Birth Control

Controlling Birth: A Quest to Understand “Birth Control” – Part II A Break-down of Every Method

Part II: A Break-down of Every Method and How They Function

Here I am going to provide basic, easily accessible information on the methods of birth control.  I realistically cannot go over every single one because there are far too many different brands and variations, but I will hit the main ones and talk about how to find the information you need about each one.

The are 6 categories of birth control: Barrier Methods, Natural Family Planning Methods, Hormonal Methods, Implantable Devices, Emergency Contraception, and Permanent Birth Control.

The most popular methods are hormonal methods (also will briefly touch on emergency contraception because it is hormonal) and implantable devices, so let’s talk about those first.

  • Hormonal Methods
    • Oral Contraceptives (Ring and Patches function the same way)
      There are over 60different brands of “the pill”.  So, for the sake of ease I will choose 2 examples (one of each type).  If you’d like to know about a specific brand not mentioned in this entry here is a great websitethat lists the different brands in alphabetical order.

      • The Pill (combined pill): Yasmin
        “Yasmin is a combined oral contraceptive, a birth control pill that contains both an estrogen and a progestin.  It works to prevent pregnancy primarily by stopping ovulation (the maturation and release of eggs from the ovaries).  However, it also prevents pregnancy in two other, minor ways.  Yasmin alters the cervical mucus (the fluid of the cervix, which is the lower, narrow part of the uterus that is connected to the vagina), making it more difficult for sperm to enter the uterus.  Lastly, Yasmin alters the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium), making it less receptive to an embryo.”
        The above quote was taken from http://women.emedtv.com/yasmin/yasmin.html
      • The Mini-pill (progestin-only pill): Micronor (norethisterone)
        “Firstly, they affect the natural mucus at the neck of the womb (cervix).  Norethisterone increases the thickness of this mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to cross from the vagina into the womb.  By preventing sperm entering the womb, successful fertilization of an egg, leading to pregnancy, is less likely.  Norethisterone also changes the quality of the womb lining (endometrium).  The changes prevent any eggs that have been fertilized from successfully implanting onto the wall of the womb.  Lastly, norethisterone may prevent the release of an egg from the ovaries, however this may not occur in all women who take the mini-pill.”
        The above quote was taken from http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/sex-and-relationships/medicines/micronor.html
        Here is another web page briefly explaining the progestin-only methods which include the pill, the shot, and implants.
    • The Shot
      • Popular Example: Depo-Provera
        “The medroxyprogesterone [active ingredient] prevents pregnancy in three main ways. Firstly, it prevents eggs from being released from the ovaries (ovulation). It also increases the thickness of the natural mucus at the neck of the womb, making it more difficult for sperm to cross from the vagina into the womb. By preventing sperm entering the womb, successful fertilization of any eggs that are released is less likely. The hormone also changes the quality of the womb lining (endometrium), making it less receptive for any fertilized eggs to implant into.”
        This information was taken from http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/sex-and-relationships/medicines/depo-provera.html and if you want to read a simpler explanation see this site, which also has a link to the ethical considerations that will be addressed later.
  • Implantable Devices
    • Implantable Rod
      “The rod releases a progestin, which causes changes in the lining of the uterus and the cervical mucus to keep the sperm from joining an egg.  Less often, it stops the ovaries from releasing eggs.”  This quote was a little vague, so here is another source: “The progestin also thins the lining of the uterus so if the egg is fertilized it may be less likely to attach to the wall of the uterus.”
    • Intrauterine Devices
      • Copper IUD: ParaGard
        “It releases a small amount of copper into the uterus, which prevents the sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg.  If fertilization does occur, the IUD keeps the fertilized egg from implanting in the lining of the uterus.”
      • Hormonal IUD: Mirena
        “It releases progestin into the uterus, which keeps the ovaries from releasing an egg and causes the cervical mucus to thicken so sperm can’t reach the egg.  It also affects the ability of a fertilized egg to successfully implant in the uterus.”
        All the above information is taken from this website
  • Emergency Contraception: The Morning After Pill
    • I was surprised to find some very interesting information after researching a little about emergency contraception.  Clearly, I really should do more research.  Basically, any and all emergency contraceptives work very similarly to other oral contraceptives (this includes “the morning after pill” and emergency IUDs).  However, there is a higher dosage of hormones in these pills than in regular birth control and so, according to research, inhibiting an already fertilized egg from implanting to the uterus is actually less likely than it is with regular birth control.  Now, the intention of this method is for emergencies and is not intended for long-term birth control use, probably due to the much higher levels of hormones.
      Here are the two sources I used: womenshealth.gov and page 5 of this very lengthy PDF.

As I hope you have gathered from this information, it is clear that these methods of birth control pose a significant ethical issue if one believes that life begins when the egg has been fertilized.  If you missed the discussion on when life begins, see the previous post here.

So, if all these methods actually function to prevent and stop pregnancies, then tiny little lives in the beginning stages are being killed.  If you respond to this like I do, I feel horrified.

There is hope, though.  There are other options.  Stay tuned for the next post which will discuss alternative methods of birth control (or what I like to call pregnancy preventions) like barrier methods and natural family planning.

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