Friday, 30 March 2012

Top 5 Choices of Contraception


The term contraception literally describes the methods a person (mainly women but there are choices for men) can use to prevent pregnancy. There are various types that range from devices to surgery or hormones to prevent a women from conceiving. Over the years the market for contraception has grown as there is now a wide variety from which to choose. In this article I will provide you with the top five choices and their different options, how they are used and the benefits and problems that you might experience with each.

Let's start with the most popular.

The Pill and Mini Pill

Combined Pill

The Pill, or combined pill contains synthetic hormones of estrogen and progesterone and is used to prevent pregnancy but also to help treat:
  • Heavy periods
  • Painful periods
  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
  • Endometriosis
When taken correctly (everyday at the same time) the pill is 99% effective - so 1 in a 100 women will get pregnant, obviously this increases if you forget to take a pill etc.

The pill works by first thickening the mucus that surrounds the neck of the womb (cervix) to make it harder for sperm to get through. It also works by thinning the lining of the womb making it harder for a fertilized egg to implant and grow.

There are three main types of combined pill that you can take:
  • Mono-phasic 21-day pills: each pill has the same amount of hormone in it and they are taken for 21 days followed by a pill free seven day break.
  • Phasic 21-day pills: they contain two or three sections of different colored pills where each section contains a different amount of hormones. One pill is taken each day for 21 days and then you have a pill free seven day break.
  • Every Day pills: these have 21 active pills followed by 7 inactive (dummy) pills so you have a pill for 28 days with no break but they must be taken in the correct order.

Progesterone-only Pill

The progesterone-only pill works in a similar manner to the combined pill but if often prescribed to women who cannot take the combined pill: smokers, over 35, DVT patients. 
This type of pill is also 99% effective when taken correctly but this depends on the type of pill that you take.

The progesterone-only pill works by first thickening the mucus that surrounds the neck of the womb (cervix) to make it harder for sperm to get through. It also works by thinning the lining of the womb making it harder for a fertilized egg to implant and grow.
There are two main types of progesterone-only  pill:
  • The 3 hour pill: must be taken within a three hour window everyday
  • The 12 hour pill: must be taken the same time each day within 12 hours - this is not as common as the 3 hour pill.


Condoms are a barrier form of contraception; they literally stop the sperm form entering the women and also sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) - the only method that does both. If used correctly they are 98% effective against pregnancy and STIs.

Condoms are made out of a thin latex rubber, however some people are allergic to latex so they also make them out of thin plastic; these are just as effective as the latex version.

You can pick up condoms from a variety of places and if you are below the age of 25 ask your GP for a C (condom) card and you can get them for free at certain places. Here's a list of places that will supply condoms:
  • Family planning clinics
  • Sexual health of GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics
  • Brook Centre (under 25s)
  • GP
  • Gay pubs and clubs
  • Pharmacies
  • Supermarkets
  • Online - make sure that they carry the European CE mark or British BSI Kitemark as a sign of quality assurance.



This is a very reliable form of contraception that involves sterilizing a male, it is mainly considered permanent but can be reversed. This method is done by cutting, blocking or sealing the tube which carries the sperm to the penis with heat.

Since this is considered a permanent procedure there are a few things to take into consideration. For example, when should it be done, what if you want to father a child after and what the emotional impact would be for yourself and your family. However, this is a good option for men who do not want any more children (if at all), however it does not protect again STIs or HIV so if in doubt still use a condom (see above).

Vasectomy Resources

Female Sterilization

This is also a fairly common procedure that involves blocking or cutting the fallopian tubes that carry eggs to the womb. It is found to be a very reliable form of contraception, however it should only be considered for women who do not want any more children (if at all) as it is very difficult to reverse (not always successfully) and is very expensive (only available privately at the moment).

There are a lot of factors to consider so you should really take heed to what you want in life. For example, is this the right choice, will it have any effect emotionally, are there alternative contraception choices?

Female Sterilization Resources

The Coil

The coil is a small t-shaped device that is fitted into the womb by a fully trained nurse. These types of devices last from 5-10 years and are a great form of long term contraception as they are 99% effective. There are two main types of coil:
  • The copper coil, or intrauterine device: this contains no hormones and stops sperm from reaching the egg or the egg implanting by releasing copper which changes the make-up of fluids in the womb and fallopian tubes.
  • Mirena or intrauterine system: this works in a similar way but releases progesterone instead of copper. It works by thinning the lining of the womb to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting and thickening the mucus on the cervix to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. It can also stop some women from ovulating, however most women continue to do so.
Having a coil fitted can be quite uncomfortable for most women so it is advised to take some pain relief and to also use relaxation technique during the procedure. Some women may also experience headaches, acne and breast tenderness so you should discuss these with your health care provider.

Coil Resources

Contraception: A User's Handbook

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