Which Contraception is suitable for me?

There are at least 15 methods of contraception available and, within those categories usually even more options to consider. Naturally, you want to find a method that suits you, but as you probably already know, this can be pretty confusing.

Everyone has different needs and wants from their contraception and these will determine what works best for you. It’s important to realise that contraception can affect your body and mind, not just your sex life. Therefore it’s essential that you research the area before rushing into any decisions.

contraception methods

Like anything, each option has its pros and cons and some may even be deal breakers. Thankfully, there are numerous avenues to try and it doesn’t matter if the one you pick isn’t quite right for you – there is always another way.

So, what options are there?

Combined pill

mini pillMore commonly known as the pill this contraception is taken orally like a normal tablet. The combined pill contains synthetic (artificial) versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which women produce naturally in their ovaries. The pill works by preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg and decreases the chance of sperm reaching it.

Key things you need to know

  • When used correctly it is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • You take it every day for 21 days, and then stop for seven days where you have a period-type bleed. You then repeat this cycle every month. There are also other variations how to take it.
  • You need to take the pill at the same time every day.
  • The pill can help heavy or painful periods.
  • Side effects include mood swings, breast tenderness and headaches.
  • Low risk of serious side effects.
  • The pill is not suitable for women over 35 who smoke or women with certain medical conditions. (Contact your GP for more information)

Is it right for me?

The pill is a popular form of contraception as it is easily administered and does not interrupt sexual activity.

Some people find the pill helps to reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and makes bleeding lighter and less painful. There are also pills which can sometimes reduce acne. If you have any of these symptoms, considering the pill as a solution for both contraception and another problem may benefit you.

However, some women don’t react as well to the pill as others and symptoms of headaches, nausea and mood swings can occur. There are lots of varieties of pill and it may take a few attempts before you find one that works for you. Therefore some level of patience is needed for this method.

An alternative to the combined oral contraceptive pill is the mini-pill or progestogen only pill, which is a daily low dose pill containing no oestrogen. It may be preferred in some women. The mini-pill needs to be taken at the same time everyday if it is to be an effective contraceptive.

Contraceptive implant

Another option to consider is the implant. The implant is a small flexible tube that’s inserted under your skin in the upper part of your arm. It releases progestogen hormones into your body which thickens the cervical mucus and thins the womb lining. This makes it less likely that your womb will accept a fertilised egg. The implant is embedded by a trained professional and lasts for three years.

Key things you need to know

  • If inserted correctly, it is more than 99% effective.
  • Useful for women who can’t use contraception that contains oestrogen.
  • The implant can be removed at any time (for example, if you have side effects) and your fertility will return quickly.
  • Some bruising, tenderness or swelling can occur.
  • When you first have the implant your periods may become irregular, lighter, heavier or longer. This will settle eventually.
  • A common side effect is that your periods may stop but this is not harmful.
  • Some medications can make the implant less effective.

Is it right for me?

The implant is a favourable option for women who know they don’t want to get pregnant for a while. Once the implant is in place, you don’t have to worry about contraception for three years.

The implant is easier for women who struggle to remember taking a pill at the same time every day, the day to day worry about contraception being removed. However some women note that they get acne or their acne worsens with the implant, so this is something to consider. Additionally, the small procedure to fit and remove the implant may be unpleasant for certain people.

Male condoms

Condoms are the only contraception that is worn by men. They are made from very thin latex and designed to be inserted on the penis to prevent the male’s sperm entering his sexual partner. When condoms are used correctly, they are the only contraception that also protects against sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).

Key things you need to know

  • If used correctly they are 98% effective.
  • Condoms are free at various contraception and sexual health clinics.
  • It is possible for a condom to slip off during sex.
  • They need to be stored correctly.
  • Condoms all have a use by date that needs to be followed.

Is it right for me?

If you do not respond well to contraception that uses hormones, condoms may be a viable option for you.

Whilst condoms have a high rate of preventing pregnancy if used correctly, this contraception is not a method the woman has complete control of. This means a level of trust must be taken to ensure your sexual partner is using the condom appropriately. Accidents (e.g. condom slipping off), although not common, don’t guarantee you peace of mind about the possibility of pregnancy.

Remembering to have/use them every time you have sex has its advantages and disadvantages. For one, you only need to ensure you use them during intercourse which means you can be spontaneous. Although, remembering to use one every single time may be difficult for some people and many find they have sex anyway even if neither person has a condom – a situation that carries risk of STIs, or possibly pregnancy.

Remember that other forms of contraception may prevent pregnancy but they do not protect you from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s).  Condoms are the only contraception that prevents infections, therefore it’s best to use one every time you have intercourse with a new partner.

What else is there?

A few more hormonal options…

Contraceptive patch

This involves the same hormones as the combined pill except the patch is placed on your skin and transfers the hormones to your body this way. The patch is replaced on a weekly basis and is more than 99% effective. The benefits are that you don’t have to remember to take a pill every day for those who are squeamish or don’t want to commit to 3 months or longer of contraception.

Contraceptive injection

The injection uses hormones that are similar to the implant. It lasts up to eight to twelve weeks depending on the injection and is more than 99% effective.

There are also physical insertion methods…

Diaphragm and contraceptive cap

Caps/Diaphragms are inserted into your vagina before sex to cover your cervix and prevent sperm from reaching your womb. When used correctly, these methods are 92-96% effective at preventing pregnancy.

This option is convenient for some people as it’s only necessary during sex and does not have side effects. This is often more popular with women than condoms as they give a feeling of control over contraception.

Further information

For more information on contraception that is suitable for you, consult your GP or family planning clinic. NHS Choices also provides an excellent contraception guide.