If you are sexually active, you might be considering contraceptive options to protect yourself from unplanned pregnancies.
Contraception aims to prevent pregnancy; it tries to stop pregnancy by stopping egg production, keeping the sperm and egg apart, or stopping the combination of egg and sperm (fertilisation of egg) from attachment to the lining of the womb.
Women, men, or couples at any given point in their lifetimes need to consider many elements (such as effectiveness, availability, acceptability, and safety) when choosing the most appropriate contraceptive method. An essential guiding principle like contraceptive counselling might be of great value to the successful use of contraceptives.
When choosing a contraceptive method, double protection of spermicides should be considered from the concurrent risk for HIV and other STDs.
While hormonal contraceptives and intrauterine devices (I.U.D.s) are highly effective at pregnancy prevention, they do not protect against S.T.D.s and HIV infection.
However, consistent and proper use of male latex condoms (a barrier method of contraception) will reduce the risk of H.I.V. infection and other S.T.D.s such as gonococcal infection, trichomoniasis, and chlamydia infection.
The different types
There are different types of contraceptive methods that you can choose. They include;
1. Barrier methods
A barrier method of contraception prevents pregnancy by obstructing the sperm from entering the vagina, i.e. it blocks the sperm from reaching an egg. Various types of barrier methods exist. Some of them are;
a. Male condoms
A male condom holds sperm from entering a woman’s body. The most common type is latex, which helps prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
All condoms (e.g., latex, synthetic, “natural,” or lambskin”) can be used only once. Latex condoms should not be used with oil-based lubricants to avoid weakening, which may lead to tears or breaks.
b. Female condoms
The female condom assists in keeping sperm away from getting into a woman’s body. It is packaged with lubricant and may help prevent S.T.D.s. It can be inserted up to 8 hours before sexual intercourse.
Spermicides work by killing sperm. It comes in several forms (e.g., suppository, tablet, cream, film, gel, or foam). They are placed inside the vagina about 1 hour before sexual intercourse and then left in place for about 6 to 8 hours after sex.
Spermicides can be used alongside male condoms, cervical caps, or diaphragm.
d. Cervical cap or diaphragm
These barrier methods of contraception are placed in the vagina to shield the cervix from blocking the sperm. They are inserted with spermicide before intercourse to kill or block sperm.
The cervical cap is a thimble-shaped cup, while the diaphragm is a shallow-shaped cup. It would be best if you visit or speak to a doctor for proper fitting to use either because cervical caps and diaphragms come in disparate sizes.
2. Intrauterine contraceptive device
Intrauterine devices are small contraceptive devices inserted into the womb (uterus) to prevent pregnancy. Two types exist;
a. Levonorgestrel (LNG)
The levonorgestrel intrauterine system (LNG IUD) is a small T-shaped device placed inside the uterus by a doctor. This device causes the release of small amounts of progestin daily to keep the woman from getting pregnant. Depending on the device, the LNG IUD can stay in the uterus for up to 3 to 6 years.
b. Copper T (I.U.D.)
The copper T intrauterine device (I.U.D.) is a small T-shaped device placed inside the uterus by the doctor to prevent pregnancy. It can remain in the uterus for up to 10 years.
3. Hormonal methods
The main hormones, progestins, and estrogens involved in the menstrual cycle are used to prevent conception.
Hormones prevent pregnancy by blocking the ovaries from releasing eggs or by holding mucus to thicken the cervix so that sperm cannot get into the uterus through the cervix.
Hormonal methods, therefore, prevent eggs from being fertilised. Some forms of this method are;
a. Combined oral contraceptives
Doctors prescribe these oral contraceptives (also called “the pill”). It contains oestrogen and progestin hormones that must be taken simultaneously daily. A person older than 35 who still smokes and has a history of breast cancer or blood clots may be advised by a doctor not to take the pill.
b. Progestin-only pill
The progestin-only pill (occasionally called mini-pill) is composed of only one hormone, progestin (oestrogen is absent), unlike the combined pill. It is also prescribed by a doctor, like the combined pill and is taken daily. It is suitable for women who don’t take oestrogen.
The implant is a single tiny rod that is placed beneath the skin of a woman’s upper arm. The rod is composed of progestin, which releases the hormone into the body over three years.
d. Hormonal vaginal contraceptive ring
This ring is placed inside the vagina and then releases the hormones oestrogen and progestin in the body. The ring is worn for three weeks, after which it is taken out for the week you are about to have your period. A new ring is then replaced after that.
e. “Shot” or Injection
Women can get shots of progestin hormone in the arm or the buttocks every three months by a doctor.
4. Lactational amenorrhea method (LAM)
The lactational amenorrhea method is for women who have recently had a baby and are breastfeeding. This method can be used as birth control only when three conditions are met;
- Certainty of amenorrhea (there must not be any menstrual periods after giving birth to their baby)
- Fully or partially breastfeeding
- Not up to 6 months after delivery.
Another birth control method must be used if these conditions cannot be met. After all, L.A.M. is a temporary method of contraception.
All types of contraception listed in this article are reversible methods only. You can book an appointment to speak with a doctor if you are considering the permanent methods (e.g, vasectomy and tubal ligation) of contraception.