Over the counter birth control

Birth control constitutes any method that is used to protect against pregnancy. Thanks to different birth control methods, women can freely decide about their family and future. However, some methods are more appropriate than others. At present, the market of contraceptives is very competitive, allowing for making a choice according to the preferred way of living, convenience, and the money owned, to name a few aspects. The most important criterion should probably be the effectiveness of a given method. Secondly, women value functionality as well as comfort. Depending on the needs, therefore, permanent birth control methods may be preferred over regular pill use. Continuing, health risks of a method are highly significant. Some women, thus, will not experiment with hormonal preparations but will choose barrier birth control methods instead. Availability also determines the probability of choosing one method over the other. Spermicides, condoms, and other over the counter birth control means are much more accessible than pills or procedures that require a prescription and considerable costs. What is the right method for you? Continue reading to get to know more about the available methods and their characteristics.

Birth Control Means

Generally, available contraceptives can be classified into several categories. Hormonal methods include both combined hormones in the form of pills, patches, as well as vaginal rings, and progestin-only preparations sold as pills or injections. Moreover, barrier methods include both physical means (such as male and female condoms, cervical caps, diaphragms, or male and female sterilization) as well as chemical methods, including spermicides. There are also intrauterine devices or emergency contraception methods. Finally, natural means are also used by couples. These include abstinence, withdrawal, fertility awareness method as well as lactational amenorrhea method. Each of the methods has its pros and cons. Birth control pills, for instance, with the effectiveness at the level of 92%, represent a very effective method. They also help relieve menstrual pain and acne. However, they are fairly expensive, have to be taken regularly, and often cause side effects, including mood changes. The Evra Patch is equally effective and helps ease menstrual symptoms. On the other hand, similarly to many other methods, it does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections and may trigger side effects. The use of the Nuvaring, characterized by similar effectiveness, additionally decreases the risk of developing ovarian and pelvic illnesses. However, not every woman can use this method, as it causes a greater probability of experiencing blood clots. The Depo-Provera hormonal injection is even more effective (97%) and a single dose ensures even 3-month pregnancy protection. Many women, though, face irregular periods when taking the injections. An intra-uterine device (IUD) is highly effective (99,2%) and, as long as it is inserted into the uterus, it facilitates high pregnancy protection. It is possible to take it out at any moment, however, IUD may elevate the risk of infections. Less effective diaphragms and cervical caps (84%) can be inserted several hours before planned intercourse. However, they need to be placed and fitted by a doctor and require using additional spermicides. Speaking about spermicides, they are widely available and inexpensive, however, the protection remains lower, at the level of 72%. Both male and female condoms ensure protection against sexually transmitted infections, are fairly effective (85% and 79%, respectively), and affordable. However, when not used properly, they may move, and, what is more, some individuals may be allergic to the materials they are made of, such as latex. Male and female sterilization are by far among the most effective methods (over 95,5%). However, they are permanent, require surgery, and are most costly (amounting to several thousands of dollars in total). Regarding natural methods, they do not cost anything, however, one has to be aware of their relatively low effectiveness when compared to other available options. Interestingly, lactational amenorrhea method is characterized by high effectiveness (98%) but is only applicable to women that delivered over the last six months and are breastfeeding their children. The protection lasts until menstrual bleeding reappears after pregnancy.

