Birth control refers to any of those procedures which will diminish or do away with the probability of pregnancy; it is also known as family planning and contraception. Besides the inadequate methods, such as coitus interruptus, and tap-water douche, that have been employed, the more effective or better known ones are the following:
1. Birth-control pills. Their effectiveness is approximately 100 per cent. Many kinds are dispensed in a special package containing 20 pills. Counting the first day of menstruation as day 1 of the cycle, the pill is taken on the morning of day 5 and every morning thereafter through day 25. Within a few days of stopping-roughly therefore around day 28-menstruation occurs. Again one waits till day 5 and repeats the daily taking of the pill. The pills work by preventing the growth and release of the egg from the ovary, so that a woman remains infertile throughout her cycle. Once the pills are stopped, the possibility of pregnancy promptly recurs; thus it is necessary for the pill to be taken daily. Occasionally pink staining may occur while taking the pills; this may necessitate a temporary increase in the amount taken. Other difficulties are occasional symptoms of nausea or bloating. An increased amount of clotting in the veins was reported for the first pill in use. Since then, a reduction in dose and newer combinatoils have been made available, and original difficulties may now be reduced.
2. Diaphragm. This is a rubber dome mounted on a flexible rubber-covered metal circle. When properly inserted, it fits into the upper portion of the vagina, covering the opening to the uterus (the cervix). Usually a special sperm-killing jelly or cream is used to seal the edges of the diaphragm.
3. Condom. Sometimes referred to as “a rubber,” this is a device worn by the male. It is convenient, and widely used.
4. Foams and jellies. These are sperm-killing materials injected or placed within the vagina just before intercourse. They rapidly immobilize and kill the sperm. They are fairly effective, generally non-irritating, and lessen the need for the fitting or insertion of a diaphragm.
5. Rhythm method. Sometimes also referred to as the “safe period.”
6. “Safe Period” (Rhythm System) The “safe period” is the time in a woman’s menstrual cycle when she cannot become pregnant. In the average woman it generally refers to a few days after the end of menstruation and to a period of about a week-and-a-half before the expected onset of her next menstruation. A knowledge of the safe cycle is basic to the rhythm method of birth control. It is based upon the following considerations:
1. An egg is released (ovulation) from a woman’s ovary only once during a menstrual cycle.
2. The egg can be fertilized by the sperm of the male only during about twenty-four hours after its release. After that time the egg undergoes degenerative changes and can no longer initiate a pregnancy.
3. Although the sperm supplied by the male can live for a somewhat longer period within the female reproductive tract, they probably cannot fertilize the egg more than two or three days after their release.
4. If one could time the ovulation exactly, and if no sperm were supplied for approximately three days before, and for a day or two afterwards, pregnancy could not occur. The time in the cycle just before and just after the release of the egg is the time of highest fertility in a woman; other parts of the menstrual cycle would therefore be “safe.”