Modern contraception provides women with many opportunities that they could not think of before. Contraception, family planning, the choice of a convenient time for the onset of menstruation, a reduction in discomfort, including pain during “these days” – all this became available at the present time. A variety of options allows most women to easily find a convenient way to receive contraceptives for themselves. Nevertheless, many still wonder how does birth control work? In addition, there are a lot of myths, in which both women and men believe.
How Does Birth Control Work? Hormonal and Non-Hormonal Contraception
The barrier method of contraception blocks the penetration of sperm into the cervix.
This can be prevented mechanically and chemically by isolating the cervix from the vagina, where the sperm enters, or by injecting into the genital tracts of a woman the substances that kill spermatozoa. Also, the barrier methods include the use of male condoms. The principle of preventing unwanted pregnancy is the same. A condom does not let sperm get into the uterus, thus, preventing the conception.
Hormonal contraception is a method of preventing unwanted pregnancies, in which a woman can completely regulate herself. In this case, its effectiveness is higher than all other options for protection – with observance of the rules of use, of course. So, a possible pregnancy becomes something that partners can consciously choose. At the same time, such contraceptives do not protect you from sexual infections – here the only way to protect yourself is to use a condom.
All hormonal contraceptives work in general on the same principle. They suppress ovulation and/or prevent the egg from gaining a foothold on the surface of the uterine mucosa. This is due to the fact that the body constantly receives a small number of synthetic sex hormones. The suppression of ovulation immerses the ovaries in an artificially induced controlled “sleep”: they decrease in size and the follicles stop producing eggs.
The Role of Hormones
Hormones are substances that actively influence all the functions of the human body. Also, in most cases, they contribute to improving the quality of the skin and hair, stabilize the weight, and have many non-contraceptive benefits. Nevertheless, do not take any hormones yourself, without consulting your doctor. In addition, these drugs should not be prescribed by a cosmetologist or gynecologist without referral to a gynecologist-endocrinologist.
Sex hormones are biologically active substances of our body, responsible for the development of sexual characteristics of male or female type. In females, there are two types of hormones. Estrogens are developed by ovaries and from the beginning of puberty form female signs of an organism. They are also responsible for libido and menstruation. The gestogens are produced by the yellow body of the ovaries and the adrenal cortex and provide an opportunity for conception and continuation of pregnancy. Therefore, they are called “pregnancy hormones”.
How Do Hormones Work?
It is these two kinds of hormones that provide women’s monthly cycle, during which the egg ripens in the ovary, ovulation occurs (when the egg leaves the ovary) and the uterus prepares for pregnancy. If fertilization does not occur, then after the ovulation the egg dies, and the endometrium, that is, the mucous coating of the uterus, begins to tear away, which leads to the onset of menstruation. Despite the opinion that the menstrual period is a “broken egg,” bleeding is actually caused by mucous membrane rejection. An unfertilized egg indeed comes out with it, but it is too small to see it.
The main estrogen of the female body is the hormone estradiol, produced in the ovaries. A large concentration of estradiol in the blood in the middle of the cycle leads to the fact that the pituitary gland actively “turns on” in the brain. The pituitary gland starts ovulation and the production of the main gestogen-progesterone – in the case of pregnancy.
Hormonal contraceptives work like this: they suppress the ovulatory activity of the pituitary gland, which controls the whole complex process from the top, and maintain a stable level of the hormone of pregnancy of progesterone. Thus, the pituitary body rests from reproductive worries, and the female body experiences the condition of a so-called false pregnancy: there is no monthly hormone fluctuation, the eggs safely “sleep” in the ovary, so fertilization becomes impossible.
There is another type of hormonal drug. The gestogens in their composition change the quantity and quality of vaginal mucus, increasing its viscosity. So it becomes more difficult for spermatozoa to get into the uterus. The changed thickness and quality of its coating excludes implantation of the egg and reduce the mobility of the fallopian tubes.
10 Myths About Contraception You Should Not Believe
It’s Impossible To Get Pregnant While Taking Birth Control Pills
Of course, this is not true. None of the contraceptives provides an absolute guarantee that a woman will not become pregnant. Even sterilization has efficiency below 100%, albeit more than 99%.
Post-Coital Contraceptives Work In 100% Of Cases
This is not so as well. Emergency contraception in the form of a pill taken the next day after intercourse delays ovulation, and if there is no ovule that could be fertilized – pregnancy does not occur. However, ovulation could already occur, and then such pills are useless. There are other means of emergency contraception, for example, made from copper intrauterine contraceptives, but its effectiveness is less than 100%.
Hormonal Contraceptives Are Toxic And Unnatural
Obviously, hormonal means of birth control have their disadvantages. However, in most cases the advantages outweigh them. It is necessary to consult a doctor. Do not choose pills by yourself. Otherwise, the risk of possible harm is much higher.
You Need To Take Pills At The Same Time
Not always. It depends on the kind of pills. If they only contain progesterone, then yes, indeed, they need to be taken on time. Otherwise, the effect of the pills after 26 hours is disappearing, and barrier methods should be used to avoid unwanted conception. If the pills contain both progesterone and estrogen – the “window” becomes larger, and several hours of difference do not play a role. However, doctors still recommend that you stick to the same time for taking the pills so that the appropriate habit is formed.
Absence Of Menstruation, Caused By Taking Birth Control, Is Harmful
In some cases, women miss a week of taking the placebo pills and immediately go to the next pack of contraceptives, and sometimes – leave the hormone ring for four weeks instead of three. Sometimes birth control pills suppose a complete absence of menstruation. And this is safe. Women may think that the blood stagnates inside, but it is not. In fact, there is simply nothing left in the body to leave. The layer of the endometrium remains thin.
Intrauterine Contraceptives Is A Mini-Abortion
This is wrong. Such a means prevents the fertilization of the egg and prevents it from attaching itself to the uterus. Thus, pregnancy does not occur. The spermatozoa just do not have time to meet with the egg. A thick layer of mucus aggressive for sperm is formed. IUDs work somewhat differently, but the general principle is the same.
Post-Coital Contraceptives Lead To Abortion
This is not true for the same reasons that were described earlier. The principle of the post-coital contraceptive is the delay in ovulation, which means that fertilization also does not occur.
Pills Can Affect Fertility
In general, pills do not affect fertility, but sometimes women are prescribed such pills because of irregular menstruation or hormonal imbalance. When a woman stops taking hormonal contraceptives, problems return. Thus, the same problems with the conception that was before taking pills may return. In addition, fertility declines with age. In any case, the pills have nothing to do with it.
Intrauterine Contraceptives Affect Fertility
Previously, spirals and other contraceptives were made from materials that could cause inflammation in the uterus. Now the technology has stepped forward, and these contraceptives are completely safe. In some cases, they can even have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Women Taking Oral Contraceptives Gain Weight
If the pills are chosen correctly, they do not cause weight gain. Perhaps the extra pounds appear for entirely different reasons. For example, young girls often start to protect themselves, and they start to gain weight because of age factors or lifestyle changes.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.