Understanding contraception

Understanding your contraception

With so many different contraceptive methods out there, how do you choose the best one for you?

Understanding contraception
  1. Intrauterine Device (IUD)

    Intrauterine Device (IUD)

    An intrauterine device, or IUD, is a small, T-shaped contraceptive device that fits in the uterus. It's made of plastic and copper and used to be called a 'coil' or 'loop'.

    It offers long-lasting contraception and can stay in the uterus for five to 10 years, depending on what kind is fitted. It is also an easily reversible method of contraception.

    There are different types and sizes of IUD to suit a range of women, it is fitted by a trained doctor or nurse.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitable for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    IUDs are over 99% effective, with less than one woman in 100 getting pregnant in a year. The older an IUD gets, the less copper it contains and the less effective it becomes.

    How it Works

    An IUD is a small plastic and copper device that stops sperm reaching an egg. In addition, it may also stop a fertilised egg implanting in the uterus.

    Advantages

    The main benefit of an IUD is that it starts working immediately after it's been implanted. It can stay fitted for 5-10 years but can also be removed at any time, with no effect on your fertility. And, as long as it's fitted, you don't need to worry about contraception.

    Disadvantages

    IUDs might not be suitable for women who are at risk of getting an STI. There's also a small chance you might get an infection during the first 20 days after it's fitted. Your periods might be heavier, longer or more painful and there is a small increase in the risk of ectopic pregnancies occurring if the IUD fails.

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  2. Intrauterine System (IUS)

    Intrauterine System (IUS)

    An Intrauterine System, or IUS, is a small, T-shaped contraceptive device that fits inside the uterus and releases the female hormone progestogen into the body.

    The IUS available in the UK is called Mirena and works for up to five years after being fitted.

    It is a long-lasting and reversible method of contraception, but it is not a barrier method and can't stop you getting STIs.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitable for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    An IUS is over 99% effective, with less than one woman in 100 will get pregnant over five years.

    How it Works

    An IUS s a small T-shaped plastic device that slowly releases progestogen into the uterus. This helps thicken the cervical mucus, which prevents sperm reaching an egg, thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg implanting and may also stop ovulation.

    Advantages

    It works for five years but they can always be taken out sooner. While it's fitted, your periods will be lighter, shorter and often less painful. You won't have to worry about contraception and your fertility will return to normal when it is removed. An IUS will also not be affected by any other medicine you are taking.

    Disadvantages

    Irregular bleeding and spotting is common in the first six months and your periods might even stop altogether. Some women have experienced acne, headaches and breast tenderness and there is a very small chance of getting an infection during the first 20 days of insertion. There is also a risk of ovarian cysts when using IUSs.

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  3. Implant

    Implant

    The Implant is a 4cm long flexible tube containing progestogen. It's inserted under the skin of your upper arm by a trained professional and lasts for three years. The implant used is called Nexplanon.

    The implant can be removed at any time by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It takes a few minutes to remove, using a local anaesthetic. As soon as the implant is removed, you will no longer be protected against pregnancy.

    If you want to use a different method of contraception after the implant, you will need to start this seven days before the implant is removed. This is because sperm can survive in the womb for up to seven days after sex.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitable for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    The implant is 99% effective, with less than one woman in 1,000 getting pregnant over the three years after it is inserted.

    How it Works

    A small flexible rod containing the hormone progestogen is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. The hormone stops ovulation, thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm reaching an egg and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg from implanting.

    Advantages

    The implant works for three years but it can be taken out sooner if necessary. The good thing is, you don\\\'t have to worry about contraception for as long as the implant is in place and, once the implant is removed, your fertility will return to normal.

    Disadvantages

    Your periods might stop, be irregular or last longer. You might also get acne, have noticeable mood changes or experience tender breasts. It also requires a small surgical procedure to be inserted and removed.

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  4. Contraceptive Injection

    Contraceptive Injection

    Containing the hormone progestogen, the contraceptive injection lasts for either 8 or 12 weeks. It is usually given into a muscle in your bottom, but sometimes it needs to be injected into a muscle in your upper arm.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitable for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    The injection is over 99% effective, with less than one in 100 women getting pregnant in a year.

    How it Works

    The injection releases a hormone call progestogen. This stops ovulation, thickens cervical mucus to help prevent sperm reaching an egg and also thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg from implanting.

    Advantages

    There are two types of injection – Depo-Provera which lasts 12 weeks and Noristerat which lasts 8 weeks. It is thought that they might protect against cancer of the uterus, as well as offering protection from pelvic inflammatory disease. You also don't even have to think about contraception for as long as the injection is effective.

