Choose a form of contraceptive

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Choosing a form of contraception, an important phase in anyone's life. Do you trade feeling for safety? How well does the pull out method really work? All of these are good questions, ones that are much better answered through research then self tests. If your reading this article I imagine you have a lot of other things on your mind...ahem...so we'll skip the crappy intro and get right to the facts. Shall we?


Abstinence

Under the terms of the USA Patriot act, all articles dealing with contraception must include a plug for abstinence. Okay, maybe not, but I can never resist a good Patriot Act joke. Yes, I know you have other things to be doing, sorry. There are only two things that you need to know about abstinence.

  1. It has a 100% success rate
  2. It is boring as hell

Since no one want to remain abstinent for the rest of their lives (except for catholic priests...and man are there a lot of jokes i could make about that) we won't dwell on this one any longer.

Condoms

Screw American Express, Condoms: Never Leave Home Without One.

Seriously, the condom was one of the greatest inventions of the...well...i don't really know when it was invented, but lets just say that it was a great invention. The condom falls into the lovely category known as barrier protection. The reason for the name is pretty obvious, it establishes a physical barrier between the penis and the vagina. Condoms prevent the sperm from entering the vagina, keeping it nice and happy in the resevior tip.

Among a condom's many positive features is its high degree of effectivness for a non-hormonal based form of birth control: it has a 3-14% failure rate. Another big upside to the magical condom is the fact that it protects against most STDs: you won't have to worry about having a weird burning sensation when you pee for the rest of your life.

Big downsides? For one, most users complain about the feel: a thin layer of latex is not the most sensitive thing in the world. Another disadvantage is the fact that they do break, which can cause a major problem. If one uses it properly and pays attention to the expiration date, this risk is greatly reduced. Don't keep one in a warm place (or wallet) very long: the rubber will "age" and the lubricant will evaporate if the package is torn.

Condoms come in all shapes, sizes, colors, textures and flavors. You can get condoms which are: blue; taste like banana; with weird nubbed things on them; "ribbed for her pleasure;" or with all sorts of lubricant on it. The optimal form of lubricant being spermicidal: if any sperm should happen to escape, they will be destoryed by the nasty spermicidal chemicals.

Related article: Put on a Condom

Diaphragms

Have you ever used a drain plug in your kitchen sink?

Then you understand the general idea behind a diaphragm. Picture the drain as the opening to the cervix, the pipe leading away from the drain as the fallopian tubes, and the water rushing in from the faucet as the sperm. A diaphragm is designed to plug the cervix, but it must be combined with some kind of spermicide to be most effective.

The statistics for the effectiveness of the diaphram are fun because of the creepy mental images they conjure up. Diaphragms have a 16% failure rate in general and a 6% failure rate for those who use it perfectly. Now here is where it gets interesting. Women who use a cervical cap, which is like a diaphragm, only smaller, the failure rate is 9% among women who have never been pregnant. For women who have been pregnant the failure rate is a whopping 32%. The lesson learned from this is that if you have ever given birth a cervical cap is not the choice for you.

To obtain a diaphragm or cervical cap one must head over to the good old doctor to get fitted like it were a new suit. Maybe if you're lucky it will even be some old Italian guy who walks around with a tape measure hanging off his neck while wearing coke bottle glasses.

The diaphragm and the like carry a couple of positive features: for one, it is small so it can be carried around like a condom. Also, it can be inserted well before the games begin so there is no awkward moment while attempts to shrink wrap himself. And because its flesh to flesh contact sensations will be a lot better than with a condom.

The major disadvantages are pretty significant. For one, the failure rate is higher then with a condom, which is a bad thing. Also a diaphragm does nothing to protect against STDs. Finally if you find yourself a real Don Juan he could actually push it out of place which would completely defeat the purpose.

Withdrawal

Sorry, no fun picture for this one, I am pretty sure that our sponsors would disapprove of that. Yes, the withdrawal method is considered to be a valid form of birth control, according to Planned Parenthood. The withdrawal method is when the male "pulls out" of the vagina before ejaculating... (insert redundant porn finish here). On average for typical use it has a 18-27% failure rating, but for those who practice this method perfectly, the failure rating drops to 4% (comparable to the diaphragm's perfect rate). Another problem with this is that during sex some men release precum, which can contain a high concentration of sperm. Obviously, there is no real STD protection: you are more likely to get whatever she has, than her yours (unless you screw-up).

Only use if absolutely necessary.

Related article: Learn to Pull Out in Time

Spermicide

So many people like to use the withdrawl method: however, statisically speaking, if you're not that worried about STDs, you're better off using a spermicide. The benefit is obvious: you don't have to worry about "pulling out," and you can leave the penis in after orgasm as an act of bonding with your mate. The risks: spermicide is good for killing some STDs, but can irritate the vagina, which may increase the transmission risk of HIV/AIDS; also, the failure rate here is comparable to withdrawl or female condom (perfect: 4-6%; typical: 18-26%).

Related article: Use a spermicidal agent

Hormonal Treatment

The following treatments are all pretty much the same, just applied in different forms. They all carry with them the same disadvantage which is really only that they don't protect against STDs. They play around with the hormones a bit, but other than that the lack of STD protection is the main problem. For superior protection, one should combine one of these treatments with a condom.

