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Birth control

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Twenty-eight days worth of birth control pills. Three weeks of pills containing hormones and a week of placebos containing inactive ingredients.

Birth control is a regulation of the frequency of childbirth especially by preventing conception through the use of a contraceptive (devices or medication that prevent implantation of fertilized zygotes). But it can refer to any means of birth prevention including celibacy, delayed marriage, and induced abortions. There are several different forms of contraception available to the public, from the hormonal pill to the regular condom and surgical procedures.

None of the birth controls can completely guarantee protection from HIV, STD's, or STI's. For the best results in efficiency it is important to know the benefits and risks and to follow the directions properly. From a biblical perspective there are many different stand points and beliefs pertaining to the use of birth control. It is important for both a man and woman to remain abstinent until marriage. Abstinence is the safest and best form of birth control which most of America supports.[1] While there are some scriptural accounts of disobedience regarding birth control, there is nothing pertaining to the use of the modern day forms of birth control. Each individual must personally look into the Bible and decide for themselves whether or not birth control is Biblically appropriate.

History

Most of the earliest forms of birth control were highly ineffective and crude by using infanticide and abortion if necessary. The oldest forms of birth control came out of Egypt from an estimated time 3000-1500 BC. [2] [3] Back then women would use crocodile dung or honey in order to prevent pregnancy. They believed that the semen, or 'white fluid' as they referred to it, would not be able to penetrate their body with the sticky substances blocking its way. Next to that the only other form that guaranteed 100% results as it does today is abstinence. Just like it is proving today, abstinence was a difficult concept back then as well unless it was a life style such as in the priesthood or as a nun. Lent, feast days, and other religious holidays were implemented as days where people were not allowed to have sex. Another form of birth control was a suppository. This was when the woman applied resin or oil to her cervix. Both honey and olive oil were common applications to avoid fertilization by creating a barrier for the sperm. These additional liquids would decrease the amount of sperm that would enter the woman. Although its success was not fully realized back then, women used vinegar soaked cloths as a way to prevent pregnancy. The acid in the vinegar acted as a spermicide to kill the sperm through its acidity. For males, sub-incisions were made. These incisions at the base of the penis in the urethra were thought to be made during a sort of ritual. During intercourse the male could not ejaculate his semen into the woman because the hole would leak out the semen before it ejaculated. If a couple wanted to get pregnant, the man would have to cover the hole with his hand. Coitus interruptus was a common form of birth control. This was when men pulled out during sexual intercourse before ejaculation. Another form is called coitus reservatus, which was when men squeezed the base of the penis to prevent ejaculation all together. Both of these forms were and still are not very effective because a small amount of semen is released pre-ejaculation. The Chinese preferred coitus reservatus because they believed the saved semen allowed men to have greater brain efficiency and more intelligence. [3]

In 1562, the first male condoms that are used in modern day society were created. At first they were called male sheaths used to prevent the spread of venereal disease more than anything. It began by using lubricated linen cloths, but there were also others that used goat bladders, animal or blowfish intestines. These condoms, unlike today, were very costly for the people and thus many times, they were washed and reused. Women also used rituals and folklore to protect themselves from pregnancy. They implemented superstitions like throwing kernels, apples or nails into a well, believing that it would avoid pregnancy for a month. Another option was to spin a wheel backwards at midnight to protect them for another month's time. [3]

By the late 1800's, the United States placed a ban on all birth control information and products through the Comstock Act. In 1916, a woman by the name of Margaret Sanger took a stand against the government by opening America's first birth control clinic. Because of her blatant disregard for the law she was sentenced to thirty years in prison. Once she was released she went straight back to her clinic to reopen. For this she went through much persecution and more jail time, but by 1950, Sanger helped in the creation of the first birth control pill after a judge lifted the ban on birth control in 1938. The very first orally administered pill was produced and marketed by Frank Colton in 1960. Throughout the 60's the pill went through modifications because of feminists protesting the unsafe side effects. By then intrauterine devices became available too. From 1980-1990, hormonal control through implants, injections, and low-dose pills began its market. In 1992, emergency contraceptives made itself widely available through awareness programs. [2]

Biblical Perspective

The Bible contains the laws and word of God for all of mankind to abide by. Although there are concepts that are black and white, there are others that are not as obvious. Pertaining to birth control, the Bible does not specifically talk about it, but there are verses that lead to speculation of its biblical merit. While these verses are quoted from biblical scripture, it is important to realize that its content is studied to some degree, but some things are purely speculation. There are times when no one will know for sure what it is God is exactly saying until they are able to ask him themselves.

