The contraceptive pill is a form of contraception for women. Each pill contains synthetic forms of naturally occurring hormones, which prevent you from getting pregnant. Despite the popularity of the pill, there are other types of contraception, including a number of short- and long-term methods, some of which do not contain hormones.
The diaphragm is a flexible latex device inserted into the vagina. A diaphragm prevents sperm from entering the cervix and fertilising an egg. Spermicide is used with a diaphragm and this kills the sperm.
The diaphragm is a convenient form of contraception for many women, as it does not need to be worn all the time, only when you have sex. It can also be inserted several hours before sex, meaning it does not have to be put in last minute.
One thing to bear in mind is that you also need to leave your diaphragm in for six hours after sex, to ensure you are protected against pregnancy. A doctor or nurse will show you how to put a diaphragm in for the first time. After that, most women find it quite easy.
Although not as common as other forms of contraception, the female condom has a number of benefits. Female condoms help protect against both unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and can be put in place hours before sex. The female condom lines the vagina and the area just outside, stopping sperm entering the vagina.
There are a few general disadvantages to the female condom. You need to make sure the man’s penis goes into the condom and not between the condom and the vagina. There is also a risk that the condom itself will get pushed into the vagina. For this reason, some women might find that the female condom is not the easiest form of contraception to use.
This is one of the most well-known types of contraception. The man puts the condom over his erect penis just before sex, stopping sperm from entering the vagina. Like female condoms, male condoms also help protect against STIs. If used correctly, condoms are about 98% effective. Unfortunately, people sometimes don’t use them properly, and condoms are typically actually about 88% effective.
Barrier methods of contraception, such as those listed above, can be very convenient, especially if you only want to think about protection when you have sex, rather than every day. They are also a good way to avoid sexually transmitted infections. If barrier methods do not appeal to you, however, you might consider the intrauterine device, or IUD.
The IUD (also known as the coil)
The IUD is a small plastic and copper device that is fitted into the womb. Depending on the type of coil you are fitted with, it will last for five to ten years. If your plans change and you want to try for a baby, you can have it removed at any time. Less than two out of 100 women using the coil will become pregnant over five years. It’s an ideal form of contraception for many women as there are no hormones involved (although there is another form of the coil available, the IUS, that releases a small amount of hormones to thin the womb lining) and, like all long-acting methods, you don’t have to regularly remember to take it.
You should bear in mind, however, that the IUD will not be right for everyone. Fitting the coil can be uncomfortable and it can also make your periods become heavier or more painful.
These four types of contraception are the best known non-hormonal methods. Some people choose to practise methods such as pre-ejaculation withdrawal, or limiting their sexual activity to times when a women is less likely to conceive. However, a doctor is very unlikely to advise these methods as they are not reliable enough.
For more information, see our article on long-term hormonal contraception methods that do not have to be administered on a daily basis.