Being sexually active in the reproductive age comes with a lot of responsibilities, especially for a woman. We must prioritize our sexual health, before being intimate with another individual.

Unsafe sex can increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies. Nearly half of all pregnancies are usually unplanned. These unplanned pregnancies can cause mental and physical health issues in women.

Contraception is an important part of sexual health. Every girl and women should be aware about the contraceptive options to prevent the unwanted consequences.

What is contraception?

Contraception, or birth control, is an important aspect of a woman’s health. It is one of the safest and easiest ways to take control of your future and live life the way you want.

Contraception is a method used to prevent pregnancy by interfering with the normal process of ovulation, fertilization, and implantation. Contraception options generally fall into two categories: contraception for birth control, or contraception that aims to prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. There are lot of different birth control options available, which act at different stages of the fertilization process. Although these contraceptive methods work in different ways, they generally aim to prevent sperm and an egg from meeting each other and preventing pregnancy.

Contraception choices

With so many options in the market, finding the contraception method that works best for your lifestyle and family plan can be challenging. You may have to spend a lot of time and energy trying out different types of birth control.

Understanding the options available is the first step in choosing a contraception method that is right for you. Here is what you need to know about various birth control methods:

I. Short-term contraception options:

  1. Oral contraceptive pills: It is one of the most commonly used female contraception method. These are medications that contain synthetic forms of the hormones - estrogen and progesterone. These pills must be taken as instructed by a gynecologist. There are two types of oral contraceptive pills - combined pill and mini pill. The combined pill contains both estrogen and progesterone, while mini pill contains only progesterone. 

    • Pros: Effective alternative for women who are not comfortable using implants or other devices. If used correctly, they are 99 % effective at preventing pregnancy.

    • Cons: Not suitable for women who cannot take estrogen-containing contraception. May cause side effects like weight gain, breast tenderness or increased blood pressure.

  2. Female condom: These are loose non-latex pouch with a flexible ring at each end. They are inserted into the vagina to prevent sperm entry. Similar to the male condom, it prevents semen from getting into the womb. It also protects both partners from STDs.

    • Pros: Widely available, economical and can be inserted for up to 8 hours before having intercourse.
    • Cons: Not as effective as the male latex condom and it may cause some irritation.
  3. Contraceptive sponge: It is a soft, disk-shaped polyurethane sponge with foam that contains spermicide (sperm-killing chemicals). This must be inserted in the vagina before sex. The sponge will cover the cervix and the foam will block the sperm from fusing with an egg.
    • Pros: An easy-to-use option which is relatively inexpensive. 
    • Cons: It does not prevent the spread of STDs. Regular use can cause irritation or tissue damage
  4.  Diaphragm: It is a soft, shallow, silicone dome that fits in the vagina. It covers the opening to the uterus, stopping sperm from getting into the uterus. Similar to condoms and contraceptive sponge, it acts as a physical barrier between the man's sperm and the woman's egg. It must be put in before having sex and removed after sex. When used correctly diaphragms are 94 % efficient in preventing pregnancy. 
    • Pros: It will not interrupt sex and is a hormone free option. It can be washed and reused.

    • Cons: You will need doctor’s help to fit them in the vagina. They do not offer STD protection.

II. Long term birth control options:

  1. Implants: These are small, flexible rods that are placed under the skin in a woman’s upper arm. Once inserted, it will slowly release the synthetic hormone progesterone, which stops the ovaries from releasing an egg each month. It may last for up to 3 years.
    • Pros: Highly effective, long-lasting and reversible contraceptive option. It will not interrupt sex.

    • Cons: Requires a trained healthcare provider for insertion and removal. Some women may experience irregular bleeding, weight gain, acne or moodiness.

  2. Intrauterine Devices (IUD): This is a small T-shaped contraceptive device that is placed in your uterus. It is usually made of material containing progesterone hormone or plastic and copper and is fitted inside a woman’s uterus by a trained healthcare provider.

    These are long-acting and reversible method of contraception and will stay in place for three to 10 years.

    Generally, there are two kinds of IUD:

    • Copper IUD: It prevents a fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterus. It lasts five to ten years and is 99.4 % effective.
    • Progesterone IUD: It releases progesterone to prevent the fertilized egg from developing and will thicken the cervical mucus so that it is not suitable for pregnancy. It lasts for five years and is 99.8 % effective. 
  3. Vaginal Rings: These are flexible plastic rings that are inserted into the vagina and is left in place for three weeks. The ring will release the hormones estrogen and progesterone and will effectively prevent pregnancy. It is removed for one week to have your regular periods
    • Pros: You can insert and remove a vaginal ring yourself. It is a highly effective birth control method.
    • Cons: Not suitable for women who cannot take estrogen-containing contraception. Have to replace the ring every month
  4. Birth Control Shot: DMPA also called Depo Provera is a long acting synthetic progesterone injection, which is injected every 12 weeks for contraception. The injection lasts for up to three months.
    • Pros: Very effective; permits sexual spontaneity and does not interrupt sex.
    • Cons: May disrupt periods or cause irregular bleeding.

III. Emergency contraception:

These are contraception pills that can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse. It will prevent the chances of pregnancy by preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus, but it does not cause an abortion. Emergency contraception is not as effective as condoms or birth control pills.

Choosing the right contraception for you

Now that you are aware of different contraceptive options available for women, you have to decide which option suits for you. Consider what your goals are, what your lifestyle is and what you are planning for the future. You can always talk to your gynecologist to get personalized birth control advice. Your doctor can give you more details about each option and can help you with the correct choice.

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  3. Birth control methods. Accessed on: 17-09-2020.
  4. Contraception choices in women with underlying medical conditions. Accessed on: 17-09-2020.
  5. 12 types of birth control. Accessed on: 17-09-2020.
  6. Your contraception choices. Accessed on: 17-09-2020.

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