Contraception: Everything You Need To Know

Everything you need to know about contraception

Contraception plays a crucial role in reproductive health, empowering individuals and couples to prevent unintended pregnancies and plan their families effectively. With a wide range of methods available, from hormonal pills and implants to barrier methods and intrauterine devices (IUDs), choosing the right form of contraception can be complex.

Types of Contraception

There are several types of contraception, each suited to different needs and preferences. These methods can be broadly categorised into hormonal, barrier, intrauterine, natural and emergency contraception.

Hormonal Contraception

 Hormonal contraception methods are popular due to their high effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. These methods work by altering the body’s hormone levels to inhibit ovulation, thicken cervical mucus and thin the uterine lining. The primary types of hormonal contraception include the contraceptive pill, the contraceptive implant and the contraceptive injection.

Contraceptive Pill

Also known as the birth control pill, it is taken daily and contains synthetic hormones (oestrogen and progestogen). The pill prevents ovulation and thickens cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to reach the egg. Common side effects of the contraceptive pill include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain

Serious but rare side effects include an increased risk of blood clots, stroke and heart attack.

Contraceptive Implant

 A small rod is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It releases progestogen and can prevent pregnancy for up to three years. Possible side effects of the contraceptive implant are:

  • Irregular bleeding
  • Headaches
  • Acne
  • Breast tenderness
  • Weight gain

Contraceptive Injection

 Administered every three months, the injection releases progestogen, which stops ovulation and thickens cervical mucus. Side effects of the contraceptive injection can include:

  • Irregular bleeding
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes
  • Decreased bone density with long-term use
  • IUD Side Effects

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods physically block sperm from reaching the egg. They are typically less effective than hormonal methods but have fewer side effects. The main types of barrier methods include male and female condoms, which create a physical barrier during intercourse.

Additionally, diaphragms and cervical caps are inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix, preventing sperm from entering the uterus. Barrier methods are often used with spermicides to increase their effectiveness.

While they require proper use with each sexual encounter, barrier methods offer a non-hormonal option for contraception and also provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are small, T-shaped devices inserted into the uterus by a healthcare provider to prevent pregnancy. They are highly effective, with over 99% effectiveness and offer long-term contraception. IUDs come in two main types: copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs.

  • Copper IUD: Contains no hormones and can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years by releasing copper, which is toxic to sperm.
  • Hormonal IUD: Releases progestogen and can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 5 years. It thickens cervical mucus and thins the lining of the uterus.

Natural Methods

Natural methods of contraception involve tracking fertility signals to avoid intercourse during fertile periods. These methods rely on understanding the menstrual cycle and identifying the days when a woman is most likely to conceive. Though less effective than other methods, they have no side effects and require no medical intervention.

  • Fertility Awareness: Involves tracking menstrual cycles, body temperature and cervical mucus to determine fertile days.
  • Withdrawal Method: Also known as “pulling out,” this method involves withdrawing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation. It is less reliable due to the risk of pre-ejaculate fluid containing sperm.

Emergency Contraception

 Emergency contraception is used after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure to prevent pregnancy.

  • Emergency Contraceptive Pill: Also known as the “morning-after pill,” it contains a high dose of hormones that delay ovulation. It is most effective when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
  • Copper IUD: Can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. It is the most effective form of emergency contraception.

Effectiveness of Contraceptive Methods

The effectiveness of contraception methods varies. Hormonal methods, IUDs and sterilisation are among the most effective, while barrier methods and natural methods have higher failure rates.

  • Contraceptive Pill: Over 99% effective with perfect use, but around 91% effective with typical use due to missed pills.
  • Contraceptive Implant: Over 99% effective.
  • Contraceptive Injection: Around 94% effective with typical use.
  • Condoms: Male condoms are about 98% effective with perfect use but around 85% effective with typical use. Female condoms are slightly less effective.
  • IUDs: Both copper and hormonal IUDs are over 99% effective.
  • Fertility Awareness: Around 76-88% effective with typical use.
  • Withdrawal Method: Around 78% effective with typical use.
  • Emergency Contraceptive Pill: Reduces the risk of pregnancy by 75-89% if taken within 72 hours.

How to Choose the Right Contraception

Choosing the right contraception depends on various factors, including health, convenience, side effects and lifestyle. Here are some considerations to be taken care of with the right contraception:

  • Health Conditions: Some health conditions may limit the choice of contraception. For example, women with a history of blood clots may need to avoid oestrogen-containing pills.
  • Lifestyle: Convenience and ease of use are crucial. Some may prefer a daily pill, while others might find a long-term solution like an implant or IUD more suitable.
  • Side Effects: Understanding potential side effects can help in choosing a method that aligns with personal preferences and health needs.
  • Effectiveness: Those seeking highly effective methods may prefer hormonal options or IUDs.
  • Reversibility: Some methods are reversible, while others, like sterilisation, are permanent. Consider future fertility goals when choosing contraception.

Pharmacy To My Door – Your Health, Our Priority!

Contraception is a vital tool for reproductive health and family planning. With a variety of methods available, individuals and couples can choose the one that best suits their needs and lifestyle. Understanding the types, effectiveness and side effects of different contraception methods can help in making an informed choice.

At Pharmacy To My Door, we prioritise your health and well-being. Our expert pharmacists are here to provide personalised advice on all your contraception needs. Whether you need emergency contraception, advice on hormonal methods or information on barrier methods, we are here to help. Book an online consultation with Pharmacy To My Door for professional, confidential and convenient healthcare guidance. Trust us to be your first choice for all your pharmacy needs!

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