The Pill, Condoms and You

The ability to control one's fertility is a very old concept. Throughout the centuries, there have been many different forms of birth control employed by women and men. Some of the original methods and materials used would probably seem a bit crude to the average person today. Condoms and oral contraceptives were the main methods used in the past and they are still the two most popular choices today.

Here’s Looking at Condoms
Condoms are perhaps one of the oldest known forms of birth control. 3000-year-old illustrations of condoms have been found in Egypt, while a condom dating from 1640 was found near Birmingham, England. That one was made from fish and animal intestines.

Throughout the years, condoms have been made from a variety of materials including fish bladders, oiled silk paper and tortoise shell! Others have been fastened on with a ribbon. Casanova was rumored to have used linen condoms. In 1844, rubber condoms began to be produced and the world was on its way to making the latex condoms that are used today.

How Condoms Work
Condoms are a popular form of contraception because they are so simple to use. Women especially like them because they are one of the few methods of birth control that are geared specifically towards male contraception. In fact, condoms are the only form of male birth control currently available.

To use a condom, a man needs to take it out of the package, place the tip of the condom at the tip of his erect penis, pinch the top part of the condom (to ensure no air gets in), then unroll the condom until it reaches the base of his penis. Many couples enjoy having the female put the condom on the male as part of foreplay. If you want to do this, make sure you are gentle so that your nails don’t rip the condom.

Condoms not only help protect against an unwanted pregnancy, but they are also the only effective form of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Because of this, condoms should be put on as soon as the clothes come off. Some STI’s don’t require intercourse to be passed on, just skin-to-skin contact. However, condoms are not 100% effective against pregnancy. It is best to use condoms in combination with some other form of birth control, like the sponge. Condoms can only be used once before you throw them away. If you have sex three times in one night, then you will need to use three condoms, not just one for the whole evening.

As recently as the 1960s, men needed a prescription to get condoms, while women were not allowed to have any access to condoms and most other forms of birth control. Thankfully, today you just need to go into your local pharmacy and walk down the family planning aisle to purchase some. And condoms aren’t boring! They can come in a variety of colors, flavors and textures to make the experience more enjoyable.

The Female Condom
Because men cannot always be counted on when it comes to using condoms, and since condoms are the only reliable form of protection against STI’s, a female condom was developed. This type of condom has only just recently come onto the market. The female condom provides the same protection against STI’s and pregnancy as the male condom. The only difference is that the woman wears this condom internally.

A female condom has a ring on the closed end which you insert into your vagina. This ring helps keep it inside of you. A second ring is at the bottom of the open end and helps keep it in place outside of you. Since it is a fairly new form of female contraception, it can be more difficult to get a hold of than male condoms but they are easily available online (see above). They also tend to be more expensive than male condoms.

The Pill that Revolutionized the World
Prior to the twentieth century, the female reproductive system was not understood very well. "Experts" knew that women got pregnant when they had sex. They also knew that there must be some way to prevent it. In their efforts to prevent pregnancy, the history of birth control involves women being advised to drink mercury, gunpowder, tea made of willow leaves and mules hooves, and alcohol made with dried beaver testicles among other things.

By the 1930s, though, medical knowledge had expanded enough to understand just how the female reproductive system worked. And in 1937, estrogen pills were found to prevent conception in animal tests. Testing on women began some years after this and by 1963, the first birth control pills were available on the market.

Since its introduction, the amounts of hormones contained within the pill have lowered. The initial oral contraceptive pills had high levels of estrogen and progestin. However, these were found to cause more side effects. Today, birth control pills have much lower doses of hormones, which has helped to relieve some of the more serious side effects.

How It Works
To use the birth control pill, you simply take one pill that contains hormones, preferably at about the same time everyday, for 21 days. You then stop taking a pill for seven days or ingest sugar pills so you don’t get out of the habit of taking a pill. During these seven days of taking the 'no hormone pills,' you get your period. The birth control pill, when taken properly, is said to be 99.9% effective in preventing pregnancy.

The pill works by using estrogen and/or progesterone hormones to allow your body to think it is pregnant. This prevents your ovaries from releasing an egg. Some pills also work by thickening your cervical mucus, thereby preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg.

Pros and Cons
Preventing pregnancy is not the only benefit of oral contraception. Some use it to regulate and lighten their periods. Others use it to help with their acne. Birth control pills have also been found to offer some protection against ovarian cancer and cancer of the uterine lining.

However, taking birth control pills can also slightly increase your risk of blood clots. There are also a number of common side effects, including weight gain or loss, spotting, breast tenderness, nausea, mood swings, headaches, change in sexual drive, and possibly even depression. The majority of the side effects clear up after the first few months, though.

Unlike condoms, birth control pills need to be prescribed by a health care provider. They can range in price from $25 to $125 a month depending on what brand you are using. Some sexual health clinics can provide birth control pills at a reduced price. Most insurance companies cover at least some if not all of the cost. Talk with your health care provider about what the best oral contraceptive option is for you.

Together, the condom and the birth control pill make a great couple when it comes to preventing pregnancy and the spread of STI’s. These two methods of birth control are so popular throughout the world because they are convenient and effective. If you want to control your reproduction, then talk to your health care provider about using the pill and condoms.

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