Birth Control: Options, How They Work and Conflict

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Birth Control: Options, How They Work, and Conflict

 

Introduction of Terms

Typically most patients, when asked about birth control options, are aware of both male condoms and oral birth control – but do they understand how they work?  The truth is that there are many more birth control options to consider. Why are physicians not presenting these options to patients? Unfortunately time constraints can often limit patient education.  However, at least a brief explanation can be given with a comprehensive hand out detailing birth control options and their mechanisms of action (how they work).

The term contraceptive may be familiar to many patients. A contraceptive in a mainstream medical dictionary is defined as any process, device or method used to prevent conception from occurring. Conception is also defined here as when the fertilized ovum has finished implanting into the mother’s uterine lining.  Conception, or when implantation is complete, marks the onset of pregnancy in the mainstream medical realm. Fertilization is also defined in this source to occur when the nuclei of the sperm and egg fuse.  Often, lay people define conception as the moment of fertilization. Neither definition of conception is unscientific, but one does need to know which definition is being used in order to understand how a birth control is working.   I will use the term contraception and birth control interchangeably in this discussion.  In addition, a contraceptive can be of a permanent nature (such as a vasectomy or a tubal ligation).  Those of a temporary nature will be detailed in this discussion.

Types of Birth Control

1.       Hormonal Birth Control:

Hormonal birth control introduces hormones into the female’s body via various routes.  The following bulleted examples of hormonal birth control are explained below by:    Route   -    Product Name® (which hormones they contain)

  • Oral Birth Control  (“the pill”)–  Yasmin® (progestin and estrogen), Ortho Micronor®  (progestin)
  • Intravaginal – NuvaRing® (estrogen and progesterone)
  • Subdermal – Norplant® (progestin) implants
  • Intrauterine device – Mirena® (progestin) IUD
  • Transdermally – Ortho Evra® (estrogen and progesterone)
  • Intramuscular injection – Depo-Provera® (progesterone only)

Hormones (either progesterone or progesterone and estrogen) are added to the female’s body to bring these hormones to  higher-than-normal physiologic levels. The above bulleted examples all work by two main mechanisms of action: to prevent ovulation as well as to prevent implantation of the fertilized ovum into the uterine lining. If ovulation is not successfully inhibited, then hormonal birth control has the potential to prevent implantation of the fertilized ovum.  If one believes that life starts at fertilization, then birth control that has the potential to prevent implantation would not be an option for use. This is due to the fertilized ovum not being able to continue its life because it was unable to attach.    All of the above examples except Depo-Provera have a third main mechanism of action: they alter the female’s secretions to impede sperm travel to help prevent fertilization.

2.       Copper IUD:

The copper IUD is an intrauterine device that, instead of emitting hormones, emits copper. The copper works in the female’s body to alter the female’s secretions to impede sperm travel as well as to alter the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum into the uterus.  Spontaneous abortions can later occur if one becomes pregnant with either the copper IUD or the progestin IUD in place.  This can occur even if the intrauterine devices are removed early in pregnancy.

3.       Emergency Forms:

These forms are used when one has intercourse without using protection (or if protection fails) and they want to stop the implantation of a fertilized ovum or possibly prevent fertilization from occurring. The copper IUD can be inserted after unprotected intercourse as a form of emergency birth control. Hormonal forms may also be taken after unprotected intercourse as an emergency form of birth control. The hormonal forms can work to prevent ovulation and impede sperm movement, as well as prevent implantation.  How it works will depend on when it is taken in relation to the female menstrual cycle.  For example, if ovulation has already occurred, then introduction of an emergency form of birth control will only be able to prevent implantation of the fertilized ovum. The following are examples of emergency hormonal forms:

  • Preven ™ – (estrogen and progesterone)
  • Progestin-only minipill  (Example: Plan B® One Step)

The copper IUD’s effects are mainly to prevent implantation, though it may also work to prevent fertilization by impeding sperm movement. Again, how it works will also depend on when it is inserted in relation to the female menstrual cycle. The hormonal forms and the copper IUD must be used within a certain time frame after intercourse to ensure their effectiveness. Once implantation of the fertilized ovum is complete, the hormonal emergency forms cannot terminate an established pregnancy.  Again, to reiterate, pregnancy is defined here as when the fertilized ovum has finished implanting into the uterine lining.

