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    Contraception options

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      Deciding on what type of birth control to use is an important decision. It’s important to be aware of the different options available, including hormonal and non-hormonal types, so you can make an informed choice about what’s best for your body.

      Our doctors have outlined the benefits and limitations of the main types of birth control. For more specific advice about what’s best for your needs, you should visit your GP or local family planning clinic. 

      If you’re registered with us, send a message via your Patient Record to ask about changing your pill.

      Barrier

      A barrier method of contraception involves the use of a physical block that prevents sperm from reaching and fertilising an egg. The most commonly used type is the male condom, but women can use caps, diaphragms or female condoms instead.

      Advantages:

      Disadvantages:

      • Diaphragms and caps to be used with spermicide and need to be left in for 6 hours after sex
      • If the barrier isn’t in place (e.g. a condom breaks), there’s no protection against STIs or pregnancy

      Birth control pills

      Hormonal contraception can only be used by women. The most popular forms are the combined contraceptive pill and the mini pill, (progesterone-only pill). More information is available in our guide to contraceptive pills.

      Advantages:

      • Up to 99% effective if used correctly
      • Periods are generally lighter and and for the combined contraceptive, more regular
      • Reduces menstrual cramps
      • Doesn’t interfere with sexual activity
      • With the combined contraceptive, it’s possible to skip a period

      Disadvantages:

      Considering contraception?

      View our contraception options


      Contraceptive patch and vaginal ring

      The patch is a small sticky pad that attaches to your skin and releases oestrogen and progesterone into your bloodstream. The vaginal ring is a flexible plastic ring that’s inserted into the vagina and remains there for three weeks.

      Advantages:

      • With perfect use, both methods are up to 99% effective
      • They can make periods lighter and more regular
      • Doesn’t interrupt sexual activity

      Disadvantages:

      • Frequent changes required
      • They don’t protect against STIs
      • Prescription needed
      • Other medicines can reduce the effectiveness of it

      IUS (Intrauterine System)

      A small T-shaped device that’s inserted into the uterus by a trained medical professional. It releases a form of progesterone, which thickens cervical mucus and thins the womb lining preventing pregnancy.

      Advantages:

      Disadvantages:

      • Can be painful to insert
      • No protection against STIs

      IUD (Intrauterine device) or copper coil

      Non-hormone releasing copper is used to stop the sperm and egg surviving in the uterus and fallopian tubes. Very similar to the IUS.

      Advantages:

      Disadvantages:

      • Can be painful to insert and for a day or so after
      • Not advised for anyone who normally has a heavy period normally, as they can make them heavier and more painful
      • Can cause menstrual cramps

      Contraceptive implant and injection

      These are long-term contraceptive alternatives to the IUS or pill. The implant is a small flexible rod, about 4cm long. It’s inserted under the skin of your upper arm and releases a form of progesterone into your bloodstream, blocking pregnancy for three years. The Depo-Provera injection lasts for 12 weeks.

      Advantages:

      • Provides up to 99% protection over three months for the injection
      • The implant is up to 99% effective for three years
      • Can stop periods completely
      • Doesn’t interrupt sexual activity

      Disadvantages:

      • May have side effects such as weight gain and tiredness
      • Any side effects could last for the full eight to 12 weeks for the injection, or until the implant is removed 
      • Need to see healthcare provider every three months for the injection
      • May cause irregular menstrual bleeding or spotting at the start

      Fertility Awareness Methods (FAMs)

      These identify the fertile time of the month. They range from calendar and observation-based methods to urinary hormone testing and technology-based approaches. The idea is that with trained help you can discover which dates are relatively risk free for unprotected sex and those where other methods of contraception are needed.

      Advantages:

      • Natural
      • Allows a woman to know her body and menstrual cycle
      • Free

      Disadvantages:

      • Not recommended by doctors
      • Constant monitoring to pinpoint ovulation each month
      • High risk from miscalculations
      • Doesn’t protect against STIs

      Sterilisation

      A procedure to block the fallopian tubes in women, or a vasectomy to block the tubes carrying sperm from the testicles in men.

      Advantages:

      • 99% effective
      • No need to use contraception for pregnancy again after the procedure has been confirmed as successful (you may need to use another form of contraception up to 3 months after the procedure until tests confirm success)

      Disadvantages:

      • Sterilisation requires an operation for both men and women
      • Difficult to reverse and requires another surgical procedure
      • There’s a chance of the tubes that carry the sperm or eggs rejoining after the procedure

      Emergency contraception

      The two forms are the emergency IUD and the ‘morning after pill’. Two pill types exist, one being ellaOne (ulipristal) and the other levonorgestrel. An emergency IUD must be fitted within 5 days of unprotected sex, but it can be left in and used as long-term contraception. If you would like to be fitted with an IUD, you have to visit your GP or local GUM clinic. The morning after pill must be taken as soon as possible.

      Advantages:

      • Prevents pregnancy if another contraception method wasn’t used, or if there was an issue with it - provided it’s used within the recommended timeframe

      Disadvantages:

      • Doesn’t protect from STIs
      • Is time sensitive
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