertion of the penis. However, it is quite cumbersome.

Diaphragm and cervical cap

A diaphragm is a dome of rubber with a coiled metal spring in its rim. It fits diagonally across the vagina and it's used with a spermicidal agent. It must be left in place for six hours after intercourse. The cervical cap is smaller and more rigid and fits over the cervix, where it's held in place by suction. Both these methods are very efficient.

The use of a spermicide is essential with these barrier methods to ensure their effectiveness.

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Which Birth Control Method Is Best for You? IF A BABY IS NOT ON YOUR "TO.DO" LIST JUST NOW, CONTRACEPTION IS A MUST. HERE, DR MIRIAM STOPPARD LOOKS AT THE VARIETY OF METHODS ON OFFER
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