4.       Barrier Methods:

There are also a number of barrier methods that work to solely prevent fertilization by preventing the travel of sperm into the cervix.  They each form a barrier either over the penis or the cervix.  The following bulleted items are examples of barrier methods. They are often used with a spermicide and have to be in place before intercourse begins (some even need to stay in place for hours after the completion of intercourse).

  • Male/Female Condom – covers penis/lines vagina.
  • FemCap ®   – covers cervix
  • Lea’s Shield ®   -covers cervix
  • Diaphragm  -covers cervix

5.       Other Options:

There are other birth control options such as the introduction of spermicide alone into the vagina in an attempt to kill sperm and prevent fertilization.  In addition, one can abstain from intercourse, termed as abstinence, as an effective form of birth control.  It is important to note that the presence of sperm near the vaginal opening can result in pregnancy, as the sperm can travel via the vaginal secretions into the vagina. Males can withdraw the penis prior to ejaculation, but it needs to be noted that pre-ejaculate fluid can contain some sperm.  Furthermore, after a woman has a child she can continually breast feed (Lactational Amenorrhea Method) to inhibit her body from ovulation and menstruation. If done correctly, this can be an effective form of birth control for 6 months.  Also, women can monitor their menstrual cycles to find out when they are ovulating and then either abstain from intercourse or wear a barrier method during that time frame every month.  By using such Fertility Awareness Methods, a woman can find out when she is ovulating by marking her monthly menstrual cycles, checking her basil metabolic temperatures every morning, checking for changes in vaginal secretions or by purchasing over-the-counter ovulation kits.  This method can also be used to assist when one desires to become pregnant.  Additionally, an abortion is also a form of birth control. This is performed on an embryo or a fetus after implantation is complete to end the life of the embryo or the fetus.

Concluding Thoughts

The forms of birth control one is willing to use should be dictated by when one believes life begins.  It is ideal to be fully educated on all forms of birth control so that one can make an informed decision on his/her own.  It is the patient’s right to ask questions regarding all options.  Condoms and abstinence are the only forms of birth control that can protect against sexually transmitted diseases.  Consult your primary care physician or gynecologist about finding a form of birth control.

*  The guardian.  Accessed: March 15, 2012.  Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/nov/10/ivf-embryos-stem-cells-pregnancy

Note: Dr. Corrie Thompson, NMD does not endorse any publishers or products. The references used and cited and the products named are for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat. Discuss the content of this site with a health care professional (your primary care physician) and then continue under their care as it pertains to this content. Dr. Corrie Thompson, NMD  under Aletes Medical Center, LLC  has published her original work to this website unless otherwise noted.

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Why Take Vitamins?

While it is true that the food we eat does contain vitamins. What is also true is that the food may not contain enough of those vitamins to give what our body needs to run correctly.  This is due to the lack of vitamins present in the soil for plants to draw from. Those plants are what we, our cattle and wild game eat. Our body is a living unit that needs certain vitamins, minerals, oils, carbohydrates, protein (including enzymes), bacteria (see prior blog: “Antibiotics and Probiotics”) and other elements to continue life. While some have been able to maintain diets that are lacking in the necessary elements and survive, integrity (wholeness, health) of the body has been lost. Lack of integrity in the cells manifests as loss of energy, chronic disease, hair loss, weight gain, skin rashes and the list continues.

Body Running Correctly
Our bodies are designed with many pathways that need essential nutrients to run correctly/fully. If these processes cannot continue due to the lack of certain nutrients then disease results. Vitamins are essential nutrients.

There are fat soluble and water soluble vitamins. The body uses both types. To us it is useful to know which ones are soluble in which to help aid in their possible absorption so we are not wasting our money.

Fat soluble vitamins are Vitamin E, D, A and K.
Water soluble vitamins are all the B vitamins and Vitamin C.

