Sex is very important to a relationship, and is also a highly personal and delicate matter. As such, contraception too is also both a sensitive topic and an incredibly important one to consider. When opting on a form of contraception you will need to consider many factors – how invasive it is as a procedure (and how long-lasting), how conducive or disruptive it may be to your regular sexual activities, how it fits with your own philosophies regarding abortion and protection and more.
Fortunately with so many options available, each with their own unique pros and cons, there is almost bound to be a form that appeals to you. Here we’ll look at some of those options and hopefully help you to come to a conclusion regarding the one that best suits you.
The Pill – The pill, or the ‘birth control pill’, is a contraceptive pill that alters the balance of hormones in the female body and thereby prevents fertilisation and alters the menstrual cycle. The most commonly used forms use a synthetic hormone called progestin which interrupts ovulation. This is a highly effective form of contraception which is suitable for couples who are known to be free of STIs.
The ‘Morning After Pill’ – This method of contraception should only really be considered a ‘back up plan’ and involves higher doses of the hormones seen in the regular pill (progestin and oestrogen) in order to prevent fertilisation or implantation.
Condom – Condoms are simple rubber tubes that cover the man’s penis in order to prevent the exchange of fluids during intercourse. They are the most popular form of contraception due to their isolated effect, low cost and high effectiveness. However there are also downsides to condoms, with the most notable being the fact that they decrease sensitivity for both the man and woman thereby limiting sexual enjoyment. It is possible to get condoms for both men and women.
Vasectomy – A vasectomy, also known as ‘getting the snip’, involves a minor surgical procedure wherein a man has the vasa deferentia severed in order to prevent sperm from entering into the seminal stream (the ejaculate). This does not effect their sexual activity or orgasms in any way, and results in only mild discomfort. In some cases mild problems can occur as a result of sperm build up.
Timing – One form of contraception that is certain to have no side effects is to simply time sex carefully. Here, by only having sex immediately after the woman has been on her period, it is possible to drastically decrease the chances of her getting pregnant. Of course this method is not as effective as to use a man-made contraceptive and at the same time to use this method alone would drastically limit the frequency of intercourse. Of course this also will not protect against sexually transmitted infection.
‘Pulling Out’ – Similarly, another completely ‘natural’ contraceptive measure is for the man to ensure he pulls out of the woman before ejaculation as it is the sperm which is responsible for getting a woman pregnant. However this method is far from secure, particularly as the penis produces small amounts of semen all the way through sex. This reduces the chance of a pregnancy then, but should not be used as a permanent form of contraception. Again this will not protect you from sexually transmitted infection either. However for long term couples, pulling out combined with careful timing can give couples a chance to have unprotected sex without being on the pill or another form of contraception with minimum risk.
Contraceptive Injection – A contraceptive injection is an injection that prevents women from ovulating for around 12 weeks, essentially giving them a higher dose of the same hormones found in many contraceptive pills (usually progestin/progestogen). This is a highly effective form of contraception and does away with the need to remember and carry around any tablets. However it is effectiveness is hinged on the woman’s ability to return for another injection when necessary as there will be no obvious signs that it has ‘worn off’. Similarly some other medications can interfere with the contraceptive injection which you should always check with your GP.
Implant – An implant is a small tube implanted into the skin which slowly releases progestin/progestogen. This is highly effective (over 99%) and lasts for three years making it a popular long term solution. However both implants and contraceptive injections frequently cause irregular menstrual cycles.
Tubal Ligation – Tubal ligation is a form of permanent contraception that the woman undergoes. Also known as ‘having your tubes tied’ or ‘female sterilization’, this involves blocking, clamping or tying the fallopian tubes in order to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg and the egg from travelling to the uterus. This is a highly effective form of contraception that only results in mild discomfort to perform. However at the same time it is a technique that results in permanent infertility and does not protect against STIs and where reversals are not 100% effective. Thus it is only suitable for couples who are in a stable relationship and have already had, or do not want, children. In some cases this can lead to altered menstrual cycles and ectopic pregnancy (a dangerous pregnancy that takes place outside of the uterus).