The American Pregnancy Association states that approximately 3 million sexually active couples in the United States use no form of birth control, and this results in 47 percent of all cases of unplanned pregnancies. Some of these couples may have been unaware of the multitude of different options available that can help stop a pregnancy from occurring. No matter which birth control method a couple chooses, they can feel empowered knowing they have taken control of their reproduction instead of just leaving it to chance.
Many effective over-the-counter contraception options are available for couples interested in preventing pregnancy without having to see a doctor. The male condom is inexpensive and widely available. Unlike many other birth control options, male condoms also protect against sexually transmitted diseases. The female condom is also widely available at drugstores, but is not as effective as its male counterpart is. The female condom, however, may be a good choice if the male refuses to wear a condom.
The contraceptive sponge is an effective choice for women that have not gone through childbirth, but is not as effective for those who have previously given birth. Spermicides are also available and come in many different forms, including gels, creams, films and suppositories. Although spermicides are one of the least effective over-the-counter options when used alone, they are easy to combine with other birth control options which may increase the effectiveness of preventing pregnancy.
Some of the most effective ways of preventing pregnancy are only available with a prescription. Oral contraceptives, also called birth control pills, come in a variety of different types and formulas. With so many birth control pill options available, many women are able to find a brand that meets their needs. For those that do not, however, many other options are available, including the birth control patch, the birth control shot, a contraceptive vaginal ring, cervical caps, diaphragms and intra-uterine devices called IUDs. Each prescription option has its own advantages and disadvantages, so women should talk to their doctors to decide which option may work best with them.
Monitoring a woman’s fertility signs and avoiding sexual intercourse during her fertile period can help prevent pregnancy from occurring. As a woman approaches ovulation, many physical changes will occur. Her cervical fluid will change from a thick, white sticky consistency to one resembling raw egg whites. Her cervix will become softer and higher. She may also feel an increase in sexual desire and have swollen or tender breasts. When these fertile signs appear, couples should avoid sexual intercourse. Charting a woman’s basal body temperature, which is the temperature of her body as soon as she wakes up in the morning, may also be helpful. This allows couples to look for patterns in the woman’s menstrual cycle and learn to predict at what point in her cycle she is at her most fertile. Using the calendar to identify this fertile period and avoiding sexual intercourse during this time can prevent pregnancy.
Some couples also use the withdrawal method, which consists of the man pulling his penis out of the vagina before ejaculating. Although these natural methods of birth control can be less effective than other birth control options and require much planning and commitment, they are a good choice for couples who do not wish to use medications or other contraceptive devices.
For couples who know they never want to become pregnant, sterilization may be a good choice. Tubal ligation is a medical procedure that renders the woman infertile by closing the fallopian tubes. It usually requires a hospital stay, but is more than 99 percent effective, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Vasectomies, on the other hand, are usually performed as an out-patient medical procedure. This procedure renders the man infertile by closing the man’s sperm ducts so that sperm are unable to pass through. The ACOG states that vasectomies are also more than 99 percent effective.