Whether you never plan to have children, or just not right now, every woman in a sexual relationship needs to consider contraception. There are quite a few things to think about when you’re choosing a method, though, including:
- How long do you want your contraception to last?
- Will side effects, including bleeding pattern changes, bother you?
- How will the contraceptive fit into your daily routine?
- How easy is it for you to go to the doctor/chemist for a script or to have a procedure?
- What is the cost?
- Do you have any health issues that might impact your contraceptive?
For many women, the pill has always been the go-to method, but is it the right one for you? There are many other contraceptives on the market these days, such as the implant and the injection. These alternatives are also significantly effective, providing up to 99 percent protection if used correctly.
In this Health HQ post, we explore some of these options and how they work. Have a read and then discuss with your GP.
The contraceptive implant is a small, flexible rod that is inserted under the skin in the upper arm. It works by slowly releasing progesterone, which prevents ovulation and thickens the cervical mucus to help stop the sperm from entering the uterus.
According to Dr Paul Tescher from Health Mint, one of the biggest advantages is that it lasts for three years and is also reversible, if you decide that you’d like a baby earlier than expected.
“It’s cost-effective over time and you don’t have to worry about or remember to take a pill every day,” he said.
However, it does involve a minor procedure to insert and remove and some women do experience unpredictable bleeding in the first few months.
According to Dr Tescher: “A small portion of women decide to have it removed early for this reason.”
This form of contraception injects the body with Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (DMPA) which is similar to the hormone progestogen. It protects against pregnancy for 12 weeks by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg.
For many women, this is seen as a huge positive as it can stop periods long-term. Like the implant, it also means you don’t need to remember to take the pill every day, however, you do need to remember when your next injection is due.
The cons are that there may be some unpredictable bleeding at first and some women may experience weight gain.
In addition, it’s not recommended if you’re planning a pregnancy in the next 12-18 months, as it can take some time for the menstrual cycle to return to normal.
Oral contraceptive pill
There are two types of pill; the most common one is the combined oestrogen and progestogen pill which works by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg each month.
According to Dr Tescher, “The advantage of the combined pill is that it can be used to regulate a period and reduce PMS symptoms.” In addition, there are many different types of pills on the market so the type and dose of hormones can be adjusted to minimise unwanted side effects.
However, the pill needs to be taken daily, and usually at the same time of day, to ensure effectiveness, which can be difficult when life gets busy. It’s also not suitable for women who suffer from certain medical conditions.
“Women who have had a previous blood clot (deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism); women who have focal migraines (migraines with neurological symptoms); women who have had hormone-sensitive tumours and women who are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease are generally not suitable for the combined pill. However, these women might still be safe to use progesterone-only contraceptives (either as a pill, injection or implant),” Dr Tescher said.
He also said that the contraceptives discussed here don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). “We recommend regular check-ups to screen for infection in all young men and women, even those who have not experienced any symptoms” he said.
These are the more common forms of contraception prescribed by doctors. Although they are considered safe and effective, if you experience any ongoing, bothersome or severe side effects, you should always seek advice from your GP.