What birth control is right for you?

Birth control is a bit like banking – we tend to pick one option and stick with it. With so much choice these days, you should consider the options and decide on the best method for you.

contraception pill
Photo by Sophia Moss on Pexels.com

Are you still taking the same pill you were handed during your school days? Or have maybe changed brands because your doctor suggested it a few years ago? Do you have time research alternatives?

The pill revolutionised women’s lives more than 50 years ago, but now there are so many contraception options. There’s a patch, injection, coil, implants… it is clear that more women are experimenting with what works best for you. Here is a list of options, to make the discussion with your GP a little easier.

Combined Pill

The pill contains both oestrogen and progestogen, which work by preventing the ovaries from releasing the egg each month. It is a convenient method. It can be used to manage polycystic ovary syndrome and some types may also help reduce acne. It can take some time to adjust to potential side effects such as headaches, nausea, mood swings and breast tenderness. It has also been linked to serious health conditions such as blood clots and breast cancer. It can also reduce the effectiveness of other medication. It is recommended that you have a break every 21 days but is it not always necessary.

Efficiency: Over 99%

Mini Pill

This is a pill without oestrogen, taken daily without any breaks. It stops ovulation altogether, meaning that you will not have any periods. Some side effects could be spotting, and you have to take it at roughly the same time every day so it is effective. If you are ill, vomiting or diarrhoea it will not be effective.

Efficiency: Over 99%

The Patch

A small patch you wear that contains oestrogen and progestogen, is usually changed weekly, with a break every 21 days, but it is not always necessary. Unlike the pill, it is still effective if you vomit or have diarrhoea. It can also make your periods lighter. Side effects can be things like skin irritation, and it has the same health watch-outs as the pill.

Efficiency: Over 99%

Vaginial Ring

This is a small plastic ring that you insert, using an applicator, that releases oestrogen and progestogen. It is changed monthly, with a break every 21 days. It can make your periods lighter. It is possible to get headaches or discharge, and it is possible that it can come out during or after sex. If you are on certain medication, it may disrupt its efficiency. It has the same health risks as the pill and patch.

Efficiency: Over 99%

Hormonal Coil

This is fitted by a nurse or your GP and works for three to five years. It is T-shaped and sits in the womb and releases progestogen. The procedure can be uncomfortable, and you can get period like cramps for a few days afterwards. There is also a slight risk of infection. Your periods can become lighter and there are usually fewer side effects than the pill. Side effects can include acne and headaches.

Efficiency: Over 99%

Non-Hormonal Coil

As with the Hormonal Coil it is fitted by a nurse or your GP and is a T-shaped plastic and copper devise that is inserted into the womb. It works for five to ten years, depending on the type. There are no hormonal related side effects, and it can be removed at any time, by a doctor or a nurse, and it is possible to get pregnant straight away. There is a small risk of infection after the procedure, and you may experience period like cramps afterwards. Periods can become heavier with the Non-hormonal coil.

Efficiency: Over 99%

Injection

This is administered by a GP or a nurse, every 8-13 weeks depending on which injection you have. It can cause irregular periods and weight gain. It can take a year for your cycle to return to normal, when you come off it, which may affect fertility.

Efficiency: Over 99%

Implant

A small plastic rod is placed under your skin on your upper arm that releases progestogen. It is fitted by a nurse or GP. The small procedure to have it inserted and removed can leave bruising. It can be removed at any time, and your fertility quickly returns. Once in place, you do not have to think about contraception for 3 years. Some women do experience adjustment side effects like headaches, nausea, mood swings and breast tenderness, and it can make your period irregular.

Efficiency: Over 99%

Male and Female Condoms

When used correctly, condoms are effective as a barrier method against pregnancy. There are male condoms, female ones – which are inserted into the vagina – and a diaphragm or cap which need to be used with a spermicide. Condoms are the only form of contraception that protect you from STI’s, but they can fail. Condoms can split, and the diaphragm and cap can be fiddly to fit – and they need to remain in place for at least 6 hours after sex.

Efficiency: Male 98%, Female 95%, Diaphragm 92-96%

Fertility Apps

There are many free and paid-for apps that you can input information about your menstrual cycle. It then uses the data to predict the likelihood of you conceiving. You need to have a clockwork cycle, be seriously organised and follow the instructions.  For accurate results, you should record your temperature at the same time every day. Needless to say, if you have sex during this time, you might get pregnant.

Efficiency: Difficult to measure

 

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