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Contraception

The Different Types of Female Contraceptives

There are several different types of female contraceptives available: short-acting, long-lasting, and barrier methods, permanent methods and emergency contraception. Here’s everything that you need to know.

Long-acting methods:

Copper IUD (Intrauterine device)

An Intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, T-shaped device that gets inserted into your uterus. Copper wire is wrapped around the stem of the IUD. Copper is deadly to sperm and causes the uterus and fallopian tubes to produce a fluid that destroys sperm before it can reach the egg.

How long does it last? A copper IUD can last between 5 to 10 years.

The Implant

The implant is a plastic rod that is inserted under the skin of the upper, inner part of the arm. The device releases small amounts of progestogen into your body. Just like the hormonal IUD, it stops ovulation and thickens the mucous in the uterus, which prevents sperm from reaching the egg. Furthermore, the implant alters the lining of the uterus so a fertilised egg cannot implant and start growing. The implant is non-invasive, lasts between three to five years and only requires a single visit to a clinic to be fitted.

Short-acting methods:

Combined Pill

More commonly known as ‘the pill’, the oral contraceptive contains a mixture of two hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, which prevent ovulation from taking place. Combination pills must be taken at the same time on a daily basis to be most effective.

Progestogen-only pill

The progestogen-only pill works the same way as the combination 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. Just like the combination pill, it should also be taken at the same time every day. You can purchase packs containing a one- month’s supply.

The Contraceptive Patch

The contraceptive patch contains the identical hormones found in combination pills – oestrogen and progesterone. You apply it to a specific area on your skin such as your belly,  back or upper arm is recommended.) You need to put on the patch once a week for three weeks, keep it off for one week, start the cycle again. You can purchase packs containing one month’s supply.

The Injection

The injection is a safe contraceptive method. Also known as the ‘birth-control shot’, it contains progestogen which prevents ovulation. However, please note that you’ll need to have the injection every 2 to 3 months.

Barrier methods:

Female condoms

Female condoms need to be inserted internally. One of the key benefits is that you can insert it up to eight hours before you have sex, and it will still be very effective. Also, it covers a larger surface area than a male condom, so it reduces the amount of skin-to-skin contact, which lessens the chances of contracting an STD. The good news is that female condoms are sold in packs of three, or you can get them for free at government clinics.

Permanent methods:

Tubal ligation / female sterilisation

Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure that is also referred to as having ‘your tubes tied’. Your fallopian tubes are cut and tied, which prevents the egg from travelling to your uterus. The procedure is approximately 99% effective and it can be reversed.

Emergency contraception:

Emergency contraception pills (also known as the ‘morning-after pill’)

Accidents do happen. If you have unprotected sex, forget to take birth control pills or a condom (male or female) breaks during sex, emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy from taking place. The morning-after pill must be taken within 3 days (72 hours after sex.) You’ll be able to get the pill at your local government clinic or chemist.

The Copper IUD

The device is able be fitted within five days after having had unprotected sex. It can last up to 10 years.

Source: Marie Stopes South Africa (Safe Abortion and Post Abortion Family Planning)

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