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Birth Control / Contraception

What types of birth control are there?

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Birth control involves the use of various instruments, medications, agents, sexual activities, or surgical procedures to avoid pregnancy or childbirth.

It helps people to opt to have a baby when they want.

There are a number of tools and therapies available for both men and women which can help prevent pregnancy.

Some approaches are truer than others. How well a method always work depends on how carefully it is employed.

For example, the contraceptive pill used correctly is successful over 99 percent. And, when people make mistakes, as many as nine women get pregnant each year when they are using it.

This article looks at a number of ways to avoid pregnancy. This provides the real effectiveness level, taking into account the probability of human error.

Fast facts about birth control

  • Birth control can help people decide when they want to have children.
  • There are many types to choose from, including different types of barrier, medications, and traditional methods that need no additional resources.
  • Effectiveness varies and often depends on how carefully the method is applied.
  • Only a male condom offers any protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Natural methods

Traditional birth control does not involve any type of device or medication.

Birth control pills
Various methods of birth control are available.

Abstinence: Celibacy, or abstinence from reproduction means preventing sexual intercourse.

Withdrawal: Also known as coitus interruptus, this is When the man removes the penis from the vagina so that there is an ejaculation outside the vagina. In principle, this prevents the depositing of sperm into the vagina.

According to the Office for Population Affairs of the United States Health and Human Services (HHS), for every 100 women who use this form, 20 may become pregnant each year.

In other words, withdrawal is successful at about 80 percent, but this depends on how carefully and regularly it is used.

For pregnancy, the penis does not need to enter the vagina. It may occur, for example, when sperm reaches the vagina during foreplay.

Devices

Barrier devices prevent the sperm from meeting the egg. They may be combined with spermicide, which kills the sperm.

Male condom

Male condoms create a barrier and prevent pregnancy by preventing the entry of sperm into the vagina. Once sexual intercourse starts, it is positioned over the penis. A preservative is made of polyurethane or latex.

This can also help to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from spreading.

It is successful at about 82 percent. About 18 women out of every 100, if their partner uses a condom, will conceive.

Condoms can be sold in drugstores, supermarkets, and several other outlets. These are often provided by health care providers, often for free. You can buy them online, as well.

Female condom

The female condom is made of polyurethane, or femidome. Each end has a flexible rim. Another fixes to keep the condom in place behind the pubic bone, while the other ring remains outside the vagina.

Before intercourse, spermicides can be inserted inside the vagina. A spermicide is chemical destruction of the sperm. The drug can be used alone or with a physical barrier.

The female condom is affective at 79 percent. With this process, about 21 women get pregnant each year.

The femidom is less easy to find than the male condom. Only the FDA-approved FC2 is available in the United States. Health providers may supply them, or you can get them from a drugstore on prescription. You can also buy them online from Amazon or from the FC2 website.

Sponge

A tube is inserted into the vagina for contraception. This has a depression around the cervix to keep it in place. Using an applicator the foam is put in the vagina. The foam is a spermicide which destroys the male sperm and the sponge acts as a barrier preventing the sperm from reaching the egg.

Between 12 and 24 women out of every 100 who use the sponge may become pregnant.

It is less likely to work if a woman has already had a baby.

The diaphragm

A diaphragm is a plastic, dome-shaped tube that is positioned over the cervix and inserted into the vagina.

This fits in behind the pubic bone of the woman and has a strong yet flexible ring which helps to press against the vaginal walls.

Used with spermicide, it is successful at 88 percent. Used alone, it is effective between 77 and 83 percent.

Cervical cap

A cervical cap is a silicone rubber covering, thimble-shaped brace that fits over the cervix and prevents sperm from reaching the uterus. Until injection, the cap should be about one-third filled with spermicide. Using suction it remains in place.

When used with spermicide, it is about 88 percent effective, and 77 to 83 percent effective without it.

Injections

Contraceptive injection, or “the arrow,” is a long-acting, progestin-only, reversible, birth-control drug. The drug’s name is Depo-Provera, also known as the shot from Depo, or DMPA.

