The Different Types of Female Contraceptives
The Different Types of Female Contraceptives
This article was originally published in 2019 and has since been updated.
Contraception is used to prevent pregnancy and some types will protect you from sexually transmissible infections (STIs). Having sex doesn’t need to be risky business – especially when there are many contraception methods out there. Your choice of contraception may be informed by what’s best or convenient for you and your lifestyle. There are several types of female contraceptives available, here’s everything that you need to know.
Copper IUD (Intrauterine device)
An IUD is a commonly used long-acting, contraceptive which is inserted into the womb, and it acts to prevent pregnancy by increasing the thickness of mucus produced by the cervix. This makes it harder for sperm to fertilise an egg as the copper used on the T-shaped implant is deadly to sperm. A copper IUD can last between 5 to 10 years.
A small, flexible rod is placed under a woman’s skin on the upper arm, releasing the hormone progesterone into the system. Progesterone works by stopping the ovary from releasing an egg, thickening the cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to enter the womb, much like the IUD. The implant is inserted via a small procedure using local anaesthetic to fit and remove the rod and will need replacement after three years.
Probably the most common contraceptive for women, the pill is a little tablet taken once a day for the duration of the course. The combined pill has two hormones, oestrogen and progestin, which prevent ovulation from taking place. The combination pills must be taken at the same time daily to be most effective.
The progestin-only pill works the same way as the combined pill, except that it doesn’t contain any oestrogen. It’s recommended for women who are currently breastfeeding or can’t take the combined pill for medical reasons. It must also be taken at the same time daily for maximum effectiveness.
The injection is a safe contraceptive method and contains a synthetic version of the hormone progestogen which prevents ovulation. It’s administered by injection into a woman’s buttock or the upper arm, and over the next 12 weeks the hormone is slowly released into the bloodstream. It lasts up to three months, whereupon a new dose will be required.
Apart from preventing pregnancy, the condom is the only form of contraception that protects against HIV and STIs. This method of contraception is hormone free and can be easily stored or carried around for convenience. Male condoms are rolled onto an erect penis and the female condom is placed into the vagina right before sex. These can act as a physical barrier which prevents fluids produced during sex from passing between you and your partner.
Tubal ligation / female sterilisation
Tubal ligation is a procedure that completely takes away the body’s ability to reproduce through surgery. It is more commonly referred to as having ‘your tubes tied’. Your fallopian tubes are cut and tied, which prevents the egg from travelling to your uterus.
This procedure is suitable for people who are sure they never want children or do not want any more children. With a 99% effectiveness, it is arguably the most sure method of contraception.
Emergency contraception pills (also known as the ‘morning-after pill’)
The Emergency Contraception Pill can be used to prevent pregnancy after sex if any other contraception wasn’t used. Whether you experienced a condom mishap or an unfortunate lapse in judgment, having a backup plan may be the best option to preventing an unwanted pregnancy.
While it is sometimes call the ‘Morning After’ pill, it can actually be effective for up to 72 hours after having unprotected sex. The sooner it is taken, the more effective it is.
The choice of birth control you use depends on you. You can speak to a doctor who will help you decide which type is best for you right now. Book an appointment at Marie Stopes South Africa and seek out advice on contraceptive methods to help you find the best one to suit your lifestyle, find your nearest Marie Stopes centre now or make an appointment for an HIV and STI screening.
Source: Marie Stopes South Africa (Safe Abortion and Post Abortion Family Planning)
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