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The Ultimate Guide On Choosing The Right Contraception

When it comes to contraception, it can be really difficult to know which choice to make. I mean, for guys I guess it’s a whole lot easier because it’s a choice between ‘condom’ or ‘no condom’ and it should be a no-brainer. But for us ladies, there’s a heck of a lot of options out there, which can make it a pretty difficult choice to make, especially when you’re no doubt hearing all sorts of horror stories from your friends about having an implant fitted and the likes.

Can I just take this opportunity to say that contraception is pretty important? And unless you’re planning on having a family any time soon, I highly recommend you’ve got something sorted whether you’re in a relationship or not. You never know what’s going to happen so it’s always good to be prepared for any eventuality!

So, us women can take a pill, have an implant fitted, have a contraceptive injection every 3 months, or have a coil fitted or … well, you get my drift. The list goes on. Sometimes though, we don’t want to go down the medical route of having things ‘inserted’ and that’s okay because there are plenty of awesome alternatives out there. And in today’s post, I thought I’d share all the possible options with you, along with the pros and cons of using each one, so you can hopefully make a more informed decision about the sort of contraception you’d like to use in the future.

Are you ready? Then, let’s go!

THE PILL

The Pill is a tablet you take once a day, and there are few different variations of it. The combined pill contains progesterone and oestrogen, which stop the ovaries from releasing eggs. It also thickens the cervical mucus, which stops the sperm from getting to the egg.

The low-dose pill contains both progesterone and oestrogen, but a smaller amount of oestrogen than in a regular combined pill. This means that some of the side effects you may experience are lessened.

And the so-called mini-pill contains only one hormone — progestogen — which makes it suitable for women who can’t take the combined pill, are overweight or have a history of blood clots or high blood pressure.

How To Use The Pill

You should swallow the pill at the same time every day, whether you have sex or not. Ask your healthcare professional whether the combined pill is a suitable method of contraception for you based on your medical history and, if so, which type is the best for you. Forgetting to take your pill means it won’t be as effective as it can be and you could find yourself getting pregnant.

Pros Of Taking The Pill

  • It’s highly effective when used as directed
  • It’s easy to use
  • It permits sexual spontaneity and doesn’t interrupt sex
  • Some pills may reduce heavy and painful periods
  • Some pills may have a positive effect on acne
  • They can be taken over a long period of time

Cons Of Taking The Pill

  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • It requires you to keep track of the number of days you’ve taken it
  • Some women experience mood swings or depression
  • Some women experience breast tenderness, nausea, headache, weight gain
  • It may cause changes in your menstruation cycle
  • It’s not common, but some women who take the pill develop high blood pressure
  • In some rare cases, women will have blood clots, heart attacks and strokes

CONTRACEPTIVE PATCH

The contraceptive patch is exactly what you’d expect it to be — a patch that looks just like a shiny plaster and sticks to the skin. It’s highly effective at preventing you from getting pregnant by releasing hormones progestogen and oestrogen through the skin and into the bloodstream continuously, where they stop the ovaries from releasing eggs and also thicken the cervical mucus which keeps the sperm from getting to the egg. The patch isn’t transparent, so this method of contraception is visible. However, as someone who uses this method of contraception, I highly recommend it.

How To Use The Contraceptive Patch

Using the patch is super easy — just peel off the back and apply directly to your skin on your lower abdomen, buttocks, upper arm or back. You then leave the patch in place for a week before replacing it with a new one. You put on a new patch and take off the old one once a week for 3 weeks — 21 days in total. Each 4th week you go without any patch at all. And your period should start during this patch-free week. Then you repeat the same process all over again.

