Any man or woman of reproductive age should naturally be concerned about preventing pregnancy (and even sexually transmitted infections), particularly if he or she has been having unprotected sex. Because an unplanned pregnancy means another mouth to feed on the long run, which can put a real strain on both parents financially. What are the available and viable methods for preventing unwanted pregnancy? We shall briefly touch on the medically certified (artificial) birth control methods. But our main focus in this article is on natural methods of avoiding or preventing pregnancy.
These natural methods are believed to have much reduced side effects if properly used; they are cheaper, and some of them have been used in traditional societies for a long time and are said to be quite effective. However, there is probably not much scientific evidence to prove that they are more effective than the well-known birth control methods recommended by the doctors (that is, the artificial methods).
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Artificial Birth Control Methods
Before embarking on using any medically certified method of preventing or avoiding pregnancy, it is best to see a gynecologist or reproductive health expert to carry out necessary tests, in order to determine the right method of contraception that works for your body. This is because different methods of birth control work for different people, and with various side effects. So you need to know which method of contraception your body would easily accommodate and with the least side effects. Also note that it takes the cooperation of both the couple involved for any birth control method to work. Some of the well-known methods of birth control are listed below.
- Barrier methods: These are the methods used to either kill or prevent the sperms from reaching the egg, thus preventing pregnancy. They include the use of male condom, female condom, copper IUD (intra uterine device), spermicide, sponge, cervical cap, and diaphragm.
- Hormonal birth control: When administered, these methods allow the slow release of certain sex hormones into the woman’s body to stop ovulation or pregnancy from taking place (especially the hormones oestrogen and progestin). They include contraceptive pills, vaginal ring, hormonal IUD, patches, contraceptive injection, and contraceptive pills.
Termed ‘Fertility Awareness methods’, according to the renown medical website WebMD – these methods involve studying your own body and its reproductive patterns or behaviour, especially noting that those patterns are fairly regular. Most of them apply to women (except the withdrawal method).
- Rhythm method: In this method, a woman is required to study and record the pattern of her own monthly ovulation cycle (for 6 to 12 months at least). This also works closely with the cervical mucus method. So the woman learns to abstain from unprotected sex during the days when she is most fertile. It would require some calculation. It may be a bit challenging to use if her period is irregular; but generally a woman’s fertile days occur within 14 days starting from the first day of her monthly period. There are apps that can help to track this cycle quite effectively. Consult a family planning or reproductive health expert for a comprehensive guide on how to use this method.
- Cervical Mucus method: Women produce mucus naturally which comes out of the cervix; and by regularly checking its texture with the fingers or with tissue, a woman can determine the days when she is ovulating (and therefore fertile) or not. The body produces much mucus during the days of ovulation, and it comes out looking clear and stretchy or slippery (like egg whites). After the monthly period, the mucus becomes much reduced. It would be good to study and record these patterns in mucus production every month, so that she can avoid sex during her fertile days.
- Breastfeeding: Feeding your baby entirely on breast milk (both day and night) everyday for the first 6 months after birth, can prevent your body from releasing any egg. Pumped breast milk and infant food/formula will not work here. And that is, if you have not started seeing your period. It is not entirely fail-safe.
- Standard Days method: This method is a simpler form of the rhythm method in that it establishes a general calendar of fertile days for all women – this is determined to be between day 8 and 19 of your monthly cycle (day 1 is the start of your monthly period). It is particularly useful for women whose monthly cycles last between 26 and 32 days. There are apps that can assist women to optimally use this method.
- Basal Body Temperature method: This method involves the use of a special thermometer called a basal body temperature thermometer to track and record your body temperature everyday at the very same time. This is based on the fact that during a woman’s days of ovulation, her body temperature may rise higher by at least 1 degree Fahrenheit; combined with other observed body changes such as bloating or swollen sore breasts or even backache, she can more easily confirm such fertile days. However, the chances of success with this method is highly unpredictable in the face of other factors that affect the health (e.g. stress, illness, drinking alcohol, or changing of location to a different time zone).