The shot is injected into a doctor’s clinic every 3 months. By preventing the woman from releasing an egg it prevents pregnancy.

It is successful at 94 percent, and as the shot wears off, the risk of pregnancy increases. It is important to note, after 3 months, to book another shot to ensure its effectiveness.

It does not defend itself from STIs.

Pharmaceutical types

This vary from pills which you can take to tools which a doctor implants. To get any of those forms of birth control, you need to see a health care provider.

The intrauterine device (IUD)

The intrauterine device (IUD), or coil, is a small, flexible T-shaped device which a physician places on the uterus.

A copper IUD releases toxins that kill the sperm.
A copper IUD releases toxins that kill the sperm.

There are two types:

A copper IUD releases copper, and this acts as a spermicide. It can last up to 10 years.

A hormonal IUD contains progestin. It prevents the sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg by thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the wall of the uterus.

It stays in place as long as pregnancy is not desired.

Depending on the type, it will last for 3, 5 or 10 years. It is over 99 percent effective.

Contraceptive pill

The birth control pill is taken everyday. It is composed of two hormones, estrogen and progestin. The hormones halt egg production, or ovulation. They make the uterus lining thinner too.

It is successful on average for women between 91 and 95 percent.

Contraceptive patch

This is a transdermal patch added to your face. It releases synthetic hormones such as estrogen and progestin.

The patch is worn for 3 consecutive weeks each week, usually on the lower abdomen or buttocks. In the fourth week no patch is worn to allow for menstrual time. The patches are ready to go.

It is estimated to be 91 percent effective.

Vaginal ring

The vaginal contraceptive ring is a lightweight, plastic ring releasing a low dose of progestin and estrogen over 3 weeks. It inhibits ovulation and densifies the mucus of the cervix, so sperm can not easily travel around.

The woman implants the ring into the vagina for 3 weeks, and then removes it for 1 week, after which she experiences a period of menstruation.

It’s also known as NuvaRing, the trade name for a synthetic hormonal vaginal contraceptive ring developed by Organon.

It is 99 percent effective, but the chance of human error reduces this to 91 percent.

The implant

An implant is a rod that has a progestin heart, which it slowly releases. It is placed under the upper arm of a woman’s head.

The implant is successful for up to 4 years, but can be removed at any time and pregnancy is possible afterwards.

It is successful in preventing pregnancy by 99 percent, but it won’t defend against a STI.

Emergency “morning after” contraception

Emergency contraceptive pills, or the “morning-after pill” following sex will prevent pregnancy. This stops an egg from being ovulated, fertilised, or implanted.

This is distinct from termination medical techniques, as these function after the egg is already implanted in the womb.

Up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, an emergency contraceptive can be used. It is successful at 95 percent for the first 24 hours, dropping by 72 hours to 60 per cent.

Emergency contraception can only be used if the primary methods do not function.

Some people see it as more of an abortion because the egg might have been fertilized already.

Permanent contraception

Sterilization is a permanent method of sterilization.

In females

Tubal ligation: This is a method of sterilization of females. To seal them and avoid potential fertilization, the surgeon must cut, block, or burn the Fallopian tubes, or a combination of those methods.

Tubal implant: A coil is implanted in the Fallopian tubes of the female. Tissue expands and blocks the tubes around it. It can take three months to get to work.

Female sterilization is over 99 percent effective.

In males

Vasectomy: It is surgery to sterilise a individual. We cut or block the tubes by which sperm moves through the ejaculate. It is successful at over 99 percent.

This is often reversible but with more abnormal sperm concentration, probably resulting in lower fertility or birth defects.

Myths about birth control

Birth control theories have proliferated throughout history but research has put some common assumptions correct.

You cannot get pregnant while you are on your period: It is not true that a woman cannot get pregnant during her menstrual period. She may be less fertile for the first few days of menstruation, but pregnancy is possible, as sperm can live inside the female body for several days.

You cannot get pregnant if you have sex in a hot tub: Sexual intercourse in a hot tub or swimming pool does not prevent pregnancy. There is also no sexual position that prevents pregnancy.

Urinating or douching after sex prevents pregnancy: Douching with any substance after sexual intercourse does not prevent pregnancy.

