One of the most important social determinates of fertility is birth control. The modern family planning movement began in the United States and England as an outgrowth of the women’s rights campaign. In the beginning it was intended primarily to relieve women of the burdens of too many children, which was also a threat to the mothers’ lives. In the earlier years of their endeavor, men generally opposed the idea or were indifferent to it. When men became aware of the fact that motherhood of too many children threatens a woman’s life, men began to support family planning, and the medical profession developed more modern and effective methods of birth control. Nevertheless, the wife still holds the primary responsibility for birth control in the family. This is reflected by the fact that the majority of modern birth control methods are designed to be employed by the woman.
Here are brief descriptions of six conventional methods of birth control endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Federation.
” is a monthly series of birth control pills. The ingredients are similar to hormones normally produced in a woman’s body. Birth control pills keep the ovaries from releasing eggs. They do this only if they are taken a full monthly series on time. If one or more pills are forgotten, there is a chance of pregnancy, Of 100 women on the pill about 2 may become pregnant during a year of actual use. Women who never forget the pill have less chance of getting pregnant. It’s the most reliable method and convenient to use. Periods are usually more regular, with less cramps and less blood loss. There’s less iron deficiency anemia, less acne among users. It offers protection from non-cancerous breast tumors and ovarian cysts.
The intrauterine device or
IUD is a small device of plastic. A clinician or doctor inserts the right type in a woman’s uterus. Some IUD’s can be left indefinitely, other types must be renewed periodically. An IUD acts to change the lining of the uterus in some way so that it hinders a pregnancy from happening. Of 100 women with IUD’s, about 4 may become pregnant during a year of actual use. A woman’s protection is increased if she checks her IUD placement regularly, or if the couple also uses foam or condom for a week about midway between periods. With an IUD in place, a woman does not need to think about using her birth control method every day or every time she has sex.
is a soft rubber cup with a flexible rim around the edge. It is used with contraceptive cream or jelly. It is inserted in a woman’s vagina before intercourse. The diaphragm covers the entrance to the uterus, and the cream or jelly halts sperm movement. Of 100 women using diaphragms, about 13 may become pregnant during a year of actual use. You may increase protection by checking that it covers the cervix every time there is intercourse. Once it is learned, insertion is easy. Properly placed it is not felt by either the woman or the man.
is a sheath of thin rubber or animal tissue. It is put on a man’s erect penis before intercourse. A condom collects a man’s semen and keeps sperm from entering a woman’s vagina. Of 100 couples relying on condoms, about 10 pregnancies may occur during a year of use. When the woman uses foam at the same time, greater protection is possible. Condoms help protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
are foams, creams, jellies or suppositories that are chemical substances inserted before intercourse that stop sperm but don’t harm vaginal tissues. One of these is inserted in a woman’s vagina before intercourse. It spreads over the entrance to the uterus. It blocks sperm from entering the uterus, and the chemical halts sperm movement. Of 100 women using a vaginal contraceptive, about 15 may become pregnant during a year of use. When the man uses a condom at the same time, greater protection is possible. Easy to buy in drug stores and easy to use. And it may offer some protection against certain sexually transmitted diseases.
Periodic abstinence or the rhythm method
is based on the ovulation cycle. Several ways of checking a woman’s changing bodily signs are designed to help her discover the days each month when an egg is likely to be released. Knowing the several days before, during and right after an egg is released lets a woman avoid intercourse during her peak fertility, to prevent sperm from meeting the egg. Among 100 women limiting intercourse by these methods, about 19 may become pregnant over a year of use. Keeping careful records can give better results. No medication and little equipment is needed. Calendars, thermometers and charts are easy to get. These methods are acceptable to all religious groups.
Sterilization is the permanent method of contraception and the most effective means of controlling one’s fertility. Sterilization is suited only for those men and women who have decided they never want to cause conception or become pregnant. Choosing to get sterilized is a big decision. For either a man or a woman making this decision, which goes against many of our society’s norms, it helps to talk with other people who have been sterilized.
In the traditional sterilization operation for a woman, tubal ligation, the woman is put to sleep with a general anesthesia, a fairly large abdominal incision is made, a piece of each fallopian tube is cut out, and the two ends are tied off and folded back into the surrounding tissue. A more recent development is the laparoscopy technique, in which a tube with mirrors and lights is inserted through a small incision in the woman’s abdomen, and the tubes are visually located and then cauterized (burned) with a small instrument entered through another incision.
Sterilization for the man is called a vasectomy. The operation takes about half an hour. The doctor applies a local anesthetic, locates the two vas deferens (tubes that carry sperm from testes to penis), removes a piece of each, and ties off the ends.
A lack of adequate sex education including birth control is still a serious problem in the United States. We face both a population problem and a venereal disease epidemic, and yet powerful groups in our country are determined to keep the “facts of life” from our young people. No subject is more likely to bring out a mob of angry parents than the thought of introducing the most simple sex education curriculum into a school, even if the program is endorsed by educators, psychiatrists, and clerics of all faiths.
To have a good sex education program there are a few barriers that have to be broken down. One is a lack of training for teachers who need to understand the subject thoroughly. The other is to drop the feeling that sex education must be tied up with a series of moral judgments. It is difficult to construct an argument against three basic aspects of sex education in the schools. First, children must be thoroughly informed about the anatomy of sex organs the the physiology of sex and reproduction. Second, they must be taught the difference between ‘sex’ and reproduction and about the methods of contraception. Third, they should be informed of the dangers of venereal diseases. Something has to be done about a positive working sex education program in the schools, because when these children mature to the childbearing years, they should have the knowledge of good family planning.