- Withdrawal method: This involves the man pulling out his penis from the vagina during intercourse just before ejaculating, to prevent the sperms from meeting an egg. As this method involves a lot of self control which may not come easy, it has a high failure rate of up to 22%.
- Sterilization: Sterilization is a permanent (or fairly permanent) way to reduce or stop fertility in both men and women. The process can also be reversed in some cases. In men, a vasectomy can be done – which involves cutting the tubes that carry the semen and the sperms in it. In women, the Fallopian tubes can be sealed or clamped; this is called tubal ligation. Sterilization is known to have 99% effectiveness in stopping pregnancy.
Natural Foods that can prevent Pregnancy
A number of natural foods have been known to contain substances that make them very useful in birth control.
- Papaya: Papaya is known to contain a substance that blocks fertilization of the egg naturally and thus prevent pregnancy. You need to consume a few slices of papaya twice daily, for the next 3 to 4 days after unprotected intercourse to get the desired effect.
- Apricots: The apricot fruit is said to have the ability to stop the implantation of the fertilized egg in the womb. It can be consumed fresh or in dried form to get the same results. You can eat 5 to 10 fresh apricots everyday after unprotected sex until your next period begins. Or you can add 2 teaspoons of honey to about 100 grams of dried apricots, boil them together in hot water for 20 minutes (or blend them together) and drink the mixture when it cools down after unprotected sex, during the same period (as stated earlier).
- Pineapple: Pineapple also contains substances that stop the implantation of the fertilized egg naturally after unprotected sex. To do so, you need to eat some ripe pineapple on a daily basis for 2 to 3 days after sex.
- Juniper berries: Eating juniper berries for 3 days in a row after unprotected sex is said to stop pregnancy, and also protect against urinary tract infections.
- Ginger: Ginger can be used to induce menstrual period naturally and thus prevent pregnancy. To do so, boil some ground, crushed or grated ginger (whether fresh or dried) in water for just 5 minutes; strain the mixture and take the tea twice each day to stop unwanted pregnancy.
- Dried figs: Dried figs are said to be one of the most powerful foods for natural birth control. You only need to consume 2 or 3 dried figs after unprotected intercourse to get the desired result. Avoid consuming more than this quantity if you want your stomach to be at ease.
- Hing (or Asafoetida): Using the Hing plant to prepare a juice in water which is taken every month, can prevent unwanted pregnancy after unprotected sex. However, you must not take the juice during your period.
- Vitamin C tablets are also reportedly able to block the hormone progesterone from working, thus preventing pregnancy. But women with blood issues such as anemia or sickle cell are strongly advised not to use it. Just 1500mg of vitamin C taken twice a day for up to 3 consecutive days will do the work for you (but not higher please, it could get toxic).
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Herbs used to prevent pregnancy
There are natural herbs that have been reported by the local people in traditional societies worldwide to be quite effective in preventing pregnancy from experience. These herbs are said to work either by preventing the release of eggs, stopping (or killing) sperms so they cannot fertilize eggs, or preventing the fertilized egg from being properly implanted in the placenta.
- Neem: The Neem plant (whether its fresh or dried leaves, or the oil) is popularly used in India to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Neem tablets they say, can help to promote temporary sterility in men; and the Neem oil injected into the womb is said to kill sperms within 30 seconds.
- Cinnamon: When taken everyday, cinnamon tea has the capacity to stimulate the womb to the point of even causing miscarriage or abortion. A small quantity of cinnamon powder in hot water will do the trick, when consumed daily before a woman has her period. In this way, it can prevent unwanted pregnancy after sex during that period of use.
- Parsley: This popular herb is used in a lot of cooking recipes. Parsley can be prepared steeped in hot water as tea to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.
Other well-known natural herbs used to prevent pregnancy naturally include:
- Wild carrot
- Castor bean
- Thunder God vine (men only)
- Gossypol (men only)
There is no clear medical research yet to prove the authenticity of these claims, but they are worth trying out. It could well be worth it to investigate how these herbs affect the body, and the correct way to administer them for effective birth control.
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