Birth Control: FSA Eligibility
What is birth control?
Birth control, a form of contraception, refers to the medications and devices used to intentionally prevent the chances of pregnancy, but it can also refer to sexual practices and actions that contribute to this goal as well. Of the 61 million women in traditional childbearing years (15-44), 62 percent of this population is currently using some form of contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy. However, the most common birth control method, and the products that require a prescription, are known as hormonal birth control (Office on Women's Health).
How does birth control work?
Hormonal birth control is available in pills (both daily and extended cycle use), adhesive patches and vaginal rings that contain varying levels of man-made hormones like estrogen and progestin. These hormonal birth control methods effectively prevent the implantation of male sperm cells into female eggs by preventing the process of ovulation (the release of eggs into the uterus) altogether. Additionally, hormonal birth control methods can also change the lining of the uterus to make it less likely for fertilized eggs to implant themselves, as well as altering the mucous surrounding the cervix to prevent sperm from passing through.
What are the most common forms of birth control?
Aside from medication that is taken orally, there are a number of other common birth control types that women can consider. These include:
- Birth Control Pills: Birth control pills are among the most popular forms of contraception available that prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation through the introduction of synthetic hormones: estrogen and progestin. This infusion will assist in stabilizing a woman's natural hormone levels, which can prevent the surge in estrogen levels that would cause the pituitary gland to release other hormones that cause the ovaries to release mature eggs. There are two kinds of hormonal birth control pills, the combination pill of both estrogen and progestin, and the "minipill" which contains only progestin.
- Contraceptive Patch: These patches function similarly to nicotine patches, and utilize this delivery method to perform the same role as birth control pills by transferring estrogen and progestin through the skin. These patches are placed on the skin once per week for three weeks at a time, with a one-week hiatus in between.
- Barrier Methods: Vaginal rings contains the hormones estrogen and progestin, which are absorbed into the bloodstream, and woman can place it into their vaginas on their own. These devices are designed to prevent pregnancy for three weeks, and removed during the fourth week, at which point the woman's period should occur. Other barrier devices, such as diaphragms, differ from vaginal rings in that they do not utilize hormones. These are small silicone cups that are inserted into the vagina that are designed to prevent pregnancy by preventing sperm from joining with an egg. These devices are used in conjunction with spermicidal cream, jelly or gels for maximum effectiveness.
- Intrauterine Devices (IUDs): These T-shaped devices are implanted by a doctor in the uterus and come in two main types: hormonal IUDs and copper IUDs. The hormonal IUD releases a form of progestin called levonorgestrel and works in the same way as birth control pills, but these devices can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years. Copper IUDs are the most common variant that contains copper wire wound around the device. Copper is inherently toxic to sperm, and will promote the production of fluid in the fallopian tubes and uterus that kills sperm. Copper IUDs are considered highly effective and can last up to 10 years after being implanted.