The birth control options available to us today have come a long way from where they first began. These choices help us take our contraceptive health back into our own hands. But there’s a lot of them to choose from. And they can have side effects you might not be willing to put up with.
But the first step in taking your health into your own hands is understanding the options. There are quite a few to get our teeth into, so let’s get into it.
The Natural Method
The oldest form of contraceptive out there; family planning. This method doesn’t use any device or medication. Instead, it simply means either abstaining from sex altogether. Or tracking your cycle to understand when you are or aren’t fertile. That way, you can decide when you engage in sexual activity based on whether you want to get pregnant or not.
Obviously, this way can lead to pregnancy even if you try your hardest to avoid it. But it is about 80% effective if done perfectly. And as a bonus, you get to understand your cycle more. You’ll know when to expect your period and have more info on your mood changes over the cycle. It’s always important to remember, though, that going down this route doesn’t protect you from STI’s. So get yourself and your partner checked before you decide on the family planning method to ensure you’re as safe as you can be.
The Barrier Method
Probably the most widely known form of contraception, the barrier method involves using a device that stops pregnancy. And there is a massive variety of them. You can choose from both male and female condoms, the diaphragm, or the cervical cap. Condoms come with the added benefit of giving you protection from STI’s, but diaphragms and caps don’t. They sit around the ’80s when it comes to their effectiveness in preventing pregnancy.
The great thing about barrier methods is that they’re widely available, don’t mess with hormones, and can be used in conjunction with other contraceptive methods (like the pill) for added protection. The only downside is that you need to remember to use them. And in the throes of passion, they can easily be forgotten.
The Hormonal Method
The most commonly known hormonal contraception has to be the pill. Taken by women, it uses a synthetic version of female hormones and comes in two forms; the combined pill of estrogen and progesterone and the mini pill containing only progestogen. Put simply, the medication works by keeping the egg and sperm apart. And that’s by either thickening cervical mucus, thinning the uterus lining, or just stopping an egg from being released altogether. It can also make all of those things happen at once. Depending on which pill you’re taking.
They’re around 99% effective with perfect use, and they can help reduce period symptoms or stop them altogether. But they don’t protect against STI’s. And they come with a long list of side effects. That includes an increased chance of blood clots. Because of this, they’re not given lightly. You’ll need a consultation with a GP, and you’ll need to visit regularly to make sure they’re still right for you.
With them being hormone-based, the biggest effects, however, can be to your mood. Many people on the pill struggle with anxiety, depression, headaches, and general mood changes. For some people, the side effects are too much to deal with. So if you try the pill and these side effects don’t settle in a couple of months, go back to your GP and weigh up your other options.
The pill isn’t the only hormonal method available. You can get 3 monthly injections of progesterone which have the benefit of not having to remember a tablet every day. There’s also an IUD (intrauterine device), also known as the coil. This also uses progesterone, but it does come in the non-hormonal form of copper. That works because copper is a spermicide. You can also get a transdermal patch which will need changing every 3 weeks. This is like the combined pill because it uses the two artificial female hormones. Or there’s the implant, which is progesterone only and is put just under the skin of your upper arm.
Choosing the right hormonal contraception can be a minefield. There are a lot of side effects to take into account. Make sure to select the one that’s really right for you. And if you’re not happy with the one you’ve chosen, you can change it.
While we’ve come a long way to have this many birth control methods at our fingertips, it can often take a while to get the right fit for you. And the onus is put in the court of the woman to figure it out. It’s difficult. Especially as the long-term options can have serious side effects, you’d rather not have to deal with.
There’s always the permanent option of sterilisation for men and women if you’re sure children aren’t for you. For men, there is a possibility to reverse this. If you’re considering a vasectomy reversal, visit dereklok.com.au for professional advice. No matter what option you go for, it should always be your choice. Because it’s your body.
And while women take on a lot of responsibility for sorting contraception, and some of the options leave you with complex side effects, the point is that we have choices. And those get better and better with every year. Not only that, but our understanding of sexual health, particularly women’s health, gets better with each passing year. And that’s something to celebrate.