Examples of B Vitamins:
B1-Thiamine
B2-Riboflavin
B3-Niacin
B5- Pantothenic acid
B6- Pyridoxine
B7-Biotin
B9- Folic Acid
B12- Cobalamin

Note: We are not discussing minerals here such as Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium etc… ; These are all water soluble though.  

KNOW SAFE DOSAGES:  Watch to not overdose on fat soluble vitamins as they can bioaccumulate (store in the body)  and actually cause harm to the body. Overdosing on water soluble vitamins can also cause harm.

Not Wasting Money
If you are taking a fat soluble vitamin, take it with a fat source in a meal to aid in its absorption. Otherwise then some of the vitamin may me excreted into the feces that could have been absorbed. This avoids wasting your money and assists you in your health. Example, If you are eating celery, add peanut butter when taking for example vitamin A. Adding the peanut butter would not have been necessary if were just taking some B vitamins at that time.

In addition, make sure that the vitamins that you are taking are in a form that can actually be absorbed and be converted  efficiently in the body to the active form of the vitamin. A great example of this would be with Vitamin D supplementation. The active form of Vitamin D is Calcitriol: 1, 25, dihydroxyvitamin D. Most supplements contain Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol). The body turns less of Vitamin D2 into the active form of D than it turns Vitamin D3 into the active form. Therefore, when looking to purchase Vitamin D look for a supplement that lists D3 (Cholecalciferol) as its form of Vitamin D.

Enjoy vitamins! They are essential in order to ensure healthy living rather than just surviving.

- Dr. Corrie J. Thompson, NMD      Visit at: www. AletesMedicalCenter.com

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Antibiotics and Probiotics

The general public knows about and uses different antibiotics. Antibiotics are substances used to kill targeted bacteria and protozoa. Antibiotics can be found naturally or formulated in a lab. The problem with antibiotics arises when they effectively kill off all/most of the bacteria they encounter – which they often do. Our body harbors certain populations of bacteria and fungi (normal body flora) that at normal, healthy levels assist with digestion and ward off the proliferation of certain yeast, bacteria or parasites.  When the antibiotics kill off these natural, healthy populations of flora, other illnesses arise. Many patients can attest to suffering from a yeast infection or diarrhea after a round of antibiotics.

Antibiotics are necessary at times just as probiotics are essential at times, though probiotics are not as familiar to most households. Probiotics are the normal flora – bacterial and fungal species that our body needs to maintain a healthy system. Probiotics can be taken orally or vaginally to encourage a re-population of normal flora, especially around the time that antibiotics are taken. They can also be used on a daily basis to help treat a variety of conditions.  Naturopathic doctors are trained to know which probiotics are needed for each patient.

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Meet Dr. Thompson

Dr. Corrie Jasmine Thompson grew up in Wisconsin and attended the University of Minnesota Duluth for her undergraduate studies to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Spanish. She then attended Cornerstone in Buegen, the Netherlands, to obtain a certificate in Intercultural Studies. She graduated from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) in Tempe, Arizona in 2010 as a Naturopathic Primary Care Physician, licensed in the state of Arizona. Dr. Corrie Thompson has a passion to help others with their health concerns naturopathically. As a young girl she knew she wanted to help others medically. She was also fascinated with the use of wild and cultured plants medicinally, for food as well as for beauty.  When she heard about Naturopathic medicine and attended SCNM, it became clearer and clearer that this occupation would be a great fit for her and that she has been prepared for it.

Naturopathic medicine offers a hands-on style of medicine with physical manipulation (adjustments), soft tissue massage, and minor surgery. She focuses on women’s medicine, gastrointestinal conditions, thyroid conditions, dermatologic issues and orthopedic medicine. She sees patients of all ages and both genders. She places the highest importance on integrity, work ethics and interpersonal relations as the name Aletes describes. She counts it a privilege to use her talents within this field to serve others so that they may  feel satisfied that their medical needs are being thoroughly met though the best of her ability. She enjoys languages and speaks both English and Spanish.

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