As their name suggests, contraceptives were created with the purpose of avoiding unwanted pregnancies, while allowing couples to remain sexually active. However, the goal of some birth control methods has changed, as is the case for condoms, which are the only birth control method that can help prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as gonorrhea, syphilis or HIV.
To begin with, do you know at what point a woman can become pregnant? The female reproductive cycle is typically 28 days long, although it may be shorter or longer. Day 1 is the first day of menstruation. Approximately on day 14 a women ovulates and, if fertilization (the union of an egg and sperm) occurs, she may become pregnant. If this does not happen, the egg degenerates and is expelled during menstruation. This marks the beginning of the next menstrual cycle. It is very important to keep in mind that the menstrual cycle’s length varies greatly from one woman to another and therefore each case should be assessed individually by a physician.
Having said this, the most common birth control methods include:
Rhythm method (natural family planning): it consists of not having sex during a woman’s fertile days (when she is ovulating). This method is most effective in women with regular menstrual cycles and for those who have a steady partner. Ideally, in a 28 day cycle, women should avoid having sex between days 8 and 21 of the cycle.
Cervical mucus method (Billings ovulation method): in this method, women must observe the appearance of any vaginal discharge (mucus), learning to recognize its changing patterns and characteristics throughout the month. When a woman is not ovulating, mucus is scant, whitish, sticky and pasty. In contrast, when a woman is ovulating mucus will become abundant, clear and quite stretchy. When using this method, sexual intercourse should be avoided when mucus indicates that ovulation is taking place. If you are planning on using this method, it should be combined with the rhythm method to increase its effectiveness.
Birth control pills or shots: these methods consist of combinations of hormones that influence the uterus and ovaries. By taking these pills regularly, they prevent ovulation from taking place, thus preventing pregnancy. There are many different types of birth control pills and therefore it is important that your doctor prescribes the right one for you. Birth control shots are another type of hormonal method that is administered every 1, 2 or 3 months, depending on what’s most convenient for each woman.
Female and male condoms: these are barrier methods that prevent sperm from entering the uterus and reaching the egg. Their main advantage is that they are the only contraceptive method that protects against some sexually transmitted diseases by avoiding direct contact between people and their body fluids. However, if used incorrectly or if they are damaged or expired, they may not properly prevent transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV), genital herpes, hepatitis B or HIV.
What is the right way to use a condom? Open the condom wrapper carefully to avoid tearing it and place the condom over the erect penis before any sexual contact, making sure it covers the entire penis. Remove it immediately after ejaculation, while the penis is still erect. Never reuse a condom. Of all contraceptive methods, this is the most inexpensive and easiest to get. You can request them at the Ebais or buy them without a prescription at any supermarket or drugstore. If you usually store them in your wallet or car, you should discard them and buy new ones, storing them in a cool, dry place.
Keep in mind that none of the above methods are 100% safe and should be combined to improve their effectiveness. In addition, be extremely cautious when choosing sexual partners; many sexually transmitted diseases have no early symptoms and can only be diagnosed through a blood test.
Editorial Note: “Statistics from Costa Rica’s National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC) indicate that just in 2011,13,867 teen pregnancies were registered;70% took place in rural areas. The Nosara and Samara districts are considered rural areas, with teenage pregnancies also occurring here. As the only local media, the Voice of Nosara is committed to inform and educate readers about different birth control methods so that we can all make informed decisions, thereby avoiding sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancies that could possibly lead to serious complications or even death.
If a girl under the age of 17 becomes pregnant, her pelvis and bones will be unable to properly support her unborn baby’s weight for nine months as her own body has not fully developed, possibly leading to a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. She could also face other complications such as urinary tract infections, bone disorders, anemia and pregnancy-induced hypertension. The situation is even worse for girls under 15: the risk of dying during childbirth is four times greater than in adult women and their babies are exposed to preterm birth, low birth-weight and malformations. If the mother is under 15, the baby is three times more likely to die in its first year of life.