When it comes to contraception, women up and down the country have heard horror stories of one sort or another. There are urban legends of implants that have got stuck, injections that have made women scream in pain, and who can forget the obligatory tales of the dreaded condom break. The empowerment of women in the twenty-first century has meant that we have more control over our lives and our bodies than ever before. With the vast array of birth control methods available it can be a minefield trying to decipher which one is the most appropriate for you. Take a look at this handy little guide to help you to develop a more of an understanding of the subject. This will be useful the next time you are discussing contraception options with your doctor.
With 25% of sexually active couples using both condoms and some form of contraceptive pill as their birth control method, one would think that contraception is becoming more of a shared responsibility. This is often the case with couples attending family planning clinics together. The onus is not solely on the woman to decide the birth control method even though more contraception options involve their bodies in some way or another. There are many types of birth control available that are worthy of consideration.
1. The Female Condom
Like the more common male condom, this barrier method is effective protection against unwanted pregnancies and STIs. The thin polyurethane acts as a barrier to sperm. However, the idea of female condoms has never really taken off. Perhaps this is because it is seen as a male dominated area of contraception or it may be down to the fact that their use can be a lot more finicky than their male counterpart.
2. Contraceptive Patch
Similar in appearance to the nicotine patch that helps the most addicted of smokers quit their habit, the contraceptive patch slowly releases oestrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation from happening. If there is no egg to fertilise, then pregnancy is not viable. Although the patch seems like a sensible option if you are in a long term stable relationship where STIs are of little concern, the efficacy does not stand up to scrutiny as much as other contraception methods.
As with any hormonal shifts caused by a birth control method, there are potential slight increases in the chance of developing breast and cervical cancer in the long term.
The IUD, often known colloquially as a coil, is an implant placed into the uterus. The copper intra-uterine device is effective from the moment it is inserted and works over 99% of the time. It lasts for at least five years, and once it is in place, there is no need to think about it. For couples in long term relationships, this could be a form of contraception to consider given its efficacy rate and the fact it is not a hormone based method of contraception. It is easy to remove and can be taken out at any time should your personal circumstances change or you wish to start a family.
If the mere sight of a needle has you breaking out in a cold sweat and suffering from a bout of heart palpitations, this method of birth control may not be for you. However, if you are someone who likes a form of contraception that does not require remembering to take a pill every day, this could be an option. It lasts for around two months and is 99% effective.
One word of caution is that this is a hormone based form of contraception. As with anything hormonal, there is an alteration in the balance of oestrogen and progesterone within your body which can cause weight gain and oddly timed periods. Should you wish to discontinue the injections, your body will take a little bit of time to readjust.
5. The Vaginal Ring
This form of birth control is one of the newer methods having been on the market since 2001. Again, a hormonal form of contraception, the ring is inserted into the vagina each month to prevent ovulation. There is no need for a medical professional to carry out the insertion and you can do it yourself, saving any embarrassment or needless pain. Although you don’t have to think about it once it is inserted, you may find the efficacy of only 91% a little too much to stomach.
A method of contraception that is rarely spoken of these days is the diaphragm. Once a go-to method of contraception due to its lack of side effects, the diaphragm fell out of favour with the emergence of more effective patches, injections, and IUDs. Still a viable birth control method, the diaphragm needs to be used with a spermicide to make it effective. The sheer hassle of this method makes it clear to see why it was consigned to the scrap heap.
7. Vasectomy Or Tubal Occlusion
The most extreme form of birth control is, of course, sterilisation so these methods should not be taken lightly as they render you infertile forever. If you have no plans to add to your brood, this could be an option worthy of serious thought as unwanted pregnancy would be certain not to occur. Both you and your partner would need total trust in one another and be willing to see a counsellor beforehand to ensure that you have considered all options and that this is the best route for you to take as a couple.
Birth control has become more effective as the years have gone by. New developments have seen experimentation with a male pill, in the same way as we saw the emergence of a female condom. Advancements are taking place all the time, and new licences will be granted for new forms of contraception in the next decade.
Keep abreast of new developments and talk to your doctor if you would like to explore a new form of birth control. Just because you have been using one type doesn’t mean that you cannot explore the option of using another. It’s important to find the most appropriate method of contraception for you as a couple and for you as a woman.