Non-medical spermicide: Putting toothpaste or seeds in the vagina does not prevent pregnancy and should never be used as a contraceptive.

Sex without penetration, ejaculation, or orgasm is safe: Even if the man does not ejaculate, the woman can become pregnant. Pregnancy is possible any time the penis—or even sperm during foreplay—enters the vagina. A woman can become pregnant whether or not she has an orgasm or is in love with the man.

Breastfeeding protects against pregnancy: A woman can become pregnant while breastfeeding, although the chance is lower.

Using two condoms offers extra protection: Using two condoms or using a tight condom does not offer better protection than one. Using a male and female condom together may increase the risk of pregnancy, as they can shear and tear.

Disease protection

Contraception is also a effective method for preventing unintended pregnancy. Many strategies can also reduce the risk of a STI, such as the male condom. Nonetheless, for this to happen, it must be done correctly.

No birth control system is successful at 100 per cent. For example, the combination of two approaches, the pill with a condom, offers additional protection and some protection against STIs.

It is necessary to be educated and wisely employ birth control.

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Birth Control / Contraception

Things to know about natural birth control methods

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People who can not or do not want to use hormonal birth control to avoid conception can utilize natural birth control. There are a variety of natural birth control options available, but some are less effective than hormonal contraception.

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Birth control, often known as contraception, refers to a variety of procedures, medications, and technologies used to prevent undesired pregnancy. People looking for birth control have a range of options.

Barrier contraception prevents sperm from reaching the female egg, preventing conception. Hormonal birth control works by preventing the generation of hormones that can lead to pregnancy.

Barrier contraception can be used by someone who employs natural birth control methods like tracking ovulation and taking basal temperature measurements.

The various natural birth control methods are discussed in this page, as well as how they operate and how effective they are.

Overview

Natural birth control, often known as fertility awareness, is a way of preventing conception that does not include the use of devices or hormone modification. To anticipate ovulation, people track things like menstruation, cervical mucus, and basal temperature.

The ovary releases an egg during ovulation, which is a hormone-driven process. The person menstruates if the sperm does not fertilize the egg or if pregnancy does not occur.

The fertile window for a woman begins 5 days before ovulation. People who use contraception of any kind should be aware that sperm can survive for 2–5 days in the female reproductive tract.

A person may abstain from sex or use barrier contraception, such as a condom, throughout the ovulation period or reproductive window. Barrier birth control is hormone-free and can help prevent unintended pregnancies during a woman’s most fertile period.

People can use a calendar or an online calculator to track their ovulation cycles, such as the ovulation calculator from the Office on Women’s Health.

People who use fertility awareness approaches, on the other hand, may have a higher risk of unintended pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traditional fertility awareness approaches have a 2–23% failure rate. This indicates that up to 23 out of every 100 people who use this approach become pregnant each year.

Advantages and disadvantages

Before deciding to utilize natural birth control techniques, it’s a good idea to weigh the benefits and drawbacks.

Before deciding to utilize natural birth control techniques, it’s a good idea to consider the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages

  • The majority of natural birth control options are free.
  • Devices that calculate ovulation windows are available for purchase.
  • Natural birth control has no effect on the amount of hormones produced by the body.
  • Birth control devices and prescriptions do not require a doctor’s appointment.
  • Natural birth control does not cause the same adverse effects as hormonal birth control, such as headaches and nausea.

Disadvantages

  • Natural birth control might have a failure rate of up to 23%.
  • This method’s efficacy is contingent on a person’s willingness and capacity to precisely document their menstrual cycles in order to determine an expected ovulation window.
  • People who have irregular or missing periods may find it difficult to track their fertility and may need to adopt a different method of contraception.
  • During their ovulation window, people will have to either avoid vaginal sex or utilize another kind of birth control.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are not protected by natural birth control.

Options

A person can pick from a variety of natural birth control methods. In addition, some businesses may market goods that help people track their fertility.

However, according to the CDC, traditional natural birth control methods are only 77 percent effective at preventing unintended pregnancy. To improve the effectiveness of this kind of contraception, people may want to consider utilizing supplementary birth control methods, such as condoms.