Genesis 38:8-10 "Then Judah said to Onan, “Lie with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so he put him to death also."

In this passage Onan disobeyed the laws of the land when he was supposed to pass on his brother's name and purposefully refused. The verb "spilled" in this specific context is translated from the word "shachath", which means 'to waste, corrupt, destroy, devastate'. Thus when Onan spilled his seed while laying with his brother's wife, he did not merely just spill it, he wasted it. Onan was punished by God for taking matters of controlling new life into his own hands. He may not have thought that emitting his semen on the ground was bad, but his disobedience to his father and God was punishable by death.[4]

Deuteronomy 25:11-12 "If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut of her hand. Show her no pity."

This passage tells of a woman attempting to do harm to the only means of a man's fertility. Because of the endangerment of life is the form of semen the woman would receive punishment for her acts. Only God decides who shall and who shall not provide offspring. It is not for any man or woman to decide a person's fertility. Therefore it is a sin when people decide of their own accord to cut off their only supply of producing offspring. [4]

I Corinthians 7:2-6 "But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to her alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command."

Sex is a special gift from God given to a man and woman after marriage. Only after marriage can they engage each other sexually. Remain pure by staying abstinent before marriage for sex is meant for a husband and wife to share and enjoy together.

Methods

The Pill

Birth control pills are a type of orally administered, hormonal contraceptive. This very popular form of birth control is very effective. When taken consistently and correctly, it has a 99.9% success rate. A specific type of pill are mini pills, which are still highly effective with a 95% success rate when taken correctly. In the female body hormones are produced which control the reproductive system. They allow ovulation to occur by releasing the egg from the ovary and also allow the egg to accept the sperm during fertilization. Birth control pills manipulate hormone function by giving off synthetic estrogen and progestin. These two hormones work together to prevent pregnancy in multiple areas. They inhibit a woman's natural hormonal cycle, stop ovulation, affect the cervical mucus to make it difficult for the sperm to get to the egg, and make the uterus wall uninhabitable for a fertilized embryo to implant. These drugs can only be obtained through doctor prescription. [5]

Seasonale is an example of a specific type of contraception pill called an extended-cycle pill. By using this brand a woman regulates her menstrual cycle to four per year rather than the average thirteen. This cycle is produced by taking a pill each day for twelve weeks and then having one week of not taking any by taking a placebo pill which does not contain any hormones. This one week will induce a menstrual cycle. Seasonale comes in a packet of eighty-four pink pills which are active and contain the hormones, along with seven inactive white pills without anything in them. [5]

Unlike other birth control pills, the mini pills only produce the hormone progestin. Because it only emits progestin, women who are breastfeeding or have complications with estrogen, such as increased headaches are allowed to take them. These pills thicken the cervical mucus and change the uterus lining, but they do not stop ovulation. Like all the other pills they must be taken once a day. For these pills specifically, it is pertinent that they be taken at the exact same time each day for them to have the best results. [5]

This medication comes within packets of twenty-one to twenty-eight pills. Generally the instructions say to wait to begin the medication until the next menstrual cycle begins. It is important to remember to take the prescription everyday to obtain the desired results. For the best results it would be wise to take the pill at a consistent time each day and to stick to that schedule. Even though the pill begins working within the first month of taking it, it is highly recommended to also use some alternate form of birth control as well in order to provide ample time for the pill to take effect. If one or two days go by without taking the pill, take two pills the next day as soon as possible. If more than two days go by without taking the pill consult a doctor for advice on whether or not to simply continue from where they were left off, or to start a new prescription. By skipping a day it increases the probability of ovulation, thus another form of birth control should be taken as a precaution. If one of the placebo pills are missed, it does not matter because they were not affecting the body anyway, simply continue on the schedule. [5]

Most of the side effects brought on by these pills are minor, such as: nausea, weight gain, sore and/or swollen breasts, small amounts of blood between periods, lighter periods in general, and mood changes. Some of the more serious, but less common, side effects are: abdominal pain, chest pain, severe headaches, eye problems such as blurred vision, and swelling and/or aching legs and thighs. If any of the more serious side effects occur consult a doctor immediately because they could indicate liver disease, gallbladder disease, stroke, blood clots, high blood pressure, or heart disease. If someone skipped a day by forgetting to take a pill and also misses a period, it is advised that a pregnancy test be taken. Also, if two periods are skipped, even if the woman has been taking the pills regularly, a pregnancy test should be taken. These pills are not meant for women over the age of thirty-five who also smoke. If however, the woman is a non-smoker she is able to take the pills until menopause hits. This medication is not for people with blood clot problems, serious heart or liver disease, or breast or uterus cancer. Because some drugs may effect the success rate of the pill it is important to discuss all medical history and prescription and non-prescription medication with a doctor before using the pill. [5]