Pros Of Using The Contraceptive Patch 

  • It’s highly effective
  • It’s easy to put on and remove
  • It doesn’t require daily attention
  • It permits sexual spontaneity and doesn’t interrupt sex
  • You don’t have to remember to take it every day
  • It helps regulate your periods

Cons Of Using The Contraceptive Patch

  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • It may be visible and could come loose or fall off
  • It requires you to keep track of the number of weeks you’ve used it
  • It may cause some itching and redness at the application site
  • It may cause some people to suffer from headaches and mood swings
  • It may cause weight gain
  • In some rare cases, women may suffer blood clots, heart attacks and strokes

As I mentioned before, I use the contraceptive patch and highly recommend it. When I first started using it I was worried that it would be visible and people would think that I was trying to stop smoking. But, in reality, you can stick it on your buttocks or your back where no-one can see it on a day-to-day basis. The only other person who need know you’re wearing it is the person you’re having sex with! I’m not a fan of taking tablets, so it’s a brilliant alternative for me. And I only have to remember to change it once a week as well. Bonus!

CONTRACEPTIVE RING

The contraceptive ring looks a lot like a cross between a bracelet and an elastic band — simple and functional — but it’s a whole lot smarter than that. It’s a clear, flexible ring of polyethene vinyl acetate that, once inserted into the vagina, slowly releases progestogen and oestrogen into your body to stop the ovaries from releasing eggs. It also thickens the cervical mucus, which stops the sperm from getting to the egg. The ring stays in place for 3 weeks, and then you remove it, take a week off and then pop another one in. Easy!

How To Use The Contraceptive Ring

The ring sits up against your vaginal wall, so putting it in is just the same as using a tampon, but because of its shape you might find it a little tricky, to begin with. Most people who use the contraceptive ring swear by the pinch it and twist technique — start by washing your hands then squeeze it between your finger and thumb and push it up inside you until it’s sitting up against the side of your vaginal wall. Once it’s in, make sure you’re comfortable with its position. And, believe it or not, you don’t even need to take it out for sex! Leave the ring there for 3 weeks then remove. A week later replace with a new one. Your period should start during the ring-free week.

Pros Of Using The Contraceptive Ring 

  • It is highly affective
  • It’s easy to insert and remove
  • It doesn’t require daily attention
  • It permits sexual spontaneity and doesn’t interrupt sex

Cons Of Using The Contraceptive Ring 

  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • It requires you to keep track of the number of weeks it’s been inserted
  • It may cause vaginal discharge, discomfort in the vagina, and irritation
  • It may cause some people to suffer from headaches and mood swings
  • It may cause disrupted periods It may cause weight gain
  • Other risks are similar to oral contraceptives (combined pill)

IMPLANT

The contraceptive implant might sound a little space-age initially but really it’s a highly effective, easy to hide method of contraception. About same size as a matchstick, the implant is placed just below the skin of your upper arm where it constantly releases progestogen in small doses from a reservoir into your bloodstream. The hormone stops your ovaries from releasing eggs and also thickens your cervical mucus, making it hard for sperm to move around in the womb and fertilise an egg.

How To Use The Implant

After a local anaesthetic, a well-trained healthcare professional will numb a small area of your inner upper arm and insert the implant just underneath the surface with a special needle. Once done, there is nothing else you need to remember! Seriously, the implant releases small amounts of hormones into your blood over the course 3 to 5 years, depending on the type. It is suitable for women who want highly effective long-acting reversible contraception and want to avoid a daily, weekly or monthly routine. It can be removed at any time with minor surgery, and once the implant is out, the contraceptive effect wears off quickly and you can become pregnant as quickly as women who have used no contraception at all.

Pros Of Having The Implant

  • It’s the most effective contraceptive method available
  • Suitable for women who want highly effective long-acting reversible contraception for up to 5 years and want to avoid a daily, weekly or monthly routine
  • It doesn’t interrupt sex
  • It is suitable for women who are affected by the hormone oestrogen
  • It can be used when breastfeeding, six weeks after childbirth
  • It may reduce heavy and painful periods for some women

Cons Of Having The Implant

  • It requires a trained healthcare professional for insertion and removal
  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • It may initially cause a change in bleeding patterns
  • It may cause weight gain, breast and abdominal pain

CONTRACEPTIVE INJECTIONS

The contraceptive injection is a shot that contains hormones, either progestogen alone or progestogen and oestrogen together, which stops your body from releasing eggs and thickens the mucus at the cervix. You’ll need one injection either once every month or once every three months from a healthcare professional. Once injected, however, it is not reversible. So, in the case of side effects, it cannot be stopped. The way it works is similar to that of the pill, or the ring, except you don’t need to remember to take it every day or week. And the contraceptive injection probably isn’t the best choice for anyone scared of needles!

