Posted on: January 15, 2009 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 8

Pregnancy can be a beautiful thing. But it can also be an inconvenient thing, a financially burdensome thing, a physically dangerous thing, an emotionally and politically charged thing and a scandalous thing. This is why most women prefer to control their fertility. When pregnancy happens to them, they want it to be at its most beautiful. There are many ways to deal with an unwanted pregnancy, but they fall into just three basic categories: prevention, termination or follow through. If you choose to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term, you have the additional option of giving the child to another family through the process of adoption.

This article will go over all the options here, starting with prevention, since it’s the easiest and least traumatic way to control fertility. If you’re already faced with an unexpected pregnancy, you’ll want to skip to the bottom of the page, where adoption and abortion are discussed. Whatever your situation or your preference may be, bear in mind that this column offers no medical or professional expertise, but just practical advice. The purpose of this page is to provide a brief overview of all your options. If an option interests you, it’s encouraged that you to do further research on that subject.

Preventing Unwanted Pregnancy

  • Hormonal Birth Control: This method works by delivering a regular dose of synthetic estrogen and/or progesterone that prevents ovulation, makes cervical mucus thicker (and therefore harder for sperm to navigate through) and thins the uterine lining so any egg that manages to become fertilized will be less likely to implant in the uterus and continue growing. Hormonal contraception is available in the form of a daily pill, a patch, an injection and a vaginal ring. Side effects (the most common of which are breast tenderness, weight gain, irregular vaginal bleeding, fatigue and mood changes) are often more intense with the last three options, but those are also more effective than pills, which may be misused or forgotten.

With the way they’re typically used, birth control pills are 93-97% effective, but when used perfectly, they are about 99% effective, just like both the patch and vaginal ring. An injection of Lunelle or Depo-Provera is so effective that only a few of every 1,000 women get pregnant while on it.

  • Emergency Contraception: The morning after pill is two higher doses, taken 12 hours apart, of the same stuff that’s in regular hormonal contraception. It works by preventing ovulation, thickening the mucus in the vagina and changing the lining of the uterus. Most pharmacies make emergency contraception available to women over 18 without a prescription. It should only be used as a backup plan though, since it isn’t as effective as most other forms of birth control. It only works 75-89% of the time, and its effectiveness changes depending on how soon it’s taken after unprotected sex. If the morning after pill isn’t taken within 72 hours of intercourse, it simply won’t work.
  • Barrier Methods of Birth Control: These work by blocking the passage of sperm into the uterus and fallopian tubes, where they could fertilize an ovum. The best-known and most common barrier is the male condom, which is also the most effective barrier method. It works 85% of the time when used alone and 95% when combined with a spermicide (foam, jelly, or cream that kills sperm). Spermicide considerably increases the effectiveness of other barriers too, although it’s only about 75% effective if used on its own. In addition to blocking the passage of sperm into the uterus, the contraceptive sponge actually contains spermicide and is 84-91% effective, depending on how carefully it’s used. This and other female barriers have the benefit of giving contraceptive control to the woman, instead of leaving it in the hands of the man.

They can also be inserted before things get hot and heavy, so you don’t have to worry about pausing the action to put them in—or worse, forgetting to use them. Like the contraceptive sponge, the diaphragm, cervical cap and female condom all fit inside the vagina, but with these, it’s necessary to apply separate spermicidal chemicals to the vagina shortly before intercourse.

Without an added spermicide, these forms of birth control are only about 80% effective. With spermicide, the chances of success can rise to over 90%. It’s important to remember that the only barrier methods that also provide protection from sexually transmitted diseases are the male and female condom. Spermicide kills sperm, but not the germs that cause STDs.