Basal body temperature method

This method needs a person to take their temperature every day when they first wake up with a basal thermometer. People should check that an oral or digital thermometer measures in tenths of a degree Fahrenheit (°F) when measuring basal body temperature.

Ovulation is marked by a prolonged temperature increase of roughly 0.5°F. Although a person with a longer or shorter cycle may experience the temperature spike on different days, ovulation normally occurs around day 14 of a 28-day period.

To reduce the risk of an unintended pregnancy, people should use another type of contraception or refrain from vaginal sex during ovulation.

Apart from ovulation, there are other things that might affect a person’s basal body temperature, including:

  • jet lag
  • illness
  • smoking
  • stress
  • drinking alcohol

People can also buy ovulation tracking and charting kits from firms that sell them. Natural Cycles, for example, offers a fertility tracking smart app that allows people to enter data such as basal body temperature. People can also purchase a basal thermometer from the company to get more precise data.

Ovulation prediction kits

These tests look for the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine to see if a woman is ovulating.

To determine when a person is most likely ovulating, most ovulation prediction kits detect an LH surge. Others check estrogen levels, which rise right before ovulation.

Cervical mucus method

To determine ovulation, this approach evaluates the volume and quality of cervical mucus.

Cervical mucus can be checked in a variety of methods. Before urinating, wipe the vaginal area with white toilet paper and observe the color and texture of the discharge. Another option is to check the color and texture of the discharge in your underwear or by inserting clean fingers into the vaginal canal.

The chart below lists the many sorts of discharges that a person can expect throughout the month.

ColorTextureMeaning
During menstruationdisguised by blood flownot applicableless likely to be more fertile
Directly after menstruationno mucusno mucusmay be fertile, depending on cycle length
Before ovulationyellow, white, or cloudysticky or tackymay be more fertile
Right before and during ovulationclear or looks like egg whitesslippery and stretchymost likely to be fertile
After ovulationno mucus, or cloudy mucusnone, or stickyless likely to be fertile

Rhythmic technique or calendar

This method involves calculating the most fertile times of the month by charting the menstrual cycle. A calendar or menstrual cycle app, such as Flo, can be used to automatically estimate ovulation after entering menstruation data.

To determine a person’s ovulation window, Planned Parenthood suggests using the following formula:

  1. Find the shortest tracked cycle.
  2. Subtract 18 days from the total number of days in that cycle.
  3. Use this number to count from the start – including day 1 – of the current cycle and mark that day. This is the start of a person’s ovulation window.

To have a better knowledge of when they ovulate, people should track at least 3–6 cycles. This strategy is less likely to work if a person’s cycles are normally shorter than 27 days.

Withdrawal method

The withdrawal method, also known as pulling out, is removing the penis from the vaginal opening before ejaculation.

This approach has a 4% failure rate when used perfectly. However, this approach is only 78 percent efficient in most cases. In a year, about one out of every five people will become pregnant using this approach. Because pre-ejaculate, the fluid that comes out of the penis just before ejaculation, contains sperm, this procedure has such a high failure rate.

Breastfeeding or lactation amenorrhea

Breastfeeding people can use this approach to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

This approach is only suited for people who match all three of the following criteria, according to the CDC.

  1. Those who are not menstruating — amenorrhea.
  2. Those who are exclusively or almost exclusively breastfeeding.
  3. Those who have given birth no more than 6 months previously.

According to the CDC, this is a temporary method of birth control. If a person does not fit one of the above conditions, they should use an alternative approach.

Outercourse

Any sexual action that does not include vaginal sex or allowing semen into the vagina is considered outercourse.

Some examples of outercourse are as follows:

  • using sex toys
  • dry humping or grinding
  • kissing
  • mutual masturbation

This approach, however, does not protect against all STIs. An STI can be passed from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact.

Hormonal vs. natural birth control

Individuals may wish to see a healthcare practitioner before deciding on a method of birth control to explore the effectiveness and acceptability of various choices.

Natural birth control, male condoms, and the pill, a prevalent form of hormonal birth control, are all described in the table below.

