Contraception or family planning can be simply defined as a way of keeping a woman’s fertility in check. Contraceptives enable a woman to keep her reproductive health in check by determining when to get pregnant. For those who are mothers already, it’s particularly important so as to birth space their children accordingly.
Nowadays, there are several methods of family planning to suit each woman depending on their taste. It is important that a woman consults a reproductive health practitioner before putting herself on any method of family planning. This is so because family planning is individualized and what suits one woman may not necessarily work for another.
Birth control methods
- Hormonal methods (oral pills, injections, implants and vaginal rings) – they contain synthetic hormones which stops ovaries from releasing eggs each month or by thickening cervical mucus hence sperms cannot pass through.
- Oral pill comes in two forms; combined pill (progesterone and estrogen) and progesterone only pill.
- The injection can last for two up to five years depending on the plan. It is advisable to visit a doctor for injections, prescriptions and placement of vaginal rings or implants to avoid any complications.
- Intra-uterine devices (IUD’s)–these are T-shaped devices which have strings and are inserted into the uterus thus inhibiting fertilization. Examples are copper IUD and Mirena and can last up to five years.
- Barrier methods –they include male & female condoms, diaphragm and cervical cap. Apart from preventing pregnancy, condoms offer an added protection against STI’s.
- Surgical sterilization– this is a permanent method. It includes tubal ligation where a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked hence the egg cannot reach the uterus for fertilization. Men also can undergo vasectomy whereby the sperm duct are cut and tied; hence semen does not contain sperms.
- Natural methods– they do not involve any family-planning medications or devices. They include rhythm and withdrawal methods. They are mostly applicable where there is no other alternative especially in war torn areas.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Contraceptive
Dr. Ann Kihara, a gynecologist, advises that before a woman settles for a particular type of family planning, there are a number of considerations to make to ensure that the method gives the maximum benefits. They include;
- Background – these include social-economic, culture and religion. These may not allow use of certain contraceptives such as condoms whereas the financial status of a woman affects the choice made depending on its affordability.
- The number of children – this determines whether to use a short term or long term method.
- Existence of any medical problems such as diabetes and hypertension may hinder use of some methods.
- Sexual activities of a woman– most women fear unwanted pregnancies over HIV/AIDS & other sexually transmitted illnesses (STI’s). Thus for women with multiple partners, it is advisable to use a method that will protect from STI’s such as condoms.
- Effects of the method on the fertility– some methods will need for a woman to wait for sometime after withdrawal before fertility can resume. For example implants can take up to two years before a woman can fall pregnant.
Contraceptives during breast feeding
Breast feeding is in itself considered a form of contraceptive. However this is only effective if the woman is exclusively breast feeding and that her menstruation has not resumed. The most advisable form of contraceptive to use during this time other than withdrawal method is progesterone-only pill and IUD’s.
Morning after/ emergency pill
As the name suggests this pill should be used only when a woman has had unprotected sex during the fertile days of the month. It should not be taken for more than once in one month otherwise it will interfere with the reproductive system. Some of its side effects include:
- weight gain/loss,
- vaginal dryness,
- irregular menses
- low libido.
Nutrition and contraceptives
Good nutrition is very essential when using contraceptives since it determines the health of future pregnancies. For instance women who bleed a lot may suffer iron deficiency hence low hemoglobin levels. Thus it’s important for women to practice healthy feeding patterns.
Use of contraceptives is part of a woman’s life thus it’s important for a woman to be well educated in order to make informed choices about their reproductive health. Always consult a medical practitioner for clarifications.