Norplant

To be honest, I think this one is pretty creepy: 6 little plastic implants are inserted below the skin, each the size of a match stick. These control the woman's hormones to prevent her from getting pregnant. While it can be an invasive option, it is also the most effective: less than a 1% failure rate, and good for 5-7 years.

Contraceptive Implant

The contraceptive implant is a flexible plastic tube the size of a match that is implantet on the inside of the upper arm. It releases the hormon progestogen which is comparable to the one contained in the pill: it stops the sperms reaching the egg and the egg from settling in the womb. The advantage over the pill is that you don`t have to remember to take it and as the hormon goes directly into the blood, the dosis is much lower. The failure rate is less than 1%. Most women who use this method experience changes in their period, either more or less or even no period at all, but normally this levels off after a few month. The real disadvantage of the implant is that it is a very new method and therefore no long-term-studies have been made. And, of course, it does not protect against STDs. The implantation is made by your gynecologist and takes only a few minutes. Your doctor will give you a local anesthesia and then you might want to look out of the window because the needle used to insert the implant is realy big. It doesn`t really hurt, but you will probably have a bruise for a few days. The implant stays in your arm for three years and is removed by your doctor.

Depo-Provera

Depo-Provera is a shot that the woman gets in either her arm or butt, which is good for 12 weeks. The effectiveness is between 97 - 99.7%. Some women also do this to reduce the amount of periods they experience (some will go for months without a period, even after stopping this treatment). A word of warning: reports are beginning to come in about loss of bone mass, similar to osteoparosis, occuring in users of the shot. If you are using or considering using the shot, you should discuss this concern with your doctor.

The Pill

The pill is a hormone cocktail that must be taken once a day on a regular schedule in order to ward against pregnancy. The largest problem with the pill is that people often forget to take a dose: which can cause a lapse in the hormone level, which can lead to a little annoying version of you running around. Women who are perfect with the pill will find the effectivness to be about 99%.

Mirena (IUD)

Mirena is an intrauterine device (IUD) which your OB/GYN can implant inside your uterus. Unlike older IUDs, which reportedly carried some unpleasant side-effects, Mirena has a very low or non-existent occurrence of side effects. Though it's an implant, the procedure is very short - an office-visit-type thing. You will need to go to your OB/GYN and make certain that your uterus is able to take the implant (for instance, it's recommended for women who have already had children; women who have not yet borne children have the potential to experience difficulty with their bodies keeping the IUD in place, though I have it myself, and I've had no such issues with it even though I've not had children). If everything is fine inside, you go back, and the doctor takes a narrow plastic sleeve which contains the implant, places it inside you, and fits the implant into place - the procedure bears a lot of resemblance to inserting a tampon, except that the payload is much thinner than a tampon, and goes into the much smaller region of your uterine opening.

Mirena is at least as effective as the pill (some tests indicate that it is more effective, since you don't have to rely on yourself to remember to perform the ritual every day); its effects are good for 5 years, and it is removable by a doctor at any time without adverse effects on your childbearing capability.

Vasectomy

This method involves preventing sperm from getting from a man's testicles into his semen. It is done by a minor surgical operation that takes about 20 minutes.

The modern technique for this doesn't use scalpels and only leaves two small punctures in the scrotum. When the man starts ejaculating again, it is recommended that he gets a sperm test after about 20 ejaculations. That way, there should be no sperm in his semen. Then he needs to wait about 3 months and have the same test, just in case the tube which has been severed reconnects itself.

This procedure doesn't effect your sexual function (besides the major turn off of a sore scrote for a couple weeks) or your ejaculate. This procedure does not protect against the transmission of STD's. See Vasectomy.com for more information and doctors.

The procedure can be reversible, but the effectiveness of any reversing operation diminishes with time. That is because the testes still produce sperm. This sperm has to go somewhere, and it is absorbed into the general area. However, antibodies can be produced, as the body now sees sperm as a foreign organism and wants to destroy it. Because of this, if a reversal operation is done, the antibodies still exist, and will try to destroy any sperm produced. For this reason, and others, vasectomy should be seen as permanent, and not something that can be reversed later. Coincidentally, most men who get vasectomies do so without thinking of using a reversal backup plan - only about 1% of vasectomies are reversed.

Natural Methods

Billings Method

The cervix changes its behavior during the course of a woman's cycle: if you ever notice down there how her vagina can get "sticky" or "clear," this is because her cervix is releasing different levels of mucus that create the channels for sperm to follow after sex; the cervix will also store and nourish sperm on the way to any fertile eggs. After ovulation, the cervix will plug up with even more mucus to protect the uterus until the next period happens (down there, it will feel "dry & hot"). Researchers have studied this behavior since the 1950s, and more recently that work has been followed up on by an Austrailian team lead by Dr. Evelyn Billings. Dr. Billings' Website

Basal Body Temperature

If you've had sex with a gal without a condom, you may notice that she'll either feel "warm & wet" or "dry & hot." After ovulation, the temperature of a woman's body will increase about a degree Farenheit for two weeks, followed by her period: "basal body temperature" measurement checks for this. Obviously you could use this to find out when to have sex to make a baby, or to avoid it, or use other contraceptives. BBT Reference

Computer Software

There are programs available for download that assist in the use of natural methods. ZANA digital's Software "Perimon": freeware "OvuSoft": use to help get pregnant?

Related Websites

Contraceptive Failure Rate Table