Contraception has been the biggest influence in the advancement of female autonomy. Birth control gives women reign over our bodies, empowering us to defer starting and raising a family until we decide we're ready. Many women have decided to postpone raising kids in pursuit of academic and professional growth. Studies have revealed that having children is a primary contributor to the wage gap between men and women. Women without children tend to advance in their careers further and faster than their mommy counterparts and make wages more in line with their male counterparts.
Contraception helps people avoid pregnancy or aid in planning when to get pregnant. It means you can relax and enjoy sex without worrying about getting pregnant if you don't want to. You will still need to use a condom to protect from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
There are lots of different types of contraception or ‘birth control’ available, so you can find one that fits with your lifestyle. The information on this page can help you decide which is right for you.
Most forms of contraception outlined on this page are used by women. However, it’s important for couples to talk about contraception and share responsibility for using it correctly. Together, you can make a decision about which one is right for you.
How do you choose the right type of contraception?
Your healthcare professional will be able to talk you through the different types of contraception available and answer any questions you have. Some things to think about are:
* how often you need to take it
* how long it lasts
* potential side effects
* how effective it is at preventing pregnancy
* how you will protect yourself from STIs
* if/how soon you plan on getting pregnant in the future
* any health conditions you have and other medication you are taking, including HIV treatment.
What are the different types of contraception?
Hormonal contraception works by releasing hormones into your body to stop you from getting pregnant. There are several types:
The pill’ or combination pill – contains two hormones (oestrogen and progestogen). You usually take one pill every day for 21 days before taking a seven-day break. Taking sugar pills during this period helps keep the routine. After a week, you start taking the pill again.
Progesterone-only pill (POP) or ‘mini pill’ – only contains progestogen and is taken every day, with no breaks.
Contraceptive patch – a small, sticky patch placed on your skin. You wear each patch for a week before changing it. After three weeks, you take the patch off for seven days before starting again with a new patch.
Vaginal ring – a small plastic ring you place inside your vagina. You use it for 21 days before taking it out for seven days. After a week you put in a new ring.
When used correctly, hormonal contraception is very effective. Some women find it easy to remember to take the pill every day, while others prefer the patch and the ring because they do not have to think about those as often.
At first, some women notice some side effects from taking hormonal contraception, such as breast tenderness, changes in mood, and light bleeding between periods. These usually go away after a few weeks but speak to your healthcare professional if you are worried or find any side effects hard to manage.
Very rarely, women have more serious side effects, including blood clots. Your healthcare professional will be able to let you know if you are at risk and may take your blood pressure to check. They can recommend a different type of contraception if necessary.
Some HIV treatments can make some hormonal contraceptives less effective. If you are taking HIV treatment, it’s important to talk to your healthcare professional when deciding which contraceptive to use. You should also tell them about any other type of medications you’re taking, including any herbal remedies, in case they affect your chosen contraception.
Long-acting reversible contraception:
Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) can last for weeks, months, or years at a time. There are several types:
Intrauterine system or IUS – a small, T-shaped plastic device inserted into your womb by a healthcare professional. It releases progestogen to stop you from getting pregnant and lasts for three to five years.
Contraceptive injection – an injection containing progestogen lasts for 8 to 13 weeks, depending on the type of injection. You’ll then need a repeat injection. Depo provera is one of the most common brands of injection. (It's not my personal favorite since I gained a lot of weight.)
Contraceptive implant – a small plastic rod placed under the skin in your upper arm that releases progestogen. Usually lasts for three years. Nexplanon (also called Implanon) is one of the most common brands.
Intra-uterine device (IUD), also known as the ‘copper coil’ or ‘the coil’ – a small, T-shaped plastic and copper device inserted into your womb. The IUD is non-hormonal. Instead, it releases copper to stop you from getting pregnant and lasts for five to ten years. (My personal jam!)
Many women prefer long-acting contraception as you don’t need to remember to take it every day or every time you have sex. This also makes it one of the most reliable forms of contraception.
Some women notice mild side effects, such as breast tenderness, headaches, and changes to our period. This is usually nothing to worry about, but speak to your healthcare professional if you are concerned or find any of these changes difficult to deal with.
Once the IUS, implant, or IUD is removed, you’ll be able to get pregnant straight away. However, after you stop having the injection, it can take up to a year for your fertility to return to normal. You may want to consider this if you want to get pregnant soon after.
Other types of contraception:
Diaphragm or cervical cap - a small device placed inside your vagina to stop sperm from getting to the egg. For diaphragms and caps to work, you also need to use a spermicide (a chemical you put in your vagina that destroys sperm). However, some spermicides can increase your risk of getting HIV by irritating the skin.
Natural family planning involves following the signs of fertility during your menstrual cycle to work out when you are most likely to get pregnant (the rhythm method). This is one of the least reliable methods of contraception, so it is only appropriate for couples who are thinking of having a baby soon and wouldn’t mind becoming pregnant. Speak to a healthcare professional before considering this option.
Emergency contraception - if you have had unprotected sex or your contraception has ‘failed’ (for example, the condom broke or you forgot to take your pill), you can take emergency contraception to help prevent pregnancy.
There are two types:
* Emergency contraceptive or ‘morning after’ pill – most pills need to be taken within 72 hours (three days), although some can work even after five days. But the earlier you take a pill, the more likely it is to work. Several medicines, including some types of HIV treatment, can make the morning after pill less effective, so speak to your medical professional about any medication you’re taking.
* IUD or copper coil – can also be fitted as a form of emergency contraception up to five days after having unprotected sex. You can then use it as a regular form of contraception.
Can't forget about my people of male persuasion:
Condoms (male and female):
Condoms are the only type of contraception that prevents pregnancy and stops you from getting STIs. You can use either male or female condoms.
Many people choose to use ‘double protection’, using condoms with another method such as the pill or the implant to be extra safe. Remember, you should never use two condoms at the same time, as this makes them more likely to split (which means you won’t be protected from pregnancy or STIs).
Conventional Vasectomy - For this type, the doctor makes cuts in your scrotum to reach two tubes. Each tube is called a "vas deferens," and you have one for each testicle. Your doctor may remove a small piece of each tube and leave a short gap between the two ends. They might sear each end, but they will tie each one off with a stitch. Your doctor may be able to do both with one cut, or they may have to make a second cut. You might get stitches that dissolve over time to help the cuts close. When each vas deferens has been cut, sperm can no longer reach your semen or leave your body.
No-Scalpel Vasectomy - The doctor feels for each vas deferens under your scrotum and uses a clamp to hold it in place. They’ll make a tiny hole in your skin, stretch it open, and lift each vas deferens out. They’ll cut it, then seal it with searing, stitches, or both.
These procedures are nearly 100% effective. In very rare cases, the tubes can rejoin. If that happens, sperm could leave your body and cause a pregnancy.
Pulling out - this is as unreliable as the rhythm method, but some guys swear by their timing.
While it's made some strides since then, men are still left with few options for birth control, besides a vasectomy. It's not due to a lack of interest but a lack of funding for research — and biology. Men produce millions of sperm each day. Even if that count is reduced by 90%, they could still be fertile.
It’s also a good idea to get tested for STIs after having unprotected sex. Unwanted or unplanned pregnancy isn't the only thing to consider when doing the horizontal mambo