EffectivenessSide effectsSTI protectionAvailabilityCost
Natural birth control77–98% effectivenonenonewidely availablenone
Male condoms85–98% effectivenonehelps prevent STIswidely availablearound $1 each condom
The pill91–99% effective• mood swings
• nausea
• breast tenderness
• headaches
nonewidely available$0–$50 per month

Learn more about the different types of birth control.

FAQ

The following are some frequently asked questions concerning natural birth control.

Who should consider about nonhormonal, natural birth control?

Natural birth control is an option for anyone who wants to avoid an unintended pregnancy without utilizing a hormonal type of contraception.

However, a person may desire to speak with a healthcare expert about the various types of contraception available to ensure that they are selecting the best option for them.

What are the most effective natural birth control methods?

According to the CDC, all natural birth control methods, also known as fertility awareness methods, are successful in 77–98% of cases.

If a person wishes to make natural birth control more effective, they should consider using an alternative kind of contraception, such as male or female condoms.

What can I use instead of birth control?

If a person does not want to get pregnant and does not want to take birth control, they should avoid sexual behavior that involves vaginal sex or where semen might enter the vagina.

Conclusion

Natural birth control, also known as fertility awareness approaches, reduces the risk of unintended pregnancy by employing techniques such as basal body temperature, the rhythm method, and the withdrawal method. These techniques can assist in predicting a person’s ovulation window, which is the time when a person is most likely to become pregnant following vaginal sex.

Natural birth control, on the other hand, isn’t as effective as most hormonal and barrier techniques. To lower the odds of an unintended pregnancy, a person who employs fertility awareness methods may want to use another nonhormonal type of contraception, such as condoms.

Sources:

  • https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/abstinence-and-outercourse
  • https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/index.htm
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441996
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/natural-birth-control
  • https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/condom/how-effective-are-condoms
  • https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/how-effective-contraception
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546661
  • https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/fertility-awareness/whats-calendar-method-fams
  • https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/fertility-awareness/whats-cervical-mucus-method-fams
  • https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/fertility-awareness/whats-temperature-method-fams

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Birth control and the development of breast cancer: What’s the link?

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Hormonal contraception can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer by a small amount. Depending on the type of contraceptive they use, this can vary. The advantages of birth control, on the other hand, frequently outweigh the disadvantages. Hormonal contraception, for example, may avoid unintended pregnancies and can also protect against other cancers.

Hormonal contraception appears to be linked to a small rise in the risk of breast cancer. This could be due to the fact that oral contraceptives use hormones to prevent women from being pregnant, which could overstimulate breast cells and raise the risk of breast cancer.

Other than oral contraception, there are other forms of birth control. Unintended pregnancies can be avoided without increasing the risk of breast cancer.

Hormonal contraception, on the other hand, can have certain health advantages, such as a lower risk of ovarian cysts and other cancers.

The relationship between birth control and breast cancer will be explored in this report. It will also clarify the advantages of hormonal contraception and provide some options to those who are concerned about the risks. It will also provide details on other breast cancer risk factors.

Is birth control linked to the development of breast cancer?

Birth control pills

Hormonal contraception can slightly increase a person’s risk of breast cancer, according to a 2017 report.

A total of 1.8 million Danish females aged 15 to 49 took part in the survey. The women had never had cancer or had undergone fertility therapy.

The researchers discovered that women who used hormonal contraceptives had a significantly higher risk of breast cancer than women who did not. This suggested that one out of every 7,690 participants developed breast cancer.

Other factors, such as age, can influence a person’s risk of developing breast cancer, according to the researchers.

The risk of developing breast cancer was lower in participants under the age of 35. Just one out of every 50,000 women who had been using hormonal contraceptives for a year developed breast cancer.

After around 5 years, a person’s risk of breast cancer appears to return to normal if they avoid using hormonal contraceptives.

Females who still use or previously used contemporary hormonal contraceptives had a higher risk of breast cancer than those who had never used hormonal contraceptives.

Longer periods of usage increased the risk, but the actual increase in risk was minimal.

