Written by Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD
Contraception or birth control refers to the various procedures used to deliberately prevent the likelihood of pregnancy. It is used to limit family size and to plan future pregnancies.
Birth control methods have been practised since the ancient ages. Women have used vaginal suppositories during sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy and herbs and roots of various plants to cause abortion. The earliest known condoms were animal intestines worn over the penis during coitus.
Nowadays, birth control is practised in some form or the other in almost all communities, regulated by cultural and religious attitudes to birth control.
Different methods of contraception have different characteristics as well as different advantages and disadvantages. A good idea of these various methods are necessary to be able to choose the right one.
Behavioural methods depend on a good knowledge of the menstrual cycle as well as adequate self control by the couple.
The main advantage is that this method does not require the use of any drug, does not interfere with normal body functions, and the couple can plan for pregnancy at any time they want. The main disadvantage is that it is dependent almost wholly on the man's self-control. The failure rate is high at 15 - 18%.
In barrier methods of birth control, a barrier is placed between the penis and the vagina during intercourse so that the sperm cannot meet the ovum for fertilization.
The condom can be inserted about 8 hours prior to sexual intercourse and can be kept in for about another 12 hours after intercourse. It can be used more than once during this period.
The sponge also acts as a barrier contraceptive to some extent since it swells up to fit across the cervix once it is inside the vagina.
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In this method, drugs are used to either prevent ovulation or to prevent implantation of the embryo after fertilization.
Read more about IUCDs here - IUCD
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