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Understand options for family planning

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  • Written By: Campbell County Clinics-OB GYN Specialists
Understand options for family planning

Editor’s note: This story contains content that may be of a sensitive nature.

Some of the most important choices you'll ever make involve creating a family. Do you want to have children? When? How many?

If you want to postpone parenthood, you'll also need to decide which birth control method to use. It's a long list.

There are options for women and men. Some focus on the body's natural rhythms. Some involve physical barriers. Others manipulate hormones. Some can't be reversed.

Understanding what's available is the first step in deciding which method is right for you. Common options include:

  • Natural family planning. This involves having sex only on days when getting pregnant is least likely. Making that determination requires closely tracking a woman's menstrual cycle, body temperature and other physical changes. It can be complicated, so talk with your doctor first.
  • Male condoms. These thin latex sheaths are worn by men to block sperm from reaching the egg. Available over the counter, they're thrown away after one use. Condoms sometimes cause irritation or allergic reactions. They can also break or leak if used incorrectly.
  • Diaphragm with spermicide. Worn by women, a diaphragm is a flexible, dome-shaped disk designed to block sperm from reaching an egg. To be sure the device fits properly, a doctor's exam is required. Spermicides, chemicals that deactivate sperm, are always used with these devices. Spermicides come as gels, foams or creams and are available without a prescription. Risks associated with a diaphragm include irritation, allergic reactions and minor infections. If the diaphragm is left in place too long, a rare but much more serious infection is possible.
  • Oral contraceptives. Swallowed once a day, these prescription pills contain hormones that prevent women from becoming pregnant. There are several varieties, and each works somewhat differently. Talk with your doctor to see which type might be best for you. Side effects may include dizziness, nausea, weight gain and changes in the menstrual cycle. In certain cases, the pill can cause high blood pressure. In rare instances, it may lead to blood clots, heart attacks or strokes.
  • Other hormone-related options. Pregnancy-preventing hormones can also be delivered through injections, a skin patch, or a device placed in the uterus (called an intrauterine device, or IUD) or inserted into the vagina (vaginal ring).
  • Permanent birth control. Men and women who never want children—or who decide against expanding their current family—can have surgery to make future pregnancies virtually impossible. Typically, these methods—which include vasectomies and tubal ligations—cannot be reversed.

All birth control options have pros and cons. Campbell County Clinics—OB GYN Specialists encourages you to speak with your doctor to find the one that is best for you. Visit to schedule an appointment or read about the Clinic’s doctors.

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Food and Drug Administration