Own Your Sex Life: A Full Guide To Contraception
Because understanding the different types is just the responsible thing to do.
Did you know there are 15 different types of contraceptives? These types serve as birth control methods and some even lower your chance of getting an STI.
1. The Pill
Invented in 1960, this pill, one taken every day as prescribed, will prevent you from getting pregnant in 95% of cases and it comes close to providing 99% protection provided that you follow your prescription.
The pill comes in two forms: the combined contraceptive pill (containing the hormones estrogen and progestin) or the mini-pill (only progestin).
2. The Male Condom
The male condom is one of the most common contraception methods. It is easy to use, affordable and offers the best protection against STIs (i.e. gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV). Condoms are usually made of latex, polyurethane, or lambskin.
For your safety, a new condom should be worn each time you have sex.
3. The Female Condom
Introduced about twenty years ago, the female condom offers 95%-effective protection for pregnancy, as well as some protection against STIs. These condoms are generally more expensive than the male ones but are more durable and typically last longer. They can be inserted up to eight hours before sex.
The female condom (also called the internal condom) can be bought over-the-counter at pharmacies and grocery stores without a prescription, just like the male condom.
4. The Diaphragm
If you're planning on using a diaphragm, you need to have your doctor show you how to use it and it must be coated with spermicide each time before sex. The diaphragm is placed inside the vagina so that it prevents the sperm from getting into the uterus. Despite being a barrier method, it doesn't protect against STIs.
It is inserted at least six hours before sex and needs to be removed after 24 hours for cleaning. Depending on the material it's made out of, it could be reused many times.
5. The Cervical Cap (Femcap)
Like the diaphragm but smaller, the cervical cap is a thimble-shaped latex cup. Also, like the diaphragm, it needs to be used with a spermicide. There is a window where the cervical cap must remain in the vagina at least 6 hours after sex, but it must be taken out within 48 hours after sex.
The diaphragm and the cervical cap are a little more problematic because they have less of an effectiveness percentage (92 to 95% protection) and they offer no HIV protection.
6. The Intrauterine Device (IUD)
There are two types of IUDs: hormonal or copper-based devices and both types can remain inside the vagina for up to five or ten years respectively. The effectiveness rate for IUDs is above 99%; however, they provide no protection against STIs. Having one properly inserted requires the assistance of a doctor.
Side note: IUDs can be a form of emergency contraception if the device is inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex.
7. The Contraceptive Implant
The implant is another type of contraceptive that offers long-term protection and lasts for about 3 years on average. It is inserted into the arm and contains progestin (progesterone), the same hormone as the contraceptive pill. The hormone is released into your body at a steady, slow pace for three years, producing the same effects as the pill.
Just like IUDs, the implant does not protect against STIs.
8. The Contraceptive Sponge
The sponge is a small, round-shaped foam (polyurethane) placed deep inside the vagina. It contains spermicide so that sperm does not get past the foam. You should leave the sponge inside the vagina for at least six hours after sex, but remove it within 24 hours following sexual intercourse (to lessen the risk of toxic shock).
While most commonly used with other types of contraceptives, spermicide in itself doesn't always offer the best protection against pregnancy, although this is also due to inconsistent use of the product.
You don't need a prescription to buy spermicide and it has very few associated side-effects, but you should also keep in mind that it does not protect against STIs.
10. Contraceptive Injections
Dating back to the '60s, this shot of hormones (progestin) lasts in the body for 8 to 12 weeks and has the same effect as the pill. Injections are about 99% effective, with pregnancy occurring mostly with women who forgot to renew their contraceptive shot in time.
11. The Vaginal Ring
A small, transparent plastic ring that is inserted into the vagina and kept for three weeks, then removed during periods and replaced with a new one afterward.
The ring contains the same hormones as the contraceptive pill (progesterone and estrogen) and provides the same kind of protection and side effects. You will need your doctor's prescription to buy the ring.
12. The Contraceptive Patch
Just like the pill but in the form of a patch. It provides the same protection against pregnancy and has the side effects. It also does not provide protection from STIs. You wear the patch for three weeks, take it off for one week (for your period), then you start with a new patch.
Sterilization is an option available for both men and women. The procedures are called vasectomy (men) and tubal litigation or the placement of a coil in each Fallopian tube (women, surgical and non-surgical, respectively). Both procedures are irreversible, but in very rare cases the tubes can grow back.
14. Natural Family Planning
Simply put, natural family planning relies on knowing the menstrual cycle (periods) so that couples avoid having sex when the woman is fertile. The effectiveness of this type of contraception varies between 75% to 99% with the higher uncertainty due to the fact that most women do not have a perfectly regular menstrual cycle.
15. Emergency Contraception
Also known as "morning after pill." This emergency pill should be taken within 72 hours (preferably 12 hours) of unprotected sex. It works by doing one of three things:
- Temporarily stops the release of an egg from the ovary
- Prevents fertilization
- Prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus
Side note: this is not an abortion pill and will not terminate a pregnancy.
Condoms, spermicides and sponges aside, most types of contraception can only be obtained with the help of a doctor. Set up an appointment with your lady doctor to discuss your options.
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