The Lowdown on Contraceptives
By Annabelle Chua
The Philippine population is growing steadily each year. As of 2005, we have a population of over 87 million people – and growing at a rate of 2% per year. Whereas other countries in Europe actually pay their citizens to have more children, our government is admonishing us to practice family planning, and with good reason. Though we are a prolific people, the increase in population, especially in children has caused and still is causing lower standards of living and education, poor health care service and poverty in general to a lot of families. Though we Filipinos generally claim that a bigger family is happier, it cannot be denied that the high costs of living and the slow growth of our economy make supporting a family a lot harder these days.
Thus, the solution: family planning and birth control. Couples, early in their marriage, should decide how many children they want to have and are capable of having. Birth control or contraceptives then makes it easy for parents to control the number of offspring that they would like to have. Birth control can effectively prevent pregnancies, if not totally, then at least by a reasonable and relatively large percentage of success.
Here are the different means of contraception, and their success rates:
1. Total Abstinence
The first – and 100% successful method – is of course, abstinence, or staying away from sex. Simply said, if you don’t have intercourse, then your chances of getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant is nil.
2. Periodic Abstinence
This method is the only method acceptable to the Catholic Church. In this method, the couple monitors a woman’s monthly cycles and determines the time when a woman ovulates. During this period, the couple refrains from intercourse so that the sperm will not be able to fertilize the egg. The margin of error in this method of contraception is bigger than most, though, because the span of time of a woman’s monthly cycle is variable and estimated only. Periodic abstinence also provides no protection against sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.
3. The Pill
The Pill has approximately 95% effectivity in all cases. It is highly convenient and effective, does not interrupt nor affect intercourse at all and may even diminish menstrual cramps. The Pill provides ease of use because it only needs to be taken daily. The offside to it is that there is possible nausea, weight gain and headaches to some people. A physician’s examination and prescription is required before using this Pill, and even so, it may have harmful side effects.
4. Intrauterine Device
The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small plastic device inserted into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs prevent pregnancies by decreasing the ability of sperm to fertilize an egg. Typically the IUD is 96% effective in preventing pregnancy. A health care professional is required to insert an IUD though, and it needs to be replaced every one to ten years, depending on the user. However, it may cause cramps, bleeding, infection and spotting, if the user is not suited to it.
There are two versions to this: the male condom and the female condom. Both are sacs made of polyurethane, worn covering the sex organs. Both are designed to act as barriers and to prevent the sperm cell from fertilizing the egg cell, thus preventing pregnancy. Condoms are approximately 85-90% effective in preventing pregnancies and is also highly effective in preventing STDs and HIV/AIDS. It is readily available and relatively inexpensive. The only downside is that it may be messy and the condom may break.
With this method, women get infections or shots of the hormone progestin every three months. It is highly effective in preventing pregnancy, with 99.7% prevention rate. It tends to be more expensive though, and it requires a physician or a health care provider to monitor the side effects and to give the shots.
7. Diaphragm or Cervical Cap
This is another barrier method of birth control. The diaphragm or cervical cap is a shallow latex cup fitted to cover the cervix to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg cell. It is 80% effective in preventing pregnancies. It also requires a visit to the doctor for proper fitting, as diaphragms come in many sizes. The diaphragm can help prevent some sexually transmitted diseases, although it is not quite as effective as the condom.
8. Surgical sterilization – Vasectomy and Tubal Ligation
This is for the couples who are positive that they do not want any children anymore as these steps are normally irreversible. They are done to prevent an egg from going down to her uterus, and to prevent a man from ejaculating the sperm cells. This method is 99 to 99.5 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.
9. Contraceptive/hormonal patch
This is a skin patch worn by women which releases the hormones progestin and estrogen into the bloodstream. A woman wears a patch for three weeks, then stops during the fourth to have her period. It is 90% effective in preventing pregnancy – at least for women under 198 pounds. It may have some side effects though, so consulting a physician first is advisable.
The above are the more common methods of birth control. Birth control and family planning ought to be practiced by Filipinos, if not for our own selves, then for the welfare of the children. All children need and have right to grow up with all the basic necessities, and this need can only be fulfilled by their parents if they choose to plan their family well. We ought to take the cue from our government and practice birth control, lest our resources be one day insufficient for our ever growing country.