    Disadvantages

    Your periods might stop, be irregular or longer. They might take a while to return after stopping the injection. In addition, some women might gain weight, while others might experience headaches, acne, mood changes and breast tenderness.

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  5. Combined Pill (COC)

    Combined Pill (COC)

    The combined oral contraceptive – or COC – pill contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen.

    As well as being able to prevent pregnancy, the COC pill can also be taken for painful or heavy periods, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or endometriosis.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitable for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    The COC pill is 99% effective, if taken according to the manufacturer's instructions. Less than one in 100 women will get pregnant during a typical year of use.

    How it Works

    The COC pill releases two hormones – oestrogen and progestogen – into the body. These stop ovulation, thicken cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg from implanting.

    Advantages

    Taking the COC pill can reduce bleeding, period pain and PMS symptoms. It may also protect against ovary, colon and uterus cancers, as well as some pelvic infections. Once you stop taking the pill, your fertility will also return to normal. The COC pill is effective and suitable for healthy non-smokers up until the menopause.

    Disadvantages

    The COC pill is not suitable for women who are overweight or smokers over 35. There can be some temporary side effects including headaches, nausea, mood changes and breast tenderness. There is also a very low risk of blood clots, breast cancer and cervical cancer.

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  6. Progestogen-only Pill (POP)

    Progestogen-only Pill (POP)

    The progestogen-only pill – or POP – is an oral contraception method that helps prevent a woman from becoming pregnant when she has sex.

    The POP is an alternative option for women who can't take the combined contraceptive (COC) pill. This includes women who are over the age of 35, or those who smoke.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitable for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    The POP is more than 99% effective if taken according to the manufacturer's instructions. Less than one in 100 women will get pregnant in a year.

    How it Works

    The POP contains the hormone progestogen which thicken cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg from implanting. Sometimes it will also stop ovulation.

    Advantages

    There are no serious side effects from using the POP. It can be used by women who can't use oestrogen, as well as those who smoke and are over 35. You can even use it when you're breastfeeding.

    Disadvantages

    Using the POP might make your periods stop, be irregular, lighter or more frequent. There are some temporary side effects, such as acne, weight change and headaches. There is also a risk of ectopic pregnancy and ovarian cysts.

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  7. Contraceptive Vaginal Ring

    Contraceptive Vaginal Ring

    A contraceptive vaginal ring is a small, soft plastic ring about 4mm thick and 5.5cm in diameter.

    You place it in your vagina for 21 days at a time, starting on the first day of your period. After 21 days you remove it, put it in a special bag and then put it in the bin. You then wait seven days before inserting a new one for another 21 days.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitable for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    The contraceptive vaginal ring is more than 99% effective if used according to the manufacturer's instructions. Less than one in 100 women will become pregnant during one year of use.

    How it Works

    This small, flexible ring releases oestrogen and progestogen, which stops ovulation, as well as thickening cervical mucus to stop sperm from reaching an egg. It also thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg from implanting.

    Advantages

    The main benefit is you don't have to think about it every day. It can help make bleeding during your period lighter, more regular and less painful. It may also protect against several cancers, including ovary, colon and uterus. It is not affected if you're unwell, vomit or have diarrhoea. Your fertility will also return to normal once you stop using the ring.

    Disadvantages

    The ring is not suitable for everyone, including very overweight women or smokers over the age of 35. There can be some temporary side effects, including increased vaginal discharge and infections, headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes. There is also a very low risk of blood clots, as well as breast and cervical cancer.

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  8. Contraceptive Patch

    Contraceptive Patch

    The contraceptive patch is a bit like a nicotine patch. It is a 5cm square that delivers oestrogen and progestogen directly into the body, via the skin. Each patch only lasts one week and, after three weeks, you have a week off.

    In the UK, the patch is supplied under the brand name of Evra.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitable for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    The contraceptive patch is more than 99% effective if it's used according to the manufacturer's instructions. Less than one in 100 women will get pregnant during one year of use.

    How it Works

    The patch releases the hormones oestrogen and progestogen through the skin. This stops ovulation, thickens cervical mucus to prevent the sperm and egg meeting and thins the lining of the uterus to stop the implantation of any fertilised eggs.

    Advantages

    The main benefit of using the patch is you don't need to think about it every day. It can make bleeding during your periods lighter, more regular and less painful. When you stop using a patch your fertility will return to normal and it is not affected by vomiting or diarrhoea. The patch may also help protect against ovary, colon and uterus cancers.

    Disadvantages

    The contraceptive patch won't work for everyone. It isn't suitable for women who are overweight or those smoke and are over 35. There are also risks of temporary side effects including headaches, nausea, mood changes and breast tenderness. You may also experience a skin reaction. There is a very low risk of serious side effects including blood clots, as well as breast and colon cervical cancer.

