Shortly after my now-husband and I started dating we had the talk — you know THE talk.
“How many kids do you want?” 8? 2? None? We discussed, debated, talked about our future. One thing we really didn’t talk about though was what happens when we’re done? You have your ideal number of kids and then what?
There are a variety of options out there for both men and women. You can use a birth control, a barrier method, family planning or a permanent route. Most married couples chose not to abstain so there’s no real point in providing information about it but obviously, when in a no-other-options scenario, that is the best way to keep your family in its current state.
Traditionally, doctors suggest hormonal options like the pill, ring, patch or shot. These are all fine options for birth control but they aren’t always the best options for everyone. Some women like me either can’t use hormonal birth controls or choose not to for personal reasons. For those of you who don’t know, hormonal birth control options have been linked to an increased risk for cervical and breast cancer.I have a family history of breast cancer therefore I didn’t want to take any unnecessary chances. The hormones have also been linked to dryness and sexual problems, mood swings, weight gain, and even years of infertility post birth control.
So what do you do if a hormonal choice won’t work but you still aren’t ready for more children? Well, there are plenty of non-hormonal options as well. By discussing these options or your concerns with hormones with your doctor, you’ll be able to determine the right plan for you.
Barrier methods like condoms, vaginal contraceptive film and diaphragms are low cost and fairly easy to use. They are not however 100% effective. With traditional use, they are only about 85% guaranteed. If used perfectly every time, they can be up to 99% effective.
Many couples choose the natural family planning method by charting temperatures and only having relations outside of their most fertile times. Scientifically, the method should be fool proof. To get pregnant, the sperm must meet the egg. The egg is only released during fertile times of the month. Make sure sperm stays away from the egg during that time and you’re good as gold. Be cautioned though that sperm can live inside the uterus for up to 7-9 days. A woman can be fertile for 3-5 days. This could mean two full weeks of abstaining which might not be the best thing for your marriage.
The final non-hormonal birth control option is a copper IUD. This is a T-shaped device that is placed inside the woman’s body. The copper IUD can remain in place for up to 10 years. It is both placed and removed in the doctor’s office. It is much more expensive than other forms of birth control upfront but if used long term, the cost savings can be seen. This is a great method for women that forget to take a daily pill, don’t want the distraction of timing
intercourse and want to fully experience their partner without a barrier.
If you and your spouse have made the decision to permanently eliminate the possibility of having additional children, there are three surgeries that do not put hormones in your body either. Two are women’s surgeries: tubal ligation and tubal implants. The third is for the man, a vasectomy. These surgeries are all over 99% effective.They are more invasive than a traditional birth control pill or even IUD insertion but once healed, life goes on as normal. Both women and men though have suffered post-surgical complications or syndromes. Roughly 1 in 10 women have trouble with painful heavy periods after selecting permanent tubal surgery. And up to 1 in 3 men have complained about everything from feeling uncomfortable to being in severe pain. A permanent surgery is not something to be taken lightly so be sure to discuss any of your concerns with your doctor.
No matter what your choice of hormone versus non hormone, pill versus IUD, temporary versus permanent, birth control is a very personal choice and each form will affect each woman differently. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be educated on the benefits, risks and side effects for each type, discuss your top choices with your trusted gynecologist and embrace the empowerment.
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