How To Use Contraceptive Injections

Firstly, you’re going to need to talk to your GP. As with most methods of contraception, they aren’t the ideal choice for everyone, so getting advice from a professional is something I’d always recommend. If you decide the contraceptive injection is a method you’re interested in your GP will do it for you. Then, depending on the type of shot you get, you’ll just need to go back every month or every three months for a top-up. And you’ll be well protected in between.

Pros Of Getting The Contraceptive Injection

  • It lasts for 1 to 3 months
  • It doesn’t require daily or weekly attention
  • It permits sexual spontaneity and doesn’t interrupt sex
  • It is suitable for women who are affected by the hormone oestrogen
  • It can be used when breastfeeding
  • It may reduce heavy and painful periods for some women

Cons Of Getting The Contraceptive Injection

  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • It requires you to keep track of the number of months used
  • It may cause some people to suffer from headaches and mood swings
  • It may cause weight gain and abdominal discomfort
  • It may take up to one year for your period and fertility to return after stopping the injections
  • It may cause disrupted periods
  • You may lose bone density if you get the shot for more than 2 years in a row

MALE CONDOMS

One of the most popular forms of contraception, condoms are a simple and cheap way to protect yourself against unplanned pregnancies and STIs. They work by catching the sperm as it is released and stopping it from entering the vagina at all.

The tip has a reservoir which collects the man’s semen and prevents it from entering the vagina when he ejaculates. Along with female condoms they are the only form of contraception to protect you against STIs as well as pregnancy. The most important thing to remember is that you use a condom every time you have sex.

Condoms come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. So even if you suffer from allergies or sensitive skin, there’s a condom out there for you.

How To Use A Male Condom

Using a condom is easy, just unravel the condom onto an erect penis right before sex, and you’re ready to go. Once it’s all over and the condom has done its job, pull it out before the penis softens. It should be held against the base of the penis as soon as ejaculation has occurred to ensure it does not slip off and to prevent any sperm from escaping as the penis is withdrawn. You can only use each condom once, and then you throw it away.

It’s important to check what kind of lubricant is suitable to use with each condom’s material, as some can have adverse effects on them. For example, oil-based lube and latex aren’t friends. And putting them together can cause the condom to break or slip off — just an FYI!

Pros Of Using Male Condoms

  • They’re the best protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • They’re easy to use
  • They can be easily carried with you
  • They can be used on demand
  • They’re hormone-free
  • They aren’t affected by other medications
  • They can be used when breastfeeding

Cons Of Using Male Condoms

  • It interrupts sex
  • They can tear or come off during sex if not used properly
  • Some people are allergic to latex condoms
  • It may lead to irritation or allergic reactions (if you’re allergic to latex, you can try condoms made of polyurethane)

FEMALE CONDOMS

The male condom may be the most well known of all contraceptive methods. But not wanting to be outdone, women have now got their own too. The male condom’s simple ‘just slip it on’ functionality is matched by the female condom’s ‘just slip it in’ technique — and the results are identical! Regardless of who is wearing it; there is a lubricated, thin polyurethane sheath that creates a barrier between where the sperm comes from and where it wants to go. And the most important thing you need to remember is that you need to use a condom every time you have sex.