Condom

Condoms are one of the most popular and widely used forms of birth control. In 2005, 10.4 billion condoms were used throughout the entire world. These latex or rubber based condoms are the only form of birth control that have the potential to protect against STD's and HIV. With regular, consistent use HIV infections can have an 80% reduction rate. It also protects from STD's including chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, and syphilis. The only reason why a condom would not be effective was if it was not used properly per the instructions or it breaks. The chance of a condom breaking is two out of one hundred and usually occurs because of a lack of following directions or an expired expiration date. [6]

There are two different types of condoms, latex and polyurethane. The latex brand is the most reliable and most popular. Because some people have allergic reactions towards latex the polyurethane brand is also suitable. This type of plastic is thinner and more expensive than latex. There are many different shapes, sizes, and types of condoms available for different needs and preferences. They are available for free at many clinics and can also be purchased in bathrooms, markets, online, gas stations, and convenience stores. Before use precautions should be taken as to checking the expiration date and overall up-keep of the condom itself. The condom should not be kept in a pocket, wallet, glove compartment, and in excessive heat or light because these will crush and/or wear it down. [7]

There are no side effects to using condoms which adds to its popularity. Although there are no side effects, besides a possible allergic reaction there are several instructions to using them. There must not be any air in the worn condom and it must be rolled all the way down to the base of the penis. Removal must also be done carefully so as not to spill the collected semen. It is only when people do not use them properly that decreases their efficiency and accidents occur. [7]

Intrauterine Contraceptive Device

Intrauterin contraceptive (IUD) is a T-shaped copper wire that is placed within the female body through the cervix by a health care provider. The wire affects the chemical composition within the body that kills any sperm that may enter. These devices have a lifespan of up to five years before they should be changed. Only one out of one hundred contraceptives fail. They do not affect any possibility of future fertility plans, do not change natural menstrual cycle, and lower the rate of ectopic pregnancies. There are many benefits to this form of birth control such a long term contraceptive, can be used while breastfeeding, do not want surgery, and if there was complications while on hormonal birth controls. Some complications include: irregular bleeding, spotting, perforating the uterus, infection, expulsion, heavier periods, and increased cramps. They do not fully protect against STI's or HIV. Contact a doctor if one of these problems occur: can not feel the IUD thread, feel the end of the IUD, possible pregnancy, constant abdominal pain, fever, odd vaginal discharge, pain or discomfort during sex, fast change in menstrual cycles, or wanted removal of the device. [8]

Herbal

Wild carrot seed has been used as a natural birth control for over 2000 years, is now known to stop progesterone synthesis.

Due to the European Witch hunts during 1450-1700, there is a significant amount of information lost regarding birth control methods. During that time the use of birth control was found to be a trait of witches which could be punishable by death. Thus any information about it was destroyed. It is important to note that herbs and natural forms of birth control are much less reliable than other forms. Estimated success rates vary from 20% to 80%. This is the data pertaining to birth control only, not abortions. For abortions of unconfirmed pregnancies there is a 70-80% success rate. [9]

Emmenagogue is taken to stimulate the blood to bring about a menstrual cycle. Oxytocic are herbs used to stimulate uterine contractions by releasing prostaglandin hormones within the body. After a missed or delayed period, both of these herbs should be taken for up to six days. If the herbs are not taken within a fair amount of time the success rate decreases to a mere 20%. Wild carrot seed, or daucus carota, and trillium root are also used as herbal birth controls. The carrot seed should be taken in doses of one teaspoon per day by chewing it and then drinking fluids. This herb is meant to disturb the uterine lining to prevent the fertilized egg from attaching itself to the wall. When it is taken on a semi-regular basis the seed can have some good results. Unlike many other herbs whose results are not consistent, this has a 98% success rate and in addition, little side effects. The trillium root is meant to soften the cervix and possibly induce labor. It is also used as an abortive herb. Parsley, or petroselinum, although not to have scientific success, is supposed to act as a birth control when inserted into the vagina for twenty-four hours. Some other abortive herbs that are suggested are: agave, osha, mistletoe, rue, peyote, sweet flag, papaya seed, feverfew, motherwort, wood sorrel, and damiana. [9]

Most patients of herbal birth control suffer from side effects such as increased bleeding, dizziness and nausea, visual distractions, sweats or chills, and diarrhea. Some of the less common side effects are incomplete abortions and an irregular menstrual cycle for one to three months. [9]

Emergency Contraception

Plan B, morning after, pills used as emergency contraception.