  • IUD: An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped plastic object that a doctor can insert into the uterus. There are two basic kinds of IUD: the first kind has a copper sleeve or is wrapped with copper wire, and the other kind releases the hormone progesterone. The uterine lining responds to the presence of a foreign object inside the uterus by releasing prostaglandins and leukocytes, that attack and kill both eggs and sperm as they enter the uterus.Copper acts as an additional spermicide, and progesterone from an IUD prevents ovulation, thickens cervical mucus and thins the uterine lining, just like other forms of hormonal birth control. There are some serious risks associated with IUDs, but these are very rare. The main drawback of an IUD is that it can cause longer, heavier more painful periods. Adding progesterone to the IUD usually lessens this side effect. On the plus side, a single IUD usually stays about 99% effective for five to 10 years, and once it’s in, you rarely have to even think about it.

Natural Methods of Preventing Unwanted Pregnancy

  • Fertility Awareness or Natural Family Planning: This method combines three methods of determining the days when you are most likely to get pregnant: the calendar/rhythm method, the basal body temperature method and the cervical mucus method. It’s typically only about 75% effective, but if you are very committed to tracking your periods, recording your basal body temperature, examining your cervical mucus and either abstaining from sex or using barrier contraception for about 10 days of every month, it can be up to 90% effective.
  • Withdrawal: This is entirely natural in the sense that it doesn’t involve any chemicals or special equipment—it’s simply a matter of removing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation. Unfortunately, withdrawal doesn’t work that well because men sometimes don’t anticipate ejaculation in time to withdraw, and because pre-ejaculate, which they can’t even feel coming out, can contain sperm. Withdrawal is only about 80% effective.
  • Herbal Contraception and Abortion: These are based on methods used by women and midwives for hundreds of years. Plants like Queen Anne’s lace seed and wild yam are anecdotally held out to work as contraceptives, but there is little or no medical evidence to support their effectiveness. A large variety of herbs—such as tansy, pennyroyal and black or blue cohosh—have been used to induce miscarriage. These methods are delicate and potentially dangerous things, and should be undertaken carefully only after extensive research and consultation with an expert.

Treatment of Unwanted Pregnancies

Abortion

Before you start weighing your options for getting rid of an unwanted pregnancy, you have to make sure that you are indeed pregnant. Check all the common symptoms of early pregnancy, including nausea, vomiting, swollen or painful breasts, fatigue, headaches, mood swings and even a light or missed period. Remember that these can all be caused by other things that have nothing to do with pregnancy. If you use a home pregnancy test, be aware that it can give inaccurate results during the earliest stages of pregnancy. The best way to find out for sure whether you’re pregnant or not is to go to a doctor or a health center for a blood test.

If you’re sure you’re pregnant and you have decided that you don’t want to carry the pregnancy to term because of social, lifestyle or health factors, then you’re choosing abortion. If you’re still very early in the pregnancy, you may have the option of medical abortion—that is, an abortion brought on by medication. If your pregnancy has progressed past nine weeks, you’ll need to have a surgical abortion. A doctor can help you determine how long you’ve been pregnant and advise you on the most suitable form of abortion for you.

Adoption

If you prefer not to have an abortion, but you can’t or don’t want to take on the responsibility of raising a child yourself, you may choose to place the baby for adoption. While confidential or “closed” adoption is still possible, it has become uncommon in the United States. A birth mother usually works with an adoption agency to choose a family for her baby based on photos and family profiles. It’s usually even possible to meet prospective parents before making a decision, and many adoptive families are willing to provide the birth mother contact with the child after the adoption, through letters and photographs and actual visits.

The process of adoption should begin during pregnancy, but in most places, it isn’t legally complete until well after birth, so the birth mother isn’t stuck with her decision before she even meets the baby. If you’re considering adoption, you should take advantage of all the support available to you, from your family and friends and in the form of counseling and support groups that can help you both before and after the adoption.

Use these tips to your advantage to lead a healthier and regret-free reproductive life. Prudence and common sense are the key terms here, but if things do come to a point where your only option is abortion or adoption, rest assured that you can get through it with perseverance, support from friends and family, counseling and an optimistic view on life.

Click here for more information on how to get rid of unwanted pregnancy.

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