How To Use A Female Condom

As I mentioned above, male and female condoms work in exactly the same way. The only difference is, who is putting it on — or in! Put the female condom into the vagina right before sex. Take the sheath and find the closed end’s ring which holds the female condom in place. Squeeze this flexible ring together and insert it as you would a tampon, as far as you can up to your cervix. The closed end of the female condom covers the cervix and the open end should hang about an inch outside your vagina. Once you’re finished, simply grab the open end, twist to close, pull it out gently, and don’t spill anything. Again, female condoms are only to be used once and then you need to throw it away.

Pros Of Using Female Condoms

  • They protect effectively against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • They can easily be carried with you
  • They can be used on demand
  • They’re hormone-free
  • They’re not affected by other medications
  • They can be used when breastfeeding

Cons Of Using Female Condoms

  • Not as effective as male latex condoms
  • It interrupts sex
  • Using them can take practise
  • It can tear if not used properly
  • It may lead to irritation or allergic reactions

COPPER COIL – IDU

The IDU (better known as the copper coil) might sound a little space-age, but it just stands for Intrauterine Device, intrauterine meaning inside the uterus. It might look a little strange, but it’s a highly effective, small, T-shaped device containing a copper thread or cylinder which is placed in the uterus by your GP. The IUD releases copper ions which immobilises the sperm and makes it difficult for them to move around in the womb but does not stop the ovaries from making an egg each month. On the rare occasion, a sperm does get through, the copper stops a fertilised egg from implanting itself to the lining too. Once the copper coil is inserted into the womb, it can stay in place for 5–10 years (depending on the type) or until you decide to remove it. Not space-age at all — just good sense.

How To Use The Copper Coil

The IUD is inserted into the woman’s womb through her vagina by a well-trained healthcare professional where it stays for up to 10 years depending on the type. You can, of course, change your mind at any point and your GP will simply take it out again for you. After the IUD is removed, the contraceptive effect wears off quickly and you can become pregnant as quickly as women who have used no method of contraception at all.

The copper coil is highly effective, but it’s not a method that is suitable for everyone. You should discuss this method with your GP beforehand to make sure it’s the right choice for you.

Pros Of Using The Copper Coil

  • It’s one of the most effective methods of contraception there is
  • It can stay in place for 5–10 years (depending on the type) but can be removed any time
  • It can also be used as emergency contraception if inserted within five days after unprotected sex
  • Fertility returns to previous levels once the IUD is removed
  • Suitable for women who want highly effective long-acting reversible contraception for up to 5–10 years and want to avoid a daily, weekly or monthly routine
  • It doesn’t interrupt sex
  • It isn’t affected by other medications
  • It is suitable for women who are affected by the hormone oestrogen
  • It can be used when breastfeeding 

Cons Of Using The Copper Coil

  • It requires a trained healthcare professional for insertion and removal
  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Small risk of infection at insertion and of expulsion
  • It may cause cramps and/or irregular bleeding
  • Some women experience headaches, tenderness and acne after an IUD is fitted

HORMONAL COIL – IUS

The IUS is a small, soft, T-shaped device with a reservoir containing the hormone progestogen that is placed in the womb by your GP. It works by continuously releasing a low dose of progestogen from the intrauterine system into the womb. It thickens the mucus of your cervix, which makes it harder for sperm to move freely and reach the egg and it also thins the lining of your uterus. At 99.8% effectiveness, you’re about as protected as you possibly can be by a contraceptive method. It’s a great method for the super organised, the forgetful, the frequent traveller and pretty much anyone else on the planet who is keen to not get pregnant! However, some individual risk factors make an IUS not suitable for some women. Therefore, you must consult your GP before deciding to give it a try.

