What you may not know about birth control | TahoeDailyTribune.com

What you may not know about birth control

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Nearly half of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended.

What you do know about birth control: Abstinence is the only surefire way to prevent pregnancy (and protect you from STDs); smoking while on the pill may increase your risk of heart attack or stroke; as long as you are still getting a period, you can get pregnant during menopause.

Here’s something you may not know:

IUDs work best. They’re not the most popular option, but many experts think they should be: Intrauterine devices and implants are the most effective form of reversible contraception for most women. IUDs are plastic, T-shaped devices doctors insert into the uterus that release either copper or hormones.

Implants are matchstick-sized rods inserted under the skin of your arm and release hormones for up to three years.

IUDs and implants can cause side effects such as cramping, irregular bleeding or headaches. But complications are rare, side effects lessen or disappear over time, and failure rates are very low. Talk to your doctor about IUDs.

Oral contraceptives won’t make you fat. How many times have you heard women swear they’ve gained weight after starting birth control pills? Contrary to popular belief, research has shown the pill doesn’t make you pack on pounds.

Most recently, scientists in Sweden studied over 1,700 women over the course of 25 years; they did not find any link between taking combination birth control pills and putting on weight. Instead, the only factors that affected weight were aging and smoking.

Male birth control pills? Possible. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center are close. Recent experiments found low-doses of a non-steroidal compound stopped sperm production in mice, with no apparent side effects; and once the mice stopped getting the drug, they were fertile again. The compound blocked receptors needed to use vitamin A, which is necessary for the production of sperm.

Previous research on contraceptives for men has involved hormone treatments, which have side effects such as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and decreased sex drive. This non-steroidal approach avoids those hormone-related effects, say scientists.

Though the compound will have to undergo years of testing to show it’s safe, effective and reversible, the research is promising.

– The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check http://www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.

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