Birth control (Contraceptives): how it works, Types, Side effects and Effectiveness

What is birth control?

Birth control is also known as contraceptives and is referred to as any action, both natural or through the use of medicine, or equipment that is used to prevent pregnancy. There are different birth control methods available for use. The choice of contraceptive to use should be made by you and your healthcare professional.

How does birth control work?

The different Birth control methods prevent pregnancy in different ways including:

  1. Preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries
  2. Modifying the lining of the tissue in the uterus to prevent implantation of the fertilized.
  3. Forming a barrier that prevents sperm from reaching the egg
  4. Killing the sperm
  5.  Modifying the cervical mucus so that it prevents the sperm from moving into the uterus

Types of birth control

The different types of contraceptives are further explained in the different sections. Click on them to take you to where you can read about each of them in details.

  • Abstinence: This is when you do not have sex.
  • Natural family planning
birth control methods
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Homonal Contraceptives

Oestrogen and progestogen are both female hormones that are usually produced naturally by the ovaries. you have a higher than normal levels of these hormones, your ovaries do not release eggs which means fertilization does not occur. Progestogen also modifies the cervical mucus in such a way that it becomes thick and sticky, which makes it harder for the sperm to get to uterus.

They can also be made synthetically and used as contraceptives. When Hormonal contraception could contain the synthetic versions of both an oestrogen and a progestogen (combined hormonal contraception) or progestogen alone (progestogen-only contraception).

  • Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
  • Mini-pills
  • Birth control implant
  • Injections (Birth control shot)
  • Birth control patch
  • Intrauterine system (IUS)

Non-Hormonal Contraceptives

  • Male condom
  • Female condom
  • Spermicides
  • Diaphragm or cervical cap
  • Vaginal ring
  • Intrauterine device (IUD) is a non hormonal intrauterine systems

Permanent Contraceptive methods

  • Hysterectomy
  • Tubal ligation or tubal occlusion (“tying the tubes”)
  • Tubal sterilization Essure system
  • Vasectomy

Unreliable methods of birth control:

  •  Withdrawal before ejaculation
  • Sex while menstruation
  • Standing up as soon as you finish having sex
  • Douching after sex

Birth Control Effectiveness

When healthcare professional talk about the effectiveness of birth control, they typically talk about the rates when used in the way it should (perfectly or ideally) and designed to be used or the normal way people are more likely to use it (typically). As humans are not perfect, the typical way takes that into account.

Birth control effectiveness depends on the type you are using and how correctly you use it. To be as effective as possible, you need to follow the instructions properly. No contraceptive is 100% reliable but some contraceptive methods are more effective than others. Some methods e.g. implants do not require you to do anything else hence maybe more effective as there is “no user failure”. Visit our page about contraceptive effectiveness for more information.

Side effects of Birth Control (Contraceptives)

Contraceptives particularly the hormonal contraceptives have side effects. The side effects of each contraceptive can be found in their various sections. Barrier methods have fewer side effects as compared to the hormonal methods of preventing pregnancy.

Birth Control interactions

Drug interactions occur when you take two or more medicines at the same time as one medicine may affect the other. Contraceptives especially hormonal contraceptives may stop working as they should while taking it with some medicines. Sometimes, hormonal contraceptives alter the effect of other medicines. You may be advised to use alternative contraceptive (such as condoms) or take your contraception in a different way to the way you usually take it while on such medicines.

Where to get Contraceptives in Nigeria

Marie stopes has clinics in Benin, Lagos and Abuja where they offer a good range of contraceptives’ can visit their websites and also contact them for your contraceptive needs.

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About the author

Nwasom is a pharmacy graduate and a pharmacist currently practising in the United Kingdom. I have great experience communicating with patients and their family as gained through working as a pharmacist in both the hospital and community pharmacy sector. I love writing so it was a natural thing to try and pass medical and health information on through writing.