Planning Ahead with Proactive Contraceptives
The dictionary definition of "proactive" is "acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty." Therefore, proactive contraceptives are methods that a female or a couple utilizes beforehand, to handle the possibility that an unwanted pregnancy may result. Proactive types of contraception include hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, and barrier methods. Hormonal birth control methods regulate or stop ovulation, thus preventing pregnancy. Options include injectable hormones and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs). Depending on the hormones, they can also thicken the cervical mucosa, help block sperm cells from getting to an egg, as well as thin the uterine lining. A non-hormonal IUD releases small quantities of copper into the uterus. This causes an inflammatory reaction and prevents fertilization of an egg. Barrier methods, including diaphragms and cervical caps, stop sperm cells from entering into the uterus. They are easily inserted and removed, making them viable options for women who may not be able to tolerate hormonal contraceptives.
Injectable Hormones (Depo Provera Injections)
The depo provera injection is an injectable hormone and proactive contraceptive method that involves injecting progesterone into the buttocks or arm, once every three months. A depo provera shot can be very useful for any woman who tends to forget taking her daily contraceptive pills or for those who may not be able to tolerate estrogen type oral contraceptives.
A depo provera shot is 99.7 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. However, it has some side effects including headaches, weight gain, mood swings, irregular bleeding, breast tenderness, as well as temporary reduction in bone density. It is recommended that anyone who uses injectable birth control consume a diet high in calcium and vitamin D or take supplements while using injectable hormones.
Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
With the intrauterine device (IUD) method, a small, T-shaped device is put into the uterus as a proactive contraceptive measure. An IUD is always inserted by a health care professional. It can stay in place for several years, until such time as it needs replacing or a woman no longer requires contraception.
There are two types of IUDs: hormonal and non-hormonal. A hormonal IUD releases a controlled amount of progesterone into the uterus. This action causes thickening of the cervical mucus membranes, helps stop sperm from accessing and/or fertilizing an egg, and thins the uterine lining, which reduces the chances of implantation of a fertilized egg. This device is 99.7 percent effective in pregnancy prevention, and it can be left in place for up to five years. Copper IUDs discharge a small amount of this metal into the uterine cavity, resulting in an inflammation that generally inhibits fertilization. If fertilization does happen, the device itself actually impedes successful implantation. A non-hormonal IUD is 99.2 percent effective and can remain in the body for as long as 12 years. It is not recommended for anyone who suffers from pelvic infections, cervical cancer, uterine cancer, unexplained vaginal bleeding, and/or pelvic tuberculosis.
If pregnancy does result, there is a chance of an ectopic pregnancy (fertilized egg implants outside the uterus). Since IUDs are highly effective,the overall risk of this type of pregnancy is very low, when compared to the probability of ectopic pregnancy when no contraceptives are used. Intrauterine devices do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Made of latex or soft rubber, a diaphragm is a shallow, flexible cup-shaped barrier device that is inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse. For optimum effectiveness (88 percent), a diaphragm should be used in combination with a spermicide and remain in place for six to eight hours post intercourse. However, it should be taken out within 24 hours of having sex.
Latex diaphragms need to be the right fit in order to work properly. A woman's doctor can ascertain an appropriate size for her. A diaphragm should be replaced after one or two years. A patient will also need to be measured for a new diaphragm after having a baby, pelvic surgery, miscarriage, abortion, and/or a weight change of more than 15 pounds. When used in conjunction with a condom, a diaphragm can protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Similar to a diaphragm in its function and appearance, a cervical cap is more rigid, smaller, and therefore, less noticeable. It is a thin, silicone, cup-shaped barrier device that is placed into the vagina before having sexual intercourse. A cervical cap should also be used in combination with a spermicidal jelly or cream, remain in place for six to eight hours after sex, and be removed within 48 hours.
Different sizes are available, and a health care provider will determine the correct size. If a patient loses or gains more than seven pounds, gives birth, or has a miscarriage or abortion, then a new cap will be required.
If taken care of properly, a cervical cap can last for up to two years before it will need to be replaced. When used in combination with a spermicide, this method of birth control is 60 to 80 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. There are no serious health risks involved with the use of a cervical cap, and when used with a condom, it provides protection against STDs.
- American Sexual Health Association (2013) Birth Control Method Comparison Chart. Retrieved from: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/uploads/pdfs/ContraceptiveOptions.pdf
- Mayo Clinic (2013). Birth control. Retrieved from:http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/birth-control/MY01182
- National Institute of Health (2013). What are the different types of contraception? Retrieved from: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/contraception/conditioninfo/Pages/types.aspx#barrier
- The Free Dictionary (2013). Definition of proactive. Retrieved from: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/proactive
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