How not to get pregnant part twoBy Emma
So we’ve already told you all you need to know about the physical contraceptives you can use to prevent pregnancy.
This week we’re talking about hormonal contraception, which we have termed Hormonal Hocus Pocus.
Hormonal contraceptives prevent pregnancy by stimulating hormonal changes within a woman’s reproductive system. These can have a noticeable impact upon your body. Some women for example will experience changes in their menstrual cycle.
Hormonal Hocus Pocus
The pill is very popular, and with good reason. It provides reliable pregnancy protection, whilst allowing you to always be in control of what you put in your body. The pill contains a combination of two naturally occurring hormones, oestrogen and progestogen, which prevent ovulation (in other words, your ovaries won’t release any eggs). You have to take the pill every day for 21 consecutive days, then you stop for 7, during which time you will get your period.
In order to be fully protected, you have to remember to pop it at roughly the same time every day, without missing any out. Once you’re in the habit though, the pill is more than 99% effective. You can stop taking it whenever you like, and as an added bonus, many women experience lighter, more regular periods. So long, cramps!
The Progestogen Only Pill (The POP)
Also known as the mini-pill, the POP is essentially the same as the combined pill, only it doesn’t include the hormone oestrogen. The actual medical differences are largely academic; the POP is generally used as an alternative for girls who can’t use the combined pill. This includes women who are overweight, have high blood pressure, and/or a history of blood clots, as well as women who smoke.
You have to remember to take the POP every day. Unlike the combined pill, there is no break period between packets. Your menstrual cycle can become irregular or may stop altogether.
It might make you look like a nicotine addict, but the contraceptive patch is a fairly low-maintenance, weekly contraceptive method. Sure, there’s a chance that it might possibly fall off in the bath/shower, and it may leave sticky patches on your skin, but it’s a good option if you’re too forgetful to use the combined pill.
The patch is impregnated with the hormones oestrogen and progestogen, which are absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream. It has the same effect as the combined pill, and must be worn for a week, and replaced on the eighth day. You wear the waterproof patches for three weeks, followed by a patch-free week during which you’ll get your period. It goes without saying, but you must remember to change the patch on time.
If your memory isn’t up to much, the vaginal ring may be a good solution for you. The name is a bit of a giveaway – it is a soft plastic ring that is placed inside the vagina. The device is impregnated with oestrogen and progestogen, the same hormones found in the combined pill. It provides continuous protection against pregnancy for 21 days (after which you go ringless for 7 days before starting again).
They are available in different sizes, which supposedly makes inserting in easier, but it sounds uncomfortable nevertheless. Not surprisingly, the ring may fall out, but as long as it is reinserted within 3 hours (give it a rinse first), your protection won’t be interrupted. Manufacturers of the ring claim that you won’t feel it during sex, and it may even reduce the flow of your periods.
As the name suggests, it is a small tube (the size of a matchstick) that is implanted under the skin of your upper arm. It might sound scary, but the procedure is quite straightforward, and can be reversed at any time. The device contains progestogen, and remains effective for around 3 years. A common side-effect is the slowing or even stopping of periods. And yes, you can feel it...
The injection is similar to the implant, but is suitable for people who wimped out of minor-surgery. It contains progestogen only, and can either be administered in an 8 or a 12 week dosage. It’s important that you have your follow-up injections at the correct time in your cycle in order to get continuous protection (don’t worry, your doctor will tell you when).
The injection might not seem as drastic as the implant, but bear in mind that once you’ve been injected, you’re stuck with it. If you have any side-effects from the progestogen, you will have to wait for the hormones to wear off, whereas all these other treatments are easily stopped/removed.
Intrauterine System (IUS)
The IUS is basically the same as the IUD, except that it provides a barricade-hormone double-whammy. The IUS contains the hormone progestogen, which can help reduce uncomfortable menstrual bleeding. It will offer reliable long-term protection for up to five years.
Emergency Contraceptive Pill
No matter how careful you try to be, accidents do happen. The emergency contraceptive pill (aka the morning after pill) contains progestogen, and can be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, although the sooner you take it, the better. Within 24 hours, it will prevent 95% of pregnancies, but reliability rapidly decreases thereon in. It is available for free at most sexual health clinics, but you can buy it at pharmacies for around £25 (which is expensive enough to make sure you don’t need to do it more than once).