Sex Education - Birth Control Methods

When discussing sex education with teenagers, it is very important to inform them about various types of contraception.  This information can help them to make educated decisions and to decrease their chances of contracting an STD or of having an unwanted pregnancy.  There are many options for birth control methods.  It is important to impress upon the learner, however, that not all options are equally effective in preventing pregnancy or STDs.

The Choice of Abstinence

Obviously, the most effective way to prevent pregnancy and STDs is through abstinence.  It is certainly important for young people to understand this as part of their sex education program.  However, it doesn't mean that they will stay committed to this plan.  Should they decide to become sexually active, here are their options for birth control.  It is vital for anyone using birth control to understand that it needs to be used properly and consistently.  You can become pregnant, or contract an STD from one sexual encounter.  Using birth control most of the time is not a guarantee that it will work. When choosing a birth control method, it's also important to consider a few practical factors. You'll want to consider how easy the method is to use, how much the method costs and whether you have any health conditions and medications that might interfere with the particular method.

Hormonal Birth Control Methods

Hormonal birth control methods are more reliable forms of birth control.  They come in two main forms.  There are combination hormonal methods that have both estrogen and progestin (or synthetic progesterone) in them.  These include the pill, skin patches and rings.  Birth control pills needs to be taken every day to be effective.  You'll need a back-up method during the first week of taking them.  Patches are changed weekly and go in a private area of your body, like your back side.  The ring is inserted into your vagina and is changed monthly with one week off each month and three weeks of use.  Research has shown that these methods are very effective at preventing pregnancy with approximately five out of eight women getting pregnant out of 100 women in a given year.  They are not effective at all for STDs.  The other form of hormone birth control is progestin-only pills and injections.  These are a good option if you can't take estrogen because you are nursing or have another reason.  These pills must be taken at exactly the same time each day to be fully effective.


This is a small device that is placed inside the uterus by a medical professional to prevent pregnancy.  IUD (intrauterine device) can provide birth control for 5 to 10 years, depending on the type you get.  Fewer than one out of 100 women were found to get pregnant in a given year with this device.  You do need to be careful that you don't have a STD when the IUD is inserted, as it can cause the infection to spread to the uterus.  This method is highly effective for pregnancy, but does not prevent STDs.

Barrier Methods

There are many barrier methods that are intended to prevent sperm from entering the uterus and reaching the egg.  Such methods include the diaphragm, cervical cap, male condom, female condom, spermicidal foam, sponge, gel and others.  Condoms are certainly the best method for preventing an STD of any type and should be used consistently if you are worried about contracting one of these diseases.  Barrier methods are not always as effective as other types of birth control in preventing pregnancy, but they have fewer side effects than hormonal methods or IUDs.  They do interrupt intimacy because they need to be thought about and used each time you are intimate.  The female condom is approximately 79% effective and the male condom is 85% effective.  The diaphragm is 84% effective and spermicides are 71% effective.  Spermicides should always be combined with a condom or other method to increase their effectiveness.  

Fertility Awareness

This is the trickiest form of birth control, as it requires the woman to chart her menstrual cycle and to avoid intercourse or use barrier methods during the time when she is most fertile.  This method tends to be less effective for teenage girls, as their cycle is not as consistent or easy to chart.

Learn more about your birth control options, including the side effects of each choice.  Young people need to understand that with sexuality comes responsibility.  Knowing about birth control methods and making educated choices can make a big difference in the choices that people make, and the consequences that they face or avoid in their lives.


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