Sexual intercourse is a normal and healthy part of your life, but you don’t always want it to lead to pregnancy. Fortunately, women have a number of options available to help avoid an unwanted pregnancy.
At the OB/GYN practice of Dr. Hany H Ahmed in Houston, Texas, we’re pleased to offer our patients a variety of contraception options, which are customized for the individual.
While no birth control method works all of the time, Dr. Ahmed can familiarize you with the advantages and disadvantages of each method to ensure the best possible protection for you.
The two major types of birth control are hormonal and barrier, and Dr. Ahmed offers both types.
Hormonal birth control
Getting pregnant involves having specific levels of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone in your body at the time of conception. Hormonal methods of birth control aim to disrupt normal hormone levels, thereby preventing pregnancy.
Common hormonal treatments include:
Known together as "the pill," these oral contraceptives containing estrogen and progestin:
- Prevent ovulation (release of eggs)
- Thicken the cervical mucus so it’s impenetrable to sperm
- Thin the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation
When taken as directed, the pill is highly effective. However, it’s possible to forget to take them or restart them after your period, so it’s not a perfect choice. About 9 of 100 women taking oral contraceptives over the course of a year have an unintended pregnancy.
For women who can’t take estrogen, some more recent medications (called the “mini pill”) contain only progestin. However, the timing is more restrictive for dosing than with the combination pills.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
An IUD is a T-shaped device made of molded plastic that Dr. Ahmed inserts through your vagina and cervix into the uterus. It’s a good choice for long-term contraception. And, if you choose to have children, you can simply remove it.
There are two types of IUDs approved for use in the US: ones that contain copper and ones that contain progestin.
The copper IUDs block sperm from reaching the fallopian tubes. They can remain in place for 10 or more years, and during the first year of use, pregnancy rates fall below 1%.
The progestin IUDs work a bit like the pill, thickening the mucus in the cervix and thinning the lining of the uterus. However, they can also help decrease menstrual pain and bleeding. These IUDs last 3-6 years, with pregnancy rates similar to copper ones.
Other hormonal options include vaginal rings and skin patches, both of which contain estrogen and progestin.
An implantable option involves progestin-containing rods inserted under the skin in the upper arm. This one is effective for up to three years. Another option involves having Depo-Provera® injected into a deep muscle every three months.
Barrier birth control
Barrier contraceptives use physical separation instead of hormones to prevent fertilization. Spermicides, chemicals that kill sperm, can increase a barrier’s effectiveness.
Barrier options generally don’t have the side effects that hormonal contraceptives do, making them an attractive option for some. In addition, many forms don’t require a prescription, and you can easily find them at the pharmacy.
One major downside, however, is that with the exception of the male condom, barrier options don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Options that Dr. Ahmed recommends include:
A male condom is made of latex or polyurethane and worn over the penis during sex. Sperm collect inside the sheath so they can’t penetrate the vagina. While condoms can tear during sex, they’re still around 87%-90% effective. Female condoms aren’t widely used in the US.
The sponge is a doughnut-shaped ring of polyurethane foam impregnated with the spermicide Nonoxynol-9. You insert the sponge as if inserting a tampon, and it prevents sperm from getting to the cervix.
This is a soft, flexible, dome-shaped latex cup, with a metal coil to hold it in place. You insert it into your vagina prior to sex and cover it with spermacide to form a tight seal. It blocks access to the cervix.
Also known as “getting your tubes tied,” this surgical procedure prevents pregnancy by blocking off your fallopian tubes. Tubal ligation is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy and is a permanent form of birth control.
Be sure you’re not going to have any (or any more) children if you choose tubal ligation.
Overwhelmed by the number of contraception options available? Find out what’s best for you by scheduling a consultation with Dr. Ahmed. Call us at 713-489-3348, or book online today.