Contraception can be confusing right? There are so many options and equally so many options that will not suit you so picking the right one takes some time and research. Depending on where you are at with the whole “baby making” topic matters too as you may want short-term contraception as you are planning on having more kids or you may be on the other side of the fence with no interest in more kids and therefore, need something long-term and reliable!
Female condom - They are seven-inch-long pouches of polyurethane with two flexible rings. They are inserted into the vagina before intercourse and cover the cervix, vagina and the area around the vagina. They can be inserted any time before sex and they are stronger than the male condom. They also reduce the chances of contracting STDs. They are approximately 95% effective if used correctly.
- The combined pill is a hormonal method of contraception. It contains two hormones (oestrogen and progestogen). The combined pill can reduce pre-menstrual syndrome, period pain and extreme periods. It can prevent cancer of the womb and ovary. Though it is not suitable for smokers or those who have high blood pressure or diabetes. When sick with vomiting or diarrhoea it may not be as effective. There can be side effects and it doesn’t protect against STDs. Though it is approx. 99% effective.
- The progestogen-only pill contains only one hormone - progestogen. It can relieve PMS and painful periods while it can be taken if you are breastfeeding or if you are a smoker. It must be taken at the same time of day, every day. Like the combined pill sickness effects, its effectiveness rate of 98%.
- Contraceptive injection - It is an injection of hormones that provides a longer-acting alternative to the pill. It is given by a healthcare professional approximately every 12 weeks. An injection lasts for 12 weeks and therefore it is extremely reliable, but it must be administered on time every three months to retain its effectiveness rate of 99%. Regular periods and fertility may take a year or more to return to normal after stopping the injections.
- Contraceptive Patch - It is a thin, beige patch not unlike a plaster that releases oestrogen and progestogen into the bloodstream through the skin. Each patch is worn for seven days and continuously for three weeks, followed by a patch-free week. Unlike the pill, it is not affected by sickness. It may not be suitable for those who cannot take the combined pill. It is visible on the skin and it is more expensive than the pill too. It is 99% effective.
- Diaphragm/cap - It is a circular dome made of rubber, which is fitted by the woman over her cervix (neck of the womb) before sex. It acts as a barrier to stop sperm from getting through to the uterus. It should be used with a spermicide. A doctor or nurse will fit a diaphragm initially to check which size you need and teach you how to use it. It is only to be used when you are sexually active, and it protects against some STDs. It must stay in place for 6 hours after sex. Approximately 92-96% effective, if used correctly.
- Implants - Implants are a soft tube that is placed under the skin of the upper arm. It can be felt, but it isn’t visible. The implant is fitted during your period and it takes about ten minutes under local anaesthetic. The implant is effective for three years, but you can have it removed if you want. You can breastfeed if you have an implant. Fertility returns very quickly after removal. Implants are approximately 99% effective.
- The IUCD (‘The Coil’) - It is a small plastic and copper device that is put into the womb. It works instantly and can stay in place for five years or more. It is unsuitable for women who have more than one sexual partner. There is no protection against STDs. A specially trained doctor must put it in and it is approximately 98-99% effective.
- Intrauterine System (IUS)/Mirena - IUS is a small T-shaped plastic intrauterine device that contains the hormone, progestogen. It is like an IUD. It is effective as soon as it is placed in the womb and lasts for at least five years. It is useful for women with heavy, painful periods as it makes periods lighter, shorter and less painful. Periods are usually irregular for up to 12 weeks after insertion. More than 99% effective.
- Vaginal Ring is a flexible, translucent, plastic ring. The ring is inserted into the vagina by the woman herself and remains in place for three weeks and then it should be removed. The name of the only vaginal ring available in Ireland at present is NuvaRing. The vaginal ring is particularly suitable for women who forget to take the pill. Some are uncomfortable inserting it and others complain they can feel it during sex. The vaginal ring is 99% effective if properly used.
- There is also Female Sterilisation or Male Sterilisation to consider and if you are considering this long-term solution you should like all the above, discuss your options with your doctor.