Contraceptives are any sort of device, drug, product, or method that prevents pregnancy. Contraception helps women all over the world to take more control over their bodies and their lives.
Thanks to changing social views and scientific breakthroughs, women have more contraceptive options now than ever before. While this is undoubtedly great news, with so many options, it can be a challenge to choose the option that suits you best.
What works best for some women may not be the right choice for you, it’s important to choose a method of contraception that you are comfortable with and has minimal effect on your daily life.
To help you decide which method of contraception is right for you, here is a look at some of the most popular options:
Condoms are a method of birth control made of latex or polyurethane. It creates a literal barrier between you and your partner, making it very effective at protecting against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). While they are a popular choice, some women may feel uncomfortable purchasing them or using them. Condoms can fail and do not guarantee complete protection on every occasion.
- Can be used with other types of birth control methods
- Prevents STIs as well as unwanted pregnancies
- Affordable and widely available
- Immediately available
- Low risk of side effects
- Can reduce pleasure during intercourse
- Prone to breaking or splitting if misused
- Cannot be reused
- Latex condoms are not compatible with oil-based lubricants
If you have a latex allergy, ask about latex-free condoms made of polyurethane or polyisoprene.
Other barrier methods include the female condom (femdom), cervical cap, sponges and diaphragms. The effectiveness of barrier contraceptive measures can be increased with the use of spermicides.
Birth Control Pills
There are a number of different birth control pills that women can take to prevent unwanted pregnancy. For some women the pill is the ideal solution whilst others find it inconvenient having to remember to take the pill every Day. Contraceptive pills work by changing the hormone levels and preventing ovulation. It is important to follow the instructions for taking your pill carefully and avoid missing any doses. You should take the pill around the same time every day and use extra precautions if you get sick, as this can reduce the effectiveness of the pill. Contraceptive pills can also help with heavy and painful Periods. Some women experience headaches or nausea with certain contraceptive pills whilst others experience no side effects at all.
There are two different types of contraceptive pills. Combined contraceptive pills contain two synthesized hormones, commonly an oestrogen and progestogen, which mimic the natural female sex hormones. Conversely, there is the progestogen-only or Mini Pill which, while slightly less effective than the combined pill, causes fewer side effects. Speak to your GP for more information regarding hormonal contraceptive pills.
If you are interested in using a birth control pill, speak to your doctor to discuss the options available.
- Very effective if taken as instructed
- Used to treat medical problems such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), ovarian infections, anaemia, Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and acne
- Regularises your period and reduces period cramps
- Can get pregnant immediately after stopping
- Easy and convenient
- Missing a pill dramatically decreases its efficacy
- May cause side effects such as nausea, headaches, irritability, or bleeding
- Not the safest option for everyone, including smokers
- Does not protect against STIs
Nuvaring is a plastic vaginal ring that is inserted into your vagina every month so there is no need to remember to take a pill or buy condoms.
It works similarly to birth control pills, in that it releases hormones that prevent ovulation. The material is flexible, so it can be kept in during intercourse.
- Effective against pregnancy, up to 99% when used correctly
- Reduce cramps and acne
- Low maintenance compared to the pill or condom
- Controls and regulates your period
- Fewer side effects than the Birth Control Pill
- Needs to be inserted every 3 weeks
- Not suitable for people at risk of cardiovascular diseases, blood clots, hypertension, or smokers
- Does not protect against STIs
While condoms, pills, and the Nuvaring are some of the most popular contraceptive methods among women, there are dozens of other options available such as the Intrauterine device (IUD), implants, birth control injection, diaphragms, to name a few. We have a comparison of contraceptives including their rate of failure. Ask your local sexual health clinic for more information on additional forms of birth control.
It's important to remember that no contraceptive (except for abstinence) is 100% effective against unwanted pregnancy or STIs. You can combine barrier methods, such as condoms, with hormonal contraceptives to greater reduce your risk of pregnancy and STIs. Before switching to a new form of contraception, make sure to always consult with your doctor.