Triphasic pill

A type of multiphasic pill is the triphasic pill. According to a person’s period, it switches the hormone dose three times. Monophasic tablets, on the other hand, use the same dose of hormones during the cycle.

In a 2010 survey, 116,000 female nurses between the ages of 24 and 43 were followed. The investigation began in 1989. There was a small rise in the risk of breast cancer, according to the report. Those taking the triphasic pill were the ones that were most at risk.

Another 2014 research found evidence of a correlation between the triphasic pill and an increased risk of breast cancer.

While triphasic pills are still available, they have become less common in recent years. If people taking these pills are concerned about their cancer risk, they should see a doctor.

Is it possible for a woman with breast cancer to use birth control?

Breast cancer patients may want to avoid birth control pills or hormonal intrauterine products (IUDs). Since these approaches can influence the growth of tumour cells in people with hormone-sensitive cancers like breast cancer, they are not recommended.

An individual with breast cancer, on the other hand, has a variety of non-hormonal options.

Alternative methods of birth control

If an individual is concerned about the slightly increased risk of breast cancer associated with hormonal birth control, or if they need to avoid it because they have breast cancer, they could consider:

  • Barrier methods: One of the many types of barrier methods available may be a safe alternative to hormonal contraception, such as: condoms, diaphragm, spermicide
  • Non-hormonal IUDs: A non-hormonal IUD will prevent pregnancy while also lowering the risk of breast cancer.
  • Permanent birth control surgery: If a person is certain they do not want to have children, they should look into the permanent surgical options available to those seeking alternatives to more temporary birth control methods. A man, for example, may consider a vasectomy.

Why should you use birth control?

The advantages of birth control frequently outweigh the risks, according to medical professionals. In the parts below, we’ll go through some of the possible advantages of birth control in greater depth.

Risks associated with pregnancy may be increased.

When compared to the socioeconomic and health threats that an accidental pregnancy will carry, the increased risk of breast cancer is negligible.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the maternal mortality rate in the United States was 26.4 deaths per 100,000 females in 2016.

This mortality rate is more than double the figures in the Danish report for increased breast cancer risk due to hormonal contraceptive use (13 additional cases for every 100,000 participants).

The birth control pill is 99.7% effective when taken according to directions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The risk of cancer is lower in general.

Some types of birth control have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers in women. For example, a systematic review published in 2013 discovered that oral contraception can reduce a person’s risk of:

As a result, despite the slightly increased breast cancer risk, those who use hormonal contraceptives can have a lower overall cancer risk.

Other health benefits

Oral contraception may have additional health benefits, such as:

  • a more consistent menstrual cycle
  • Premenstrual syndrome symptoms are lessened.
  • a lower chance of ovarian cysts
  • endometriosis symptoms are reduced
  • perimenopause symptoms are reduced,
  • acne symptoms can improve

Breast cancer risk factors

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in American women, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Breast cancer is caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Inherited risks: Risks from family history include mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
  • Older age: Age is the main risk factor for breast cancer. The risk increases with advancing age.
  • Personal history of breast cancer and breast cancer treatment: A person may be more at risk of breast cancer if they have ever had:
    • invasive breast cancer
    • ductal carcinoma in situ
    • lobular carcinoma in situ
    • benign breast disease
    • radiation therapy to the chest or breast
  • Menopause medications: A person who is using hormone replacement therapy for the symptoms of menopause may have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Prevention

People may take steps to reduce their risk of cancer by doing things like:

Conclusion

Hormonal contraceptives have been linked to a significantly increased risk of breast cancer, according to research.

Breast cancer is more likely in people who have other risk factors, such as advanced age, a family history of breast cancer, or a personal history of breast cancer.

Hormonal contraceptives, on the other hand, have certain health advantages, such as a lower risk of ovarian and uterine cancer. Whether or not they use hormonal contraception, young women in good health are at an average risk of breast cancer.

Non-hormonal birth control strategies, such as barrier methods, non-hormonal IUDs, or permanent options, such as surgery, may be used by people at greater risk of breast cancer and others who have breast cancer or have already recovered from it.

Sources

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What is melasma?

