About Contraception

‘Contraception’ means the deliberate prevention of pregnancy. Contraception, including but not limited to condoms, birth control pills, or hormonal contraceptive devices means using an intervention when having sexual intercourse to avoid getting pregnant. Using contraception, however, does not mean that you are practising safe sex. Safe sex is about stopping the spread of STIs; ‘contraception’ refers only to preventing pregnancy.

Types of Female Contraceptive Methods

1. Short Term Hormonal Methods

Short Acting Contraceptives are highly effective in protecting you against unplanned pregnancies. This category involves methods that require regular and repeated use. All these methods can also be used for many years in a row. These are reversible methods; i.e women may be able to get pregnant as quickly as they did before the usage of any contraception.

  • Oral Contraceptive Pill

  • Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs), also known as “the birth control pill”, are pills that contain hormones. What is most commonly available and preferred now are the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pills – pills that contain low doses of two hormones. This works primarily by preventing the release of the eggs from the ovaries (Ovulation). The oral contraceptive pill is taken daily over the course of a month to prevent pregnancy. Each monthly course prevents pregnancy only for that month.

    OCPs are great if you like routine and sticking to schedules. You are in control, deciding when to start and stop. When you take OCPs, your period is predictable and often lighter.

    In the first few months, you may have spotting between periods. You may also experience nausea, dizziness, and headaches. Most of these side effects are not serious and reduce within 1 to 2 months of correct use. The newer generation OCPs or advanced OCPs have relatively fewer side effects and provide health benefits beyond contraception.

  • Advanced OCPs

  • How are they better?

    • Lesser frequency of nausea and headache associated with use of OCPs
    • Lower rate of menstrual irregularities, resulting in lighter and more predictable periods
    • Reduced menstrual blood loss
    • Reduced pre-existing acne and hirsutism (excessive hair-growth on the face, chest or back)
    • Positive effect on mood
    • Lowered cardiovascular risk associated with taking OCPs for women with hypertension

  • Injectable Contraceptives

  • This is a hormonal injection received in the arm and given once every 3 months. It works primarily by preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries (Ovulation). Each injection prevents pregnancy for three months with a one-month grace period. This method is fantastic for privacy – no one other than your doctor needs to know you are taking it. Your doctor will give you the first injection at any time during your period. Upon discontinuing use, you can become pregnant after at least 7 to 10 months.

    During the first few months of taking the injectable, you may experience irregular bleeding, as well as longer and heavier periods. Eventually, your periods will become lighter and may stop altogether. Absence of a period in the 3 months following the use of the birth control injection does not mean you are pregnant.

    2. Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive (LARCs)

    Long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) are the most effective methods of contraception available. They last for many years and you don’t have to remember to use contraception every day or every time you have sex.

  • Intrauterine Contraceptive Device

  • An intrauterine contraceptive device or an IUCD is a small, flexible plastic frame with copper sleeves or wires around it and is placed inside the uterus. It works by causing a chemical change that damages sperm and egg before they can meet. The IUD is inserted into the uterus through the vagina in a simple procedure conducted by the doctor. You may experience cramping during the procedure, and the cramping can last for a few days.

    Once inserted, an IUCD prevents pregnancy up to 3, 5, or 10 years depending on the type of device. You may experience longer or irregular periods at the beginning. This problem generally stops after 3-6 months.

    When you want to have the IUD taken out, you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor for him or her to remove it. Upon discontinuing use, it is possible to become pregnant immediