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Birth Control Comparison
Chapter 3

Method: Condoms
What is it?: Either made of latex, or animal membrane (natural skin), the condom fits over the man's penis, preventing sperm from entering the woman.
How does it work?: The man puts it on over an erect penis just prior to sexual intercourse and the ejaculate remains inside. Combining a spermicide with condoms decreases the chance of pregnancy if the condom breaks. Condoms must be removed immediately after intercourse, and is a disposable, one time use article.
Effectiveness: 90% effective if used alone, 95-97% if used with a spermicide as well.
Advantages: Condoms are widely available from grocery stores, drug stores and vending machines. They are inexpensive, easy to use, do not interfere with the body's natural hormones, and protect against STD's.
Disadvantages: Can be messy and inconvenient, decrease physical sensation, interrupt sexual spontaneity, people with latex allergies can use the "natural skin" condoms, but these do not protect against STD's.

Method: Today Sponge
What is it?: A small polyurethane device (similar to a diaphragm but smaller) that is inserted over the cervix and feels like vaginal tissue.
How does it work?: The sponge fits over the cervix and contains large amounts of spermicide, it acts as both a physical and chemical barrier to prevent sperm from entering the cervix. This one-time use device simply needs to be moistened with water and inserted. It can remain in the vagina for up to 24 hours, and may be used multiple times without additional spermicide being added. Must remain in vagina for at least 6 hours after last act of intercourse.
Effectiveness: 89-91% effective
Advantages: inexpensive, widely available non-prescription method of contraception, does not interfere with hormones or fertility, allows for relatively spontaneous sex, are safe for people with latex allergies, not perceptible by either partner during intercourse.
Disadvantages: messy, does not protect against STD's

It is important to carefully consider what type of birth control is best for you. Some factors to consider are whether you want long-term birth control (such as the IUD, or implants), or you only want occasional protection (condoms or the sponge). You must also consider what impact the hormonal birth control methods will have on your body, as some women can be on them comfortably for years, while other women find the side effects not worth it. Some women with particularly heavy or painful periods often choose hormonal birth control, such as the pill or Depo-Provera because of the lessening of cramps and menstrual bleeding. Another factor to consider is age. Many of the hormonal methods are not recommended for women over 35, and methods like the IUD are not recommended to young women. It is necessary to decide what it is that you are looking for in birth control and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each method. If you have any questions, or are unsure if you are suited for a particular method, it is recommended that you ask your doctor.


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