The Various Methods of Birth Control
For many women, the dream of having a baby is the most important goal in life. However, it is also important to be able to control the timing of the little miracle arriving. Planning a pregnancy takes precision and preparation, and one of aspect of this task is ensuring you conceive when you are ready with no surprises!
In the UK there are a multitude of methods of birth control. Some are hormone based, whereas others rely on physical devices, or a combination of both. There also exists natural methods, as well as permanent forms of contraception.
Different Methods of Birth Control
• The Pill
Combined – this oral method of contraception contains synthetic oestrogen and progesterone to mimic the hormones produced in the ovaries. These prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs or ovulating, and make it hard for sperm to reach the egg by thickening the neck of the womb, or for an egg to implant in lining of womb by thinning it – a triple whammy!
It's over 99% effecting at preventing pregnancy if taken correctly – take for 21 days at same time of day, then stop for 7 days. If you miss one, or are ill, you could get pregnant.
It has a positive effect on period symptoms and mood swings during periods.
There is a very low risk of serious side effects including blood clots and cervical cancer, and it is not recommended for women over 35 who smoke.
Progestogen only – this oral pill only contains progesterone, not oestrogen, and thickens the mucus in the cervix, thus stopping the sperm reaching the egg. Some types also stop ovulation
If taken correctly it is over 99% effective. You take a pill every day with no breaks, and your periods may stop or become very light.
It is suitable for over 35's who smoke or women with high blood pressure or previous clots. Women who can not take the combined pill for this reason can happily use the progesterone only pill.
If you are ill or take it at different times of the day, it may not be as effective.
• Condoms – mostly worn by men, but a female version is available that is worn inside the vagina. Condoms are effective at preventing sexually transmitted diseases as well as pregnancies. The female condom is 95% effective and the male version is 98% effective.
• Implants – small tubes are implanted under the skin. It slowly release progesterone and lasts for 3 years. It's a long term solution, and is over 99% effective
• Injections – two types are available; the Depo-Provera lasts for 12 weeks, and the Noristerat lasts for 8 weeks. It is progesterone based and works in the same slow release method as the implant. Again, it is over 99% effective.
• Patches – similar to a nicotine patch, these contain both oestrogen and progesterone and are also over 99% effective. Each patch last three weeks, and on the fourth week you stop wearing a patch.
• Cap or Diaphragm – a soft silicone cap is inserted over the cervix to stop sperm entering the womb – it's about 92-96% effective, and can take a bit of getting used to! You also need to use spermicide when you are wearing it.
• Intrauterine – this is a T-shaped plastic and copper device that is inserted by a nurse into the uterus. The IUD's with more copper are more effective – over 99% effective. Other types release progesterone. They work for five years so you don't have to think about contraception at all.
• Vaginal Ring – this method involves placing a ring in the vagina which releases oestrogen and progesterone directly where it is needed. You wear it for 21 days, discard it, leave it for 7 days then insert a new one. If the rules are followed correctly it can be over 99% effective, but it is estimated that it is only 75% effective due to human errors.
• Natural – this method relies on knowing your fertility patterns during the month, and when you can have sex without falling pregnant.
• Permanent – surgery in the form of male or female sterilisation should not be taken lightly!
When to Stop Using Contraception if Trying for a Baby
If using the longer term contraception such as implants, injections and IUD's you may need to plan further ahead if you are wanting to try for a baby. It is possible to remove devices early so speak to your doctor.
If you miss just one pill or forget to use a condom, you can immediately become pregnant. However for some women who have been taking oral contraception, it may take a few months to start ovulating again properly, which is generally indicated by your periods settling back into a regular pattern.
Everybody is different and reacts differently – there are no definite answers. Just be aware that it is essential to thoroughly assess your current situation for the best success in planning a family.