The morning after pill is an orally administered drug that is taken after unprotected sex when the woman does not wish to become pregnant. For the best results the pill should be taken between the second and third day after having unprotected sex because it has a 71% chance of success. If taken between twenty-four and forty-eight hours the success rate drops to 57%. It decreases even more if the emergency contraception is administered within the first twenty-four hours; it will only work 43% of the time. [10]

The pill attempts to work in three different ways. It either delays a woman's ovulation, inhibits ovulation, or by irritating the lining of the uterus (endometrium). By inhibiting ovulation the body neglects to release the egg from the ovary to travel down the fallopian tube. When the endometrium is irritated it will not allow a fertilized egg to attach itself to its wall, which is necessary for pregnancy. Pregnancy begins when the egg is first fertilized by a sperm within the fallopian tube. In order for the egg to continue its growth it needs to find a source of nutrients. It does this when it attaches to the uterus. After the fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube it will implant itself to the uterine wall and receive its nutrition from the woman as it continues to grow until it is ready to be born. It takes anywhere from about five to seven days for the egg to reach the uterus, during such time a pregnancy will not be noticeable. [10]

As long as the pill is taken before the egg is fertilized the emergency contraception will only act as another form of birth control by either delaying or inhibiting ovulation. If, however, the pill is taken after the egg has been fertilized, it acts as a birth control through chemical abortion. It is considered abortion because life begins at conception when the sperm enters the egg. The contraceptive will not allow the fertilized egg to receive the nutrients it needs to stay alive, killing it by making the uterus unsustainable. [10]

Two of the most popular brands of the morning after pill are Preven and Plan B. Both of them either stop and/or delay ovulation, prevent the sperm from fertilization, and prevents a fertilized egg from implanting itself onto the uterus wall. Although the moment at which life begins is still a subject of debate, because emergency contraception prevents implantation of a fertilized egg, it may be considered more than simply a form of birth control, but may abort a pregnancy which has already begun. [10]

A woman ovulates one out of every twenty-eight days and of that day the egg only has the ability to be fertilized up to twelve to twenty-four hours. A sperm has the lifespan within a woman's body of one to five days, providing ample time for a woman to become pregnant even days after sex. When taking the emergency contraception the patient must allow twelve to twenty-four hours for the drug to take effect. Once activated it will continue to work for a minimum of ten days. To prevent an unwanted pregnancy this contraceptive is taken to avoid even the slight chance of becoming pregnant. In 78% of the cases where women have used this method, there was never a fertilized egg to begin with. [10]

Surgical Procedures

Vasectomy

A vasectomy is a very popular sterilization procedure for males as a form of permanent birth control. It is given to 600,000 American men annually and around 30 million men worldwide. This relatively simple procedure takes around fifteen to twenty minutes. The most current procedure is called the no-scalpel vasectomy (NSV) which requires only two small punctures in the skin and does not require any sutures. The expenses can range anywhere from $500-$1,000, but many health insurance plans cover the costs. The process is provided by either a urologist or, at times, a family practitioner. As a form of birth control, a vasectomy is generally 100% effective. [11]

The objective of a vasectomy procedure is to prevent sperm from combining with the seminal fluid. This acts as a form of birth control because the sperm will no longer be present during seminal ejaculation during sex. In order to stop the traveling of sperm, the doctor will block off the vas deferens, small tubes that travel from the scrotum to the testicles. To begin the procedure a local anesthesia will be administered to the area where the two small punctures are made in the scrotum. Beginning with either the left or right side, the vas deferens is lifted through the recently made hole. During this time the patient may feel a pulling or tugging sensation, but it will not hurt. As the tube is lifted out it is cut and a section of it may or may not be removed. After it is cut, the ends of the vas deferens will be cauterized (heat sealed), tied or clipped, and then returned back into the scrotum. The process is then repeated for the opposite side. Afterwards the two holes can be stitched closed, but are usually left to heal naturally. [12]

The recovery time for a no-scalpel procedure is shorter than that of a traditional vasectomy; it lasts around one week or less. Pain relievers may be taken for minor pains following the procedure. It is suggested that the patient spend limited time on his feet for the first couple days. Discomfort is expected to be the greatest issue for the patient immediately following and for the next few days. An ice pack will help the swelling go down on the scrotum for the first day. The patient will revisit the doctor six weeks later to examine the semen for any sign of sperm. [12]

