What is contraception?
Contraception simply means to prevent pregnancy. It involves all the methods employed to prevent conception from the meeting of sperm and egg of fertile couples. Contraception is used in family planning to keep an expected family size or achieve good child-spacing in a family. It is also used by singles who are not ready for childbearing but desire vaginal sex with their partners.
The different points in a woman’s menstrual cycle offer opportunities for intercepting pregnancy. The method of action and hormonal content, form the basis of the classification of different contraceptives agents.
We have the male and female condoms which are worn over the penis and inside the vagina respectively. While choosing condoms, always watch out for safety assurance on the packets. Condoms that have been tested for high safety standard has CE mark or BSI kitemark on their packets.
Condoms as a sex barrier offer dual benefits of preventing unwanted pregnancies, as well as protecting you from sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).
Implants contain the hormone progestogen which is released into your bloodstream to prevent ovulation. An implant is usually inserted into the upper arm by a trained doctor or nurse. The procedure is a simple one that does not require stitches afterward.
To be fit for any implant, you need a review by the care providers concerning your health, lifestyle, and medications in use. Implants are very effective in preventing pregnancy but they offer no protection against STIs.
Intra Uterine Device (IUD)
This is a copper device with a T-shape that is inserted into the uterus (womb) to prevent pregnancy. You will need the service of a trained health practitioner to have an IUD fixed. IUDs can prevent pregnancy for about 5-10 by releasing copper into your bloodstream.
Some of the risks associated with IUD include the possibility of your body pushing it out or the device moving out of position in your body. IUDs do not offer protection against STIs too.
Also known as caps. It is another barrier method of contraceptive used to cover the cervix before sex. This is to stop the semen and sperm cells from moving up into the cervix and possibly meeting the egg for possible conception. They are made of soft silicone with a circular dome shape and are often used with spermicides.
These are contraceptive products that are applied inside the vagina before sex to prevent pregnancy. As the name implies, they work by killing sperm cells, thereby making them incapable of fertilizing an egg or ovum.
Spermicides are very convenient to use but couples who use spermicide as their only contraceptive method, stand a higher risk of falling pregnant as they have been reported to be less reliable. For this reason, spermicides are usually used in combination with other methods like condoms, diaphragms, etc.
These are contraceptive injections you can take to prevent pregnancy. The injections release progestogen hormone into your blood and can effectively protect you for about 8-13 weeks depending on the type you chose.
The downside to injectables is the delay in returning to your fertility to normal after the injection expires. This can take up to one year and so may not be fit for you if you desire to have a baby shortly. Injectables are also associated with gain. They may not be suitable for you if are trying to stay in shape.
The progestogen-only pill
These are contraceptive pills that contain only synthetic progestogens and do not contain estrogen. They work mainly by making the cervical mucus too thick for sperm to travel through it. They also reduce the chances of successful implantation by changing the lining of the uterus. They can also prevent ovulation.
The progestogen-only pills must be taken around the same time every day for them to be effective.
The Combined Pill
The combined pills contain both estrogen and progestogen hormones. they are of three types;
- The Monophasic 21-day pills
- The Phasic 21-day pills and
- The Everyday pills.
The monophasic 21-day and phasic 21-day pills are taken for 21 days in a month with a 7 days break, during which you will get period-like bleeding. You are to resuming taking the pill the following month on the same date you started. The Everday pills have a 21 days active pills and 7 days inactive (placebo) pill
You must follow every instruction given to you on how to take oral contraceptives as irregularities can affect their effectiveness.
Emergency Contraceptives (ECPs)
These are the morning after pills used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, or when there is a concern of possible contraceptive failure.
ECPs are more effective when taken as close to the incident as possible. They could prevent pregnancy if taken within 5 days after sex, but it is generally advised that you take them within 72 hours. Keeping one or two packs at home will be helpful.
Natural Family Planning
Natural family planning is a birth control method that ensures the sperm and egg do not meet without using any contraceptive product. Here, the couple learns how to be in tune with their bodies, understand their fertility cycle, and be able to play safely at all times.
The man uses the withdrawal method where he pulls out his penis from his partner’s vagina or anus before releasing the sperm.
On the woman’s part, she is expected to find out the times in her cycle when she is most fertile or least fertile. The period around your ovulation, 5 days prior, and ovulation day is considered your most fertile according to the billings method.
Lactational amenorrhea, a situation where a breastfeeding mom ceases to mensurate due to the hormonal changes in her body, also confers protection against pregnancy and so is considered one of the natural family planning methods.
Natural family planning and several other methods may be able to help you prevent pregnancy but do not offer any protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Click here to read how you can protect yourself through safe sex practices.
Vasectomy and Tubal ligation are the two methods used to prevent pregnancy permanently. In a vasectomy, the tubes that carry the sperm from the testicles are tied to ensure there would be no sperm in the semen after ejaculation. Tubal ligation on the other hand involves the tying of the fallopian tubes in a woman’s reproductive system. This ensures that the sperm do not gain access to the egg to fertilize it.
Contraceptive methods have been used successfully by many couples to prevent pregnancy. It is important, however, that you discuss any plan of contraception with your doctor and family planning clinics. They are in the best position to determine which method/s is/are best for you.