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How to Prevent Pregnancy

When planned, a pregnancy can become one of the most important times in a couple’s life, but when an upcoming birth is unexpected, a wealth of individual strains arises. The late night feedings, bouts of colic, and erratic sleep schedule are just some of the things that come with the birth of a child. Today, the emotional, mental, and physical stresses that accompany an unplanned pregnancy are easily avoidable when following the multitude of prevention methods available to sexually active men and women.

How to Prevent Pregnancy

What is Pregnancy?

A human pregnancy involves the conception and then carrying of one or more embryos or fetuses inside of the female body. Sometimes, multiple gestations may take place, which result in the birth of more than one child, as seen in the cases of twins and triplets. Typically, a pregnancy lasts for about 38 weeks from the moment of fertilization, where a child is generally carried for a term of nine months. In order for a pregnancy to take place, a man’s sperm must join with a woman’s egg– often a result of sexual intercourse, but not always. Some women are artificially inseminated in a process that does not involve sexual contact.

The Effects of an Unplanned Pregnancy

There are many different emotions that both a woman and a man experience once they are faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Initial feelings may include frustration, regret, anger, and moodiness, as involved parties must now decide the best course of action to follow. In some cases, embracing the aspect of having a child is not an option, as feelings of remorse, shame, anger, sadness, or guilt may surface when a couple or woman chooses abortion or adoption [1].

For those who tackle the responsibility of raising a child, individuals or couples must adjust to the notion of parenting. Financial and emotional support is vital, as this unexpected bundle of joy undoubtedly drains both. Many things change with the addition of a new life. Parents attending school or holding a job must bend with a pregnancy and once the child is born, the issue of childcare becomes of importance. The often time-consuming and exhausting task of raising a child is also intensified when time, money, and patience is limited.

Unplanned Pregnancy Risk Factors

While anyone engaging in unprotected sex faces the potential of creating a baby, there is an assortment of factors that places individuals at a higher risk for pregnancy. A lack of education sends ill-prepared sexually active couples into the world – some completely unaware of the prevention methods or the ins and outs of pregnancy. This lack of understanding and knowledge places individuals in the various situations that lead to unplanned pregnancies.

A certain type of individual is also more susceptible to experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, including adolescents; people with low self-esteem and lack of confidence; and those living in poverty. Drug and alcohol use also increases the chances of an unplanned pregnancy, as poor decision-making and weakened judgment places couples at a higher risk.

How to Prevent Pregnancy

While the best way to prevent pregnancy is to avoid penetrating sexual contact, a wealth of preventive measures is available for couples interested in having sex with one another without the prospect of having a baby nine months later. Birth control and other methods of education often help to avert an unplanned pregnancy.

Birth control is a routine that includes one or more devices, practices, or medications that are followed in such a way to intentionally prevent or reduce the chances a woman will become pregnant or give birth [2]. Today, a wide-range of accommodating approaches are available, including pregnancy prevention methods, such as:

a) Male Condoms:

Barrier methods are a favored approach in pregnancy prevention, as they physically impede the transfer of sperm into the female reproductive tract. One of the most popular barrier methods is the male condom, which is usually made of latex or polyurethane. A condom is placed over the penis, where the tip should extend about ½ inch beyond the penis in order to make room for the semen to collect after ejaculation has taken place [3].

b) Female Condoms:

Men are not the only sexual participants to wear condoms – women also have their own. The female condom possesses a flexible ring at each end – one securing behind the pubic bone to hold the condom in place, while the other remains outside of the vagina.

c) Contraceptive Sponges:

Cervical barriers are devices placed entirely inside the vagina. Some women use a contraceptive sponge, which is placed over the cervix to act as a barrier between sperm and the rest of the female reproductive system. Contraceptive sponges also use spermicidal to prevent conception.

d) Cervical Cap:

A cervical cap (often made of latex or silicone) is the smallest cervical barrier a woman may use, and has served its purpose since 1838 [4]. Snugly fitting over the cervix, the cervical cap blocks sperm after insertion and remains in place for eight hours after intercourse.

e) Diaphragm:

Since the 1880s, this method of pregnancy prevention is placed behind the woman’s pubic bone, offering a firm yet flexible ring that presses against the vaginal walls to create a seal that blocks conception. The diaphragm is made of soft latex or silicone in the shape of a dome that showcases a spring molded into the rim.

f) Hormonal Prevention Methods:

A wide-range of hormonal contraception utilizes synthetic female hormones to prevent pregnancy. The most well known is “the Pill,” a combined oral contraceptive pill that depending on the women may utilize low- or high doses of hormones. Contraceptive patches (also known as “the Patch”), is a transdermal option that is applied to the skin. The release of synthetic estrogen and progestin hormones then takes place with the aim to prevent pregnancy. Women may also use a contraceptive vaginal ring (“NuvaRing”) that utilizes a low-dose of hormones over the course of three to four weeks [5]. Additional selections to consider include Depo Provera injections (every three months) and contraceptive implants.

g) Intrauterine Devices (IUDs):

Intrauterine devices are molded from plastic and inserted into the uterus through the vagina. After the T-shaped device is inserted, a plastic string remains so the female may check its placement [6]. There are two different types of protection to select – either releasing progestin or copper. The first kind of IUD releases copper from a copper wire wrapped around the base and lasts for ten years. The other type releases progestin and is effective for five years.

h) Sterilization:

Both men and women may undergo a surgical procedure that permanently prevents pregnancy. Men often have a vasectomy as a form of undeviating birth control. A completed vasectomy prevents the sperm from exiting the penis, which is later broken down and absorbed into the body [7]. Sometimes, the procedure is reversible, but not always. In the case of women, tubal ligation (also referred to as “getting your tubes tied”) is a permanent form of female sterilization, where the fallopian tubes are severed and then sealed in an effort to prevent fertilization [8]. Today, women may also select a non-surgical sterilization process called Essure, which uses micro-inserts placed within the fallopian tubes.

i) Strong Parental Relationships:

Research studying the relationship between adolescents and their parents revealed that close relationships decreased the chances of early pregnancy. It is believed that the affection and support received from close parental ties boosted the levels of confidence and self-esteem needed to make better choices in life. Studies suggest that adolescents who frequently fight with their parents are more susceptible to developing low self-esteem and search for approval and affection through their peers, boyfriends, and girlfriends.

j) Sex Education:

The education concerning human sexual anatomy; sexual intercourse; pregnancy and reproduction; and other details pertaining to human sexual behavior is covered under the umbrella of sex education. Whether it is received from parents, caregivers, school programs, health classes, or public health movements, it is essential in equipping sexually active individuals with the tools to prevent pregnancy.

Resources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contraceptive
[3] The Merck Manual of Medical Information (Second Home Edition; pg. 1425)
[4] http://www.nuvaring.com
[6] The Merck Manual of Women’s and Men’s Health (pg 41)
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tubal_ligation

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