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Melasma is a common condition of pigmentation that causes the appearance of brown or gray patches on the skin, especially on the face.

The most prevalent places in which melasma occurs on the face include:

  • the bridge of the nose
  • the forehead
  • the cheeks
  • the upper lip

Melasma can also occur in other areas of the body, especially those that are exposed to a great deal of sunlight. These areas may include:

  • the forearms
  • the neck
  • the shoulders

About 10 percent of all cases of melasma arise in men, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The risk of contracting melasma is higher for women with darker complexions and who are pregnant.

Pictures

Causes

Doctors do not truly grasp why melasma develops. It may be due to the malfunction of the skin’s melanocytes (color-making cells), causing too much color to be developed.

As a result, as they have more melanocytes than people with lighter skin, people with darker skin tones are more likely to develop melasma.

Potential melasma causes include:

  • changes in hormones during pregnancy (chloasma), hormone treatment, or while taking birth control pills
  • sun exposure
  • If they irritate the skin of a human, such skin care ingredients

There may also be a hereditary aspect of melasma, since it is more common for individuals whose close relatives have undergone melasma to acquire it themselves.

Symptoms

A lady checking her face on a mirror
Apart from changes in appearance, melasma does not cause any physical symptoms.

The appearance of discolored patches of skin is the main symptom of melasma. Although it does not trigger any other noticeable signs, the existence of these patches is bothersome for some persons.

The most common area for patches of melasma to appear is the face. Uncommon areas include the upper lips, nose bridge, cheeks, and forehead.

An individual can also have patches on their arms and neck, less frequently.

Diagnosis

During a visual examination, dermatologists find most cases of melasma easy to diagnose. However, as melasma can be similar to other skin disorders, at the initial visit, a dermatologist can perform a small biopsy.

For further study in a laboratory, a biopsy involves taking a very small part of the tissue.

A practitioner can also use a system called a Wood’s light to look at the skin more closely.

Treatment

Melasma does not necessarily need medication.

If hormonal changes have induced melasma, such as those arising during pregnancy or when taking birth control drugs, it can disappear after delivery or until a person stops taking the medication.

Melasma will last for years for other people, or even for the remainder of their lives. An individual should seek medication to help remove or fade the patches if the melasma does not fade with time.

Not all treatments, however, work for all, and even after good treatment, melasma can come back.

Melasma treatment options include:

Hydroquinone

A person can apply hydroquinone lotion directly to melasma to lighten the skin.
A person can apply hydroquinone lotion directly to melasma to lighten the skin.

As the first line of therapy for melasma, doctors also use hydroquinone. As a lotion, cream, or gel, hydroquinone is available.

An individual should add the hydroquinone substance directly to the discolored skin patches.

There is hydroquinone sold over the counter, but stronger creams should also be administered by a doctor. Hydroquinone works by rendering skin patches brighter in colour.

Corticosteroids and tretinoin

It comes as creams , lotions, or gels containing corticosteroids and tretinoin. Both corticosteroids and tretinoin can help lighten the color of the melasma patches.

Combined creams

In certain cases, a dermatologist can choose to administer hydroquinone, corticosteroids, and tretinoin-containing combination creams in one. These are called triple creams.

Additional topical medications

Azelaic acid or Kojic acid can also be administered by a dermatologist in addition to or in lieu of other medicated creams. These acids function to lighten the skin’s dark regions.

Medical procedures

If topical medications do not work, a doctor may suggest procedures such as:

  • microdermabrasion
  • chemical peel
  • laser treatment
  • light therapy
  • dermabrasion

Any of these options for treatment include side effects or can cause further complications with the skin. It is safer to chat about all the potential dangers with a doctor or dermatologist.

If a person has previously had melasma, they may try to prevent causes by:

  • limiting sun exposure
  • wearing a hat when outside
  • using sunscreen

Outlook

Melasma causes dark spots, most commonly on the face, to form on the skin. While these changes in the skin are harmless, certain individuals can find them bothersome.

For certain patients, therapy is successful. When hormone levels return to normal, melasma that is due to hormonal changes can also diminish over time.

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