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  9. Male Condom

    Male Condom

    Condoms are a form of barrier contraception.

    The male condom fits over a man’s erect penis. They prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from reaching an egg.

    Condoms can also help to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, being passed from one sexual partner to another. They are used for penetrative sex (vagina or anus) and oral sex to protect against STIs.

    Condoms are made from very thin latex rubber or a very thin plastic, either polyisoprene or polyurethane.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitale for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    The male condom is 98% effective according to the manufacturer's instructions.

    How it Works

    Male condoms are made of very thin latex, rubber or plastic. They are put over the erect penis to stop sperm from entering the vagina during sex.

    Advantages

    Condoms are available free from the KWC and some other health centres and are sold widely in pharmacists and supermarkets. Not only do condoms help prevent pregnancy, they are also effective protection against many STIs, including HIV. There are no medical side effects and no additional spermicide or treatment is needed.

    Disadvantages

    Putting on a condom can interrupt sex. They may also split or slip off if the wrong size or shape is used. The man needs to withdraw as soon as he has ejaculated and before the penis goes soft, so no semen is spilt.

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  10. Female Condom

    Female Condom

    Condoms are a form of barrier contraception.

    The female condom is put into the vagina and loosely lines it.

    Condoms can also help to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, being passed from one sexual partner to another. They are used for penetrative sex (vagina or anus) and oral sex to protect against STIs.

    Female condoms are made from very thin latex rubber or a very thin plastic, either polyisoprene or polyurethane.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitable for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    The female condom is 95% effective if used according to the manufacturer's instructions.

    How it Works

    The female condom is a soft, thin plastic sheath that loosely lines the vagina and the area just outside. It stops any sperm from entering the vagina.

    Advantages

    The main advantage is it can help prevent against some STIs – including HIV – as well as help protect against unplanned pregnancies. There are no medical side effects, there's no need for spermicide and it can be put on at any time during sex.

    Disadvantages

    Putting it on can interrupt sex and you need to make sure that the man's penis enters the condom and does not slip between the condom and the vagina. It may also get pushed into the vagina during sex. They are not as widely available as male condoms.

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  11. Diaphragm/Cap with Spermicide

    Diaphragm/Cap with Spermicide

    Diaphragms and caps are barrier methods of contraception. Diaphragms are soft domes made of latex or silicone. Caps are smaller and are also made of latex or silicone.

    They fit inside your vagina and prevent sperm from passing into the cervix.

    To be effective, both diaphragms and caps need to be used in combination with a spermicide, a chemical that kills sperm.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitable for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    Latex versions of diaphragms and caps are 92-96% effective if used correctly. Four to eight women in 100 will get pregnant during a year's use. Silicone caps are not as effective.

    How it Works

    A flexible latex or silicone device, it is used with spermicide and put into the vagina to cover the cervix. This effectively stops sperm from entering the uterus and meeting an egg.

    Advantages

    You can put a diaphragm or cap in at any time before sex and you only have to use it when you have sex. There are no serious health risks associated with using a cap.

    Disadvantages

    Putting a diaphragm or cap in could interrupt sex. You need to take time to learn how to use it correctly. In addition, you need to use additional spermicide if you want to have sex again and some people can be sensitive to the spermicide itself. Some diaphragm users can also experience cystitis.

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  12. Natural Family Planning

    Natural Family Planning

    Natural family planning is a form of birth control using natural signs, such as body temperature, to identify when a woman is at her least and most fertile during each menstrual cycle.

    You can then avoid pregnancy by only having sex during infertile periods of the woman's cycle.

    To find out if this form of Contraception is suitable for you please visit www.contraceptionadvisor.co.uk

    Effectiveness

    If the method is recorded or interpreted correctly – and you follow all advice and instructions – you can achieve up to 99% effectiveness. Up to one woman in 100 will get pregnant during a year.

    How it Works

    You need to identify the fertile and infertile times of your menstrual cycle by checking for different fertility indicators. This will show a pattern, which in turn will highlight when you can have sex without risk of pregnancy.

    Advantages

    There are no physical side effects of natural family planning. You will also get a better understanding of your body, with no chemicals or products used at all. You can also use this method to help plan a pregnancy.

    Disadvantages

    You will still need to avoid sex or use a condom during the fertile times of your cycle. It will take you between three to six cycles to fully understand your body and you will have to keep daily records.

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Where can I get contraception?

You can get contraception and further sexual health advice by visiting your GP or contacting your local CaSH service, details of these can be found on the NHS Choices website.

You can find more sexual health information, as well as advice and guidance on a range of other health-related topics, by visiting the KWC website.