There are many forms of contraception available to women today, and choosing the right one can be confusing for you.
Women use contraception for various different reasons – the most common indications are for birth control, regulating menstrual cycles, reducing heavy or painful periods, and controlling hormonal imbalances in conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Before initiating contraception, it is always advisable to have a detailed discussion with your doctor. She can help you decide which form of contraception best suits your health profile and lifestyle.
Today’s article is a quick guide to the commonest types of female contraceptives.
1.) Combined Oral Contraceptives/Oral Contraceptive Pill
Known by most as “the Pill”, this is the most frequently prescribed form of contraception.
Administered as a daily tablet, the Pill contains 2 female hormones – estrogen and progesterone.
It works by preventing ovulation, and is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, if used consistently and correctly.
Its other advantages include:
- regulation of menstrual cycles
- reduction of excessively heavy periods
- relief from period-related pain
- improvement in acne
However, some women do experience adverse effects with the Pill.
Some of the most frequently reported effects include nausea, headaches, intermittent spotting/bleeding and breast tenderness.
The Pill may also increase your risk of blood clots – particularly in women who are obese (BMI > 25), or are smokers.
If you have either of the above 2 conditions, a history of breast/gynaecological cancer, poorly controlled blood pressure, or a history of blood clots, it is best to let your doctor know, as she may recommend an alternative form of contraception.
2.) Hormonal Contraceptive Patch
The patch is a useful alternative for women who find it difficult to take the Pill every day.
It contains the same hormones as the Pill, and is also 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. The patch is worn on the lower belly, upper arm, buttocks, or upper chest (away from the breast), and is changed every 7 days.
Each cycle requires the use of 3 patches over 3 weeks, followed by a patch-free week, during which regular bleeding will occur.
If you have any of the conditions that make you unsuitable for use of the Pill, you should not use the contraceptive patch as well.
3.) Progesterone only Pill/ Mini-Pill
For those who cannot use the combined oral contraceptive pill, or women who are breastfeeding, the progesterone-only pill might be an alternative solution.
This method is best for breastfeeding moms, as it contains no estrogen, and thus does not affect breast milk production.
The major disadvantage with the mini pill is that it must be taken at the same time every day.
If your dose is delayed by 3 hours or more, contraception is no longer guaranteed, and you will be advised to use additional protection for the next few days.
The mini-pill has similar side effects to the combined oral contraceptive pill, and can also cause intermittent spotting/bleeding, even with correct use.
4.) Hormonal Injections
For some women, depot hormonal injections are a convenient alternative to daily tablets. Administered in the deltoid (upper arm) muscle once every 3 months, the injection contains synthetic progesterone that inhibits ovulation.
It is >99% effective as a contraceptive method and is also suitable for women who are not eligible to use the combined oral contraceptive pill, and for breastfeeding moms.
However, some of its disadvantages include a longer delay in return to fertility and irregular bleeding.
5.) Birth Control Implant
Like the depot injection, this is another medium-term contraceptive option.
Instead of an intramuscular injection, the implate is a small rod-shaped implant that contains synthetic progesterone.
The implant can provide 3 years of contraception and is 99.8% effective in preventing pregnancy. Additionally, its birth control properties begin within 24 hours of insertion, if implanted within the first 5 days of mensus.
The insertion can be done easily in your doctor’s office during a regular consultation. The skin in your inner upper arm will be numbed with an injection of local anaesthetic, before the rod is implanted.
The implant can also easily be removed when necessary, and fertility usually returns quickly after removal.
Some side effects of the implant include irregular bleeding, acne, nausea and headaches.
6.) Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
IUDs are a form of long term contraception, and are available as progesterone-releasing, or plain copper IUDs.
Depending on the type that you choose, it can provide up to 3 – 5 years of protection.
IUDs are small T shaped frames that are inserted via the neck of the womb (the cervix), and sit inside the womb cavity, preventing ovulation and implantation of an egg in the womb lining.
Prior to insertion, your doctor may recommend a pregnancy test and STD tests, to minimise complications with your IUD.
If you have a known or active history of pelvic infection, cancer of the cervix or uterus, or previous ectopic pregnancy, please inform your doctor, as an IUD may not be suitable for you.
To read more about how the IUD is inserted, click here
7.) Barrier Contraception
While all the of the methods listed above are extremely effective in preventing pregnancy when used correctly, none of them protects against sexually transmitted diseases.
Using barrier contraception, in the form of male or female condoms, can help to reduce your chances of an STD. However, condom failure rates are high.
Reasons for this include slippage with incorrect withdrawal, incorrect timing or placement of condom, breakage and inappropriate lubricant use.
Your chances of falling pregnant with condom use can be as high as 15%, making it a less effective method of contraception compared to other methods.
Read more on Long- Team Contraception
Choosing the right modality may seem challenging, but if you’re interested in starting contraception, come in and speak to our Women’s Health team!
Any of our dedicated female doctors can review your individual health profile, and help decide which contraceptive method would best suit your lifestyle and needs.
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Telephone: +65 6884 4119
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Main Doctors: Dr Grace Huang
(Anonymous HIV Testing is available daily too)
11 Unity Street,
#02-06/07, Robertson Walk
Telephone: +65 6238 7810
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Other Women’s Sexual Health Articles:
- Vaginal Yeast Infection (Thrush)
- A Women Guide to Contraception
- STD Trichomoniasis and Green Fishy Smell Discharge
- STD Chlamydia Screening & Treatment
- STD Women’s Gonorrhoea Symptoms & Treatment
- STD Women’s Herpes Infection
- Urine Pain & Non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU)
- Bleeding After Sex
- Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
- Women’s STD Screening, Testing and Treatment Service