Overall a vasectomy has very low risks or complications. There is generally no to low pain following the procedure. There can be several different complications that may arise because of this procedure. For example an allergic reaction may be caused by the anesthesia. When sperm is left and absorbed by the body and attracts unwanted antibodies. If blood collects under the skin of the penis and scrotum it may cause normal bruising to look worse than it is because of the thin skin. Chronic orchialgia is rare but occurs when there is a congestion of sperm and fluid which causes a dull pain in the testicles. Epididymitis is when the tube behind the testicles inflames and swells. Sperm granulomas are lumps of collected sperm that leaked from the vas deferens but it isn't painful and eventually disappears. Collected blood causes an infection in less than 5% of patients. Hematomas occur when pain or swelling is caused by bleeding within the scrotum. A failed operation happens once in every 10,000 operations. The possibility of the vas deferens line rejoining is tested a couple weeks after the procedure when they test the seminal fluid to see if there are any sperm. [13]

Tubal Ligation

Tubal ligation is the more technical term for the procedure commonly referred to as a woman getting her "tubes tied". This form of female sterilization is a form of permanent birth control. The surgical procedure is found to be quite effective with only a 0.4% failure rate. While the procedure can generally be reversed if requested, each individual patient is unique and reversal may or may not be an option. Even if a patient chooses to reverse the process, it does not necessarily guarantee a woman's fertility. The success rate for a woman to become pregnant after undoing the tubal ligation is at 70-80%. Even though a woman may bear a child, the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the egg is misplaced outside of the uterus, is greatly increased. [14]

The surgery itself is done laparoscopically while the patient is under either general or local anesthesia. A tiny incision is cut just below the navel. This incision is used to insert an instrument through a tube into the body to complete the operation. While inside the body the doctor will cut the fallopian tubes of the female sex organ. He will then clamp them and then either block them or tie them. By doing this it prevents the egg from traveling down the fallopian tube into the uterus and thus preventing the sperm from interacting with and/or entering the egg. Depending on each case the patient may or may not require overnight hospitalization, but within one week's time she may resume her normal, everyday activities. [14]

Another way to carry out this procedure would be to create a barrier within the fallopian tubes. This is a non-surgical way to produce the same results. Essure places a coil within the female tubes to block the egg and sperm. This form of tubal ligation will not take effect for three to six months and the removal of the coil requires surgery. [14]

A few of the risks involved with tubule ligation include: infection, uterine perforation, ectopic pregnancy, menstrual cycle disturbances, gynecological problems, and anesthesia complications (allergic reaction). While this is a permanent way to prevent pregnancies it does not protect from HIV or STD's. The procedure is expensive with costs ranging from $1,000-$3,000. Because the procedure should be considered permanent, the long term effects may outweigh the costs of annual forms of birth control that must be administered daily or monthly. [14]

Planned Parenthood

A waiting room at a Planned Parenthood facility.

Planned Parenthood is a reproductive health care provider, sex educationalist, and sexual rights advocate in the United States and around the world. They have eighty-nine current governed affiliates that control more than 840 health care facilities. Over 90% of these facilities are used for preventive and primary care. This means that they help people avoid unwanted pregnancies by providing them with contraceptives.[15]

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References

  1. Washington Must Face the Facts of Life: Parents and Teens Favor Abstinence Posted By Rachel Sheffield On August 26, 2010
  2. 2.0 2.1 Birth Control - a Brief History of Birth Control Our Bodies Ourselves. Boston Women's Health Book Collective
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Birth Control History By Donna Theobald. Pagewise
  4. 4.0 4.1 Birth Control and Genesis 38 By Matt
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Birth Control Pills - Your Guide Birth Control Health Center. WebMD
  6. Condoms: effectiveness, history and availability AVERT
  7. 7.0 7.1 Using condoms, condom types and sizes AVERT
  8. Intrauterine Contraceptive Device (The Copper IUD)sexualityandu.ca
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 3.7 Herbal Abortives and Birth Control By Henriette Kress. Henriette's Herbal Homepage
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 How Does it Work? The Truth About The "Morning After Pill". American Life League, Inc.
  11. The Vasectomy Procedure Vasectomy.com. ProMedical Alliance LLC
  12. 12.0 12.1 How Vasectomy Procedure Is Done Vasectomy.com. ProMedical Alliance LLC
  13. Vasectomy Risks and Complications Vasectomy.com. ProMedical Alliance LLC
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Tubal Ligation Epigee
  15. Who We Are Planned Parenthood

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