Over the counter birth control

Over the counter birth control methods include, among others, emergency contraception. The prescription-free “morning after pill” as the method is often referred to, works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg and should be taken within a maximum of five days after sex in case the partners engaged into it without any other protection or have reasons to believe their primary protection means didn’t work. Importantly, the effectiveness of emergency contraception declines over time, which means that it has to be used as soon as possible. Alternatively, over the counter birth control pills of hormonal nature are available for purchase in some countries as well as at online pharmacies. Other over the counter birth control includes non-hormonal methods. Male condoms, for example, need to be placed on the penis during erection and act as a barrier preventing the sperm from entering the vagina. Some condoms may contain additional spermicides for extra protection. Female condoms come in the form of lubricated pouches and prevent the sperm from getting to the vagina. They have to be placed in the vagina before planned intercourse (approximately up to eight hours). Similarly to male condoms, they do provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Spermicides are available in numerous forms, such as creams, gels, or foams. They should be used approximately one hour prior to sexual intercourse by placing the substance in the vagina. To be effective, spermicides need to remain inside the vagina for six-eight hours after intercourse. Moreover, there is some evidence that spermicides increase the risk of vaginal infections as they irritate the vagina walls when used frequently. Contraceptive sponges also ensure protection against pregnancy. They are made of foam containing a spermicide. In order to apply the sponge correctly, it has to be soaked in water to make the spermicide work. Then it can be inserted into the vagina. It should stay there for a maximum of 24 hours. However, do not allow the sponge to be inside the vagina for 30 hours or more as this may lead to a serious bacterial infection and toxic shock syndrome in the end. Moreover, avoid the sponge if you have recently delivered or miscarried or have any reproductive tract infection.

Prescription birth control

Prescription birth control methods comprise both hormonal pills as well as barriers or other devices. When it comes to pills, due to estrogen and progestin, they are more effective but need to be used under supervision. Generally, there are two different kinds of birth control pills available: combination pills (with both estrogen and progestin as their components) and progestin-only pills, usually referred to as “mini-pills”. Combination pills (e.g. Azurette, Velivet, Yasmin, Safyral, Portia, or Ogestrel) are either sold in packages containing 21 active pills or 28 pills (21 active and 7 inactive). Manufacturers include inactive pills in order to facilitate the consistency of using the pills. Missing one does not impact the protection against pregnancy. Missing an active pill, however, have to be compensated as soon as possible and next pills need to be taken in accordance with the regular schedule. Progestin-only pills (e.g. Camila, Heather, or Jolivette), in turn, contain only active pills. They can be used in breastfeeding women. Importantly, in the case of a missed pill, you need to use additional methods of birth control. It should be remembered that birth control pills do not provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Birth control pills cause many side effects, from weight gain, upset stomach, and breast swelling to blurred vision, chest pain, or blood clots. Other forms of prescription birth control include, among others, hormonal injections. The Depo Provera shot, for example, is a progestin-only preparation that has to be taken every three months to ensure pregnancy protection. Another method, vaginal rings such as the NuvaRing, require inserting a flexible circle into your vagina. The ring has to be placed for three weeks and then removed for the period of one week. The Ortho Evra Patch, in turn, constitutes a thin patch releasing hormones that needs to be attached to the skin in places such as the stomach, upper outer arm, or torso for the period of three weeks. The patch needs to be changed every week and not used over the fourth week of the month. Diaphragms represent a barrier method of birth control. Inserted into the vagina, they close the uterus entrance and a spermicide that needs to be used at the same time, limits the mobility of the sperm. Intrauterine devices are T-shaped objects that have to be placed in the uterus and continuously release hormones. Depending on the manufacturer, the devices are effective for 5-10 years after implementation. Cervical caps have to be fitted in a doctor’s office. Used with a spermicide, the caps cover the cervix entrance and can be removed from the vagina within 6-8 hours from intercourse. Finally, there are permanent birth control methods, such as vasectomy and tubal ligation. Vasectomy involves cutting and sealing the vas deferens so the sperm cannot enter the urethra. Tubal ligation, on the other hand, requires closing the fallopian tubes. As a result, eggs cannot be carried to the uterus. Both permanent methods require minor surgical procedures and are fairly safe.

Having sex the smart way is not only the responsibility of women. Birth control methods include both male and female options. However, given the abundance of available birth control means, choosing the right method for you can be problematic. Discussing this issue with your partner may facilitate the choice and bring you closer together. Some methods can be also used simultaneously if necessary, such as the combination of condoms and spermicides. Regardless the method chosen, you have to remember that only male and female condoms protect from sexually transmitted diseases. Speaking of women’s well-being, birth control also helps prevent health risks associated with pregnancy and limit the incidence of unintended pregnancies, which, in turn, decreases the need for abortion. Most importantly, however, choosing a birth control method is a very individual decision that needs to be respected given that women should be the ones deciding on their bodies and lives.

Tags: Over the counter birth control, Birth Control Means, Prescription birth control, Birth control pills