Make an informed choice about birth control

Creating a birth control plan is one of the most important decisions in a woman’s life if she is determined to be the one who chooses when she will have a child. In today’s world, it is imperative for young women to be taught to take control of their own lives and one of the first steps in helping them to accomplish this independence is by giving them the necessary tools to make informed decisions about birth control.

Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, said, “When women can make free and informed choices in all spheres of life, including marriage and number and spacing of their children, they can reach their full potential.”

This has proven to be true over and over. When women have been “allowed” to make choices for themselves concerning reproduction, they are able to reach for the sky while effectively providing for their children. However, as this choice is a new choice (for millennia, women have had little choice in when they would have children or even how many they would have), there are still many women who do not know how to make an informed choice concerning a birth control plan.

There are also those who are afraid to take charge of their bodies in this regard and subsequently leave childbearing to chance or to be decided by the partner. Moreover, there are also too many carefree young women who do not give this life-changing decision even five minutes of thought – and it is these young women who end up pregnant and raising children at 16 instead of finishing their education.

According to the Planned Parenthood website, on choosing methods of birth control, it is also important to remember that even if you have chosen a birth control method, as your life changes, you may need or want different birth control methods. Women often rethink their birth control method if they start or end a relationship, or have other life changes.

Birth control methods are not one-size-fits-all. A method that is perfect for one woman may not be right for another. It is best to speak with a health care provider to determine which birth control method will work best for you. However, if the situation does not allow for a quick visit to the doctor, be sure to ALWAYS have a condom on hand to prevent an unexpected pregnancy.

The most effective forms of birth control are the vasectomy, female sterilization, the IUD and the implant. These birth control methods typically lead to only 1 pregnancy in 100 women per year.
The vasectomy (for males) or sterilization (for females) is a permanent solution using surgery to stop the release of sperm or eggs. These methods are typically used once a person chooses to have no more children.

The IUD is a small, T-shaped device inserted into the uterus by a health care provider to prevent pregnancy. It is safe, effective and can last up to 12 months, but can also be expensive.

The implant is a matchstick-sized rod that is inserted in the arm by a health care provider. It, too, is safe, effective, convenient and long lasting (up to three years), but can also be pricey.

The next most effective methods of birth control are breast-feeding, the shot, the pill, the ring and the patch. These birth control methods typically lead to only 2-9 pregnancies in 100 women per year.

Breast feeding as birth control, sometimes called LAM (Lactational Amenorrhea Method), is a natural way to prevent pregnancy for up to six months after giving birth. It is safe, convenient, effective and best of all – it is free. This method can be used as birth control when, after giving birth, a woman breastfeeds her baby exclusively. That means the baby does not drink anything besides breast milk. The act of breastfeeding naturally changes a woman’s hormones so that she does not become pregnant.

The birth control shot is an injection of a hormone that prevents pregnancy. The shot, also known by the brand name Depo-Provera, is safe, effective and convenient, but a prescription is necessary. Each shot prevents pregnancy for three months.

Birth control pills are a kind of medication that women can take daily to prevent pregnancy. They are also sometimes called “the pill” or oral contraception. Many birth control pills contain hormones, which prevent the woman’s eggs from leaving the ovaries. Pregnancy cannot happen if there is no egg to join with sperm. The woman must take the pill each day to prevent pregnancy. This method is safe, effective, and convenient, but a prescription is necessary.

The vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring a woman inserts into her vagina once a month to prevent pregnancy. It is left in place for three weeks and taken out for the remaining week each month. The vaginal ring, commonly called NuvaRing, is safe, effective and convenient, but a prescription is necessary.

The birth control patch is a thin, beige, plastic patch that sticks to the skin and used to prevent pregnancy by releasing the same hormones into the woman as the pill. A new patch is placed on the skin once a week for three weeks in a row, followed by a patch-free week. The birth control patch, commonly called Ortho Evra, is safe, effective and convenient, but a prescription is necessary.

The next most effective methods of birth control are the diaphragm, the male condom, the female condom, the withdrawal method, the sponge and the cervical cap. These birth control methods typically lead to 15-24 pregnancies in 100 women per year.

The diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped cup with a flexible rim. It is made of silicone and inserted into the vagina. When it is in place, it covers the cervix and prevents the sperm from joining with an egg. It is safe, effective, convenient and can last up to two years.

Male condoms are worn on the penis during intercourse. They are made of thin latex or plastic that has been moulded into the shape of a penis. They prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms can be used with another form of birth control for extra protection. Condoms are safe, effective, and – best of all – easy to get.

The female condom works by inserting the closed end of the condom into the vagina while the other end stays outside of the vaginal opening during intercourse. Female condoms are safe and effective.

The withdrawal method is when the man pulls his penis out of the vagina before ejaculation — the moment when semen spurts out of the penis.

Withdrawal is also known as coitus interruptus and the pull out method. Withdrawal may be the world’s oldest way to practice birth control. About 35 million couples worldwide rely on withdrawal.

The sponge is made of plastic foam and contains spermicide (an agent that kills sperm). It is soft, round and about two inches in diameter. It has a nylon loop attached to the bottom for removal. It is inserted deep into the vagina before intercourse. The sponge is safe, convenient and easy to use.

The cervical cap is a silicone cup, shaped like a sailor’s hat. It is inserted into the vagina and over the cervix. The cervical cap is safe, effective, convenient and lasts up to two years.

The least effective methods of birth control are spermicide and female-awareness based methods. These birth control methods work about 75% of the time and typically lead to 25 pregnancies in 100 women per year.

Spermicide is a birth control method that contains chemicals that stop sperm from moving. Spermicides are available in different forms, including creams, film, foams, gels, and suppositories. Spermicide can be used alone, or it can be used with other birth control methods to make them more effective. It is always used with the diaphragm and cervical cap.

Fertility awareness-based methods (FAMs) are ways to track ovulation — the release of an egg — in order to prevent pregnancy. Some people call FAMs “natural family planning.”

This is a comprehensive list of birth control methods. Sisters, please use the information I have provided in this column to make an informed choice about the birth control method that will work best for you. And by all means, employ that method as soon as possible to ensure that you are the one making the decision about when you will reproduce.

**Note: Information for this column was gathered from the Planned Parenthood website. For more detailed information on each birth control method, please visit

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