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From puberty, both men and women are capable of reproducing. But said capability, most times, is overrun by the conscious will to have children. As a way of planning and with the objective of couples having sexual relations without resulting in pregnancies, different mechanisms that prevent fertilization and the implantation of the egg have been created. These are temporary methods or definite surgical procedures that manage to control birth.

Contraceptive methods

We can classify contraceptive methods according to the type of mechanism they use in order to prevent pregnancy. There are natural or rhythm methods, whose base is the female menstrual cycle. Couples that use it manage to determine, with relative preciseness, the exact days in which a woman ovulates. These make up the female fertile “period”, during which absolute sexual abstinence is enforced. There are also some couples that measure base temperature or the consistency of the cervical mucus, natural indicators of the periods in which a woman is more or less fertile. Although there are no contraindications, they are very unsure.

Barrier methods, as their name indicates, are in charge of physically blocking the encounter between ovules and spermatozoa. Stand outs among them are the vaginal diaphragm, intrauterine devices (IUD) and the condom. This last one is a latex sheath placed on the penis when it is erect, preventing semen from entering the vagina, and also preventing the catching of sexually transmitted diseases. There are also those based on the application of substances capable of altering specific reproductive processes. 

These are the chemical methods, with standouts such as spermicides and contraceptive pills. Spermicides are creams or gels that must be applied directly to the vagina, whose chemical composition manages to kill spermatozoa; meanwhile, contraceptive pills are synthetic drugs that contain different hormones that are capable of acting at the level of the hypophysis and ovaries, preventing ovulation.

Surgical sterilization

Considered radical contraceptive methods, vasectomies and tube tying are surgical procedures that prevent a normal advance and encounter of the sexual cells for good. The vasectomy is a male sterilization method in which the ductus deferens are cut and tied, ways through which the spermatozoa advance from the testicles to the urethra. This way, the advancement of the male gametes is prevented, without hindering sexual relations (semen is ejaculated anyway, but it lacks sperms). In the case of women, the surgical sterilization procedure is called tube tying (or salpingectomy). It consists on sectioning and tying these ducts, making it impossible for the ovule to advance towards the uterus. Although it prevents procreation, it does not alter the reproductive cycles or female sexuality.It must be pointed out that the effectiveness of both surgeries in the control of birth is quite high, as they are methods of definite sterilization.

Assisted reproduction

There are couples that wish to have children, but it is impossible for them due to different biological reasons. Both men and women can present reproductive problems; in the first case, the most frequent ones are those related to poor spermatozoa quality (be it deformations, lack of mobility or shortness), while women present alterations in ovulation, obstructions in their tubes and malformations in their reproductive organs.Although many of these problems have no solution, some artificial methods that ease the encounter between ovule and spermatozoon have been created as of late. Depending on the problem that affects the couple, one can turn to procedures like in vitro fertilization and the intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In vitro fertilization has several stages. Ovulation is induced in the first of them. This is done in order to obtain more than one mature ovule.

Later, these cells are extracted from the mother’s body in order to fertilize them outside of her body (in a laboratory) and artificially implant them in the uterine walls. The hormonal management of the mother is vital during this entire process, especially progesterone and estrogen, which will benefit processes like the maturation of follicles and the preparation of the endometrium to receive the embryo.

Artificial insemination is considered the simplest procedure. It consists of introducing (through a thin catheter) a certain amount of sperm into the uterus during ovulation, easing the possible encounter between sexual cells. 
Not as widespread as the two aforementioned methods, but just as effective, the intracytoplasmic sperm injection is a process in which a single ovule is taken and injected directly into the uterus. Three days later and once fertilized, it is re-implanted in the uterus in order for it to continue its normal development. Generally, it is used on men with defective spermatozoa or spermatozoa that lacks mobility.

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