Contraceptives: a matter of knowing what is best for you Contraceptives: a matter of knowing what is best for you

Contraceptives: a matter of knowing what is best for you

For her 1 October, 2017 Isabel Vallejo


There are different types of contraceptives: surgical, hormonal and barrier methods. Choose the one that is right for you with the help of a specialist.

Medical Advisor Jesús Velásquez Penagos, Obgyn from the San Vicente Foundation University Hospital

Let’s get back to the basics, to what is simple, to what for many, is obvious: more than just a way to not have children, birth control is a way to decide when and at what point of your life you want to begin a family. “This is a joint creation of the couple, so even if men are not the direct users of them, they should be involved in the decision the woman makes,” advises Jesús Velásquez Penagos, OBGYN from the San Vicente Foundation University Hospital.

Let it be clear, once again, that birth control is not just the woman’s responsibility. In recent years, in addition to the woman, families have also become involved in planning the number of children they wish to have and the best moment to have them. There are a lot of options out there, and are even discussed at an early age, at schools, in families and in the media. But what happens when they do not work? In general, the problem is not with the method, it is how it is used.

According to the specialist, certain methods may be contraindicative for certain conditions, which is why the first step should be to seek the guidance of a healthcare professional. It is also extremely important for the birth control option that is chosen to be one that both the woman and her partner can use and adhere to on a regular basis to ensure its effectiveness.

Most importantly, with hormonal methods, generally speaking, knowing whether heart disease, high blood pressure or blood sugar problems are involved is essential, “It is important to clarify that these conditions do not necessarily prevent the use of birth control. Your physician will be the one that can best select a method that works for the woman and her partner,” states our expert.

Know how to use them

Contraceptives come in the form of surgical, hormonal and barrier methods. The most popular form of the barrier method is the condom, which is not always the safest method. In terms of reliability, our specialist warns that any method has a 1 to 2% failure rate, “With long-term or permanent options, over the years, their failure rates may increase.”

With hormonal methods, however, it is important to understand that if the person is forgetful, the lower amount of hormones the contraceptive has, the greater the risk of pregnancy.

The recommendation it is to always use the same brand, as not all laboratories apply the same standards of quality and sometimes, there is the risk of counterfeit birth control.

With the injection, our expert suggests that it be applied by the same person each time, that not even a drop of the vial should be lost, and that it should always be administered deep into the muscle.

With methods that are used by people 35 and over, it is important to take precautions and try to receive the lowest dose of hormones possible if the patient has high blood pressure or is obese, for example. “The best option is to find a method that is non-hormonal, such as the copper T IUD, which is one of the best options because of how long it lasts. Surgical or permanent options should also be considered if you are happy with the number of kids you have,” Velásquez states. Oral contraceptives should be taken daily at the same time in order to be most effective.

If there is a risk of the person forgetting or adhering to their method, either with pills or injections, subdermal implants or IUDs can last for approximately 5 to 7 years.

Side effects: Myth or reality?

In terms of side effects, hormonal contraceptives have the worst reputation. But how true is this? To answer this question, Velásquez addresses three common myths.

  1. Weight gain. After several studies, it has been determined that oral or hormonal contraceptives can have an effect on an individual’s weight, which can increase or decrease, but should not exceed more than 4-5 pounds.
  2. Acne. While some are used to help control acne, the appearance of it is not necessarily a side effect. Some women have existing conditions that make them susceptible to developing it.
  3. The appearance of varicose veins. This is related to having large doses of hormones, which is why the methods of today do not cause varicose veins, as their dosage is low. “Varicose veins are highly related to having a genetic predisposition,” our expert explains.

Be careful with what people say

A lot has been said in conventional wisdom about preventing pregnancy. Some people opt for the withdrawal method (pull-out method) or believe in bathing after having sex, for example, but these methods are not backed by science.

How about douching after sex? This option does not work. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, sperm can travel to and enter the cervix in a matter of 90 seconds.

Does breastfeeding prevent pregnancy? False. Women that breastfeed can become pregnant.

Withdrawing the penis prior to ejaculating cannot cause pregnancy. Also false. Some semen often remains before the penis is completely withdrawn, which is enough to become pregnant.

Prevention

When should the use of contraceptives begin? As soon as someone becomes sexually active, independent of their age. “Parents, educators and healthcare professional must reach youth through education prior to them becoming sexually active, as some of their first sexual relationships may not be planned or consent may not be involved, which is why both men and women must know about the methods for preventing undesired pregnancies,” Velásquez warns.

Are doctors the only ones that can prescribe contraceptives? No. The most important thing is to receive the guidance of a healthcare professional. In addition to doctors, nurses -who have extensive training in this area- may provide this guidance.

When should you stop using birth control? There is no specific age to stop using them. In general, after a woman turns 40, their ovulation process begins to slow. Between ages 40 and 45, however, they continue to ovulate and the chances of becoming pregnant remain. As long as the woman has regular cycles, it is difficult to determine a point in which pregnancy cannot occur, making them eligible to use a contraceptive method,” Velásquez states.