The Pros Of Using The Hormonal Coil

  • It’s one of the most effective methods of contraception there is
  • It can stay in place for 3–5 years (depending on the type) but can be removed at any time
  • Fertility returns to previous levels once the IUS is removed
  • Suitable for women who want highly effective long-acting reversible contraception for up to 3–5 years and want to avoid a daily, weekly or monthly routine
  • It doesn’t interrupt sex
  • Heavy periods can become lighter and less painful
  • It can be used when breastfeeding

The Cons Of using The Hormonal Coil

  • It requires a trained healthcare professional to insert and remove it
  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Irregular bleeding and spotting can be common in the first 6 months of use
  • It may cause cramps and/or irregular bleeding
  • Some women experience headaches, tenderness and acne after an IUS is fitted
  • Small risk of infection at insertion and of expulsion

DIAPHRAGM

The diaphragm looks like a tiny hat and it stands in the way of any sperm getting anywhere near your uterus. The dome-shaped flexible disc has a flexible rim and is made from latex rubber or silicone. It is inserted into the vagina to form a barrier between the sperm and the entrance of the woman’s womb. Your GP will need to do an initial fitting to find the right size diaphragm for you. Although the diaphragm is a highly effective form of contraception, it’s highly recommended you combine it with a spermicide so it can really come into its own.

How To Use A Diaphragm

The diaphragm needs to be placed into the vagina before having sex. And although it sounds awkward to use, it isn’t really. Start by washing your hands, then fill the diaphragm up with spermicide and spread some around the edges as well (just to be safe). Then, act like you’re about to put in a tampon, fold the diaphragm in half and slide it up into your vagina and then push it right up until it’s covering your cervix.

The great thing is that you can be organised, or last minute, it’s totally up to you; insert hours before or just before sex. The diaphragm can be left in place for up to 24 hours. If you have sex more than once you need to use more spermicide every time. The only rules are that you must leave it in for at least 6 hours after sex and don’t leave it in for more than 24 hours in total. From time to time, check the diaphragm for any damages and replace it if necessary. You should also have the diaphragm checked after childbirth or if you lose a lot of weight as you might need to use a different size.

Pros Of Using The Diaphragm

  • It can be used on demand
  • It can easily be carried with you
  • It isn’t affected by other medications
  • It’s hormone-free
  • It can be used when breastfeeding

CERVICAL CAP

The cervical cap is only really a cap in the way it looks. In reality, the way it works is more like a plug. The cap is pushed up into the vagina until it covers the cervix so no sperm can enter the uterus. It is made of soft latex or silicone with a round rim, which is smaller than the diaphragm and only covers the cervix. It requires an initial fitting by your GP and may not work as well for women who have given birth as childbirth stretches the vagina and cervix so the cap may not fit as well. The cap should not be used alone though, to keep yourself properly protected it should always be used with spermicides.

How To Use A Cervical Cap

You must place the cap into the vagina before having sex, and although this can be tricky at first, practice makes perfect. First up, wash your hands — then grab the cap and some spermicide and start filling the cap’s dome with it, making sure you spread it around the edges too. Then, flip it over and do the same on the other side.

Putting it in place starts just like you’re putting in a tampon, squeeze the cap together, push it inside you and push up until it’s sitting snugly over your cervix and then you’re ready. Don’t forget to make sure you can feel the handle, you’ll be needing that! You need to leave the cap in place for at least 6 hours after having sex and you may leave it in for up to 48 hours. To remove the cap, squat down and press the dome to break the suction, then find the handle and use it to gently pull it out.

Pros Of Using A Cervical Cap

  • It can be used on demand
  • It can easily be carried with you
  • It isn’t affected by other medications
  • It’s hormone-free
  • It can be used when breastfeeding

Cons Of Using A Cervical Cap

  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • It requires an initial fitting by healthcare professional
  • Using it can take practise
  • It can interfere with sexual spontaneity
  • It requires you to keep track of the hours it’s been inserted
  • It’s not always suitable for women who have given birth
  • Effectiveness decreases if not used in combination with a spermicide
  • Low efficacy even when used as directed
  • The cap may cause irritation or allergic reactions
  • If you keep it in place for longer than 48 hours, there is a risk of toxic shock syndrome. Toxic shock is a rare but serious infection

And there you have it — the eleven most popular methods of contraception explained along with each of their pros and cons. I hope you enjoyed having a read of my post and that you found it helpful.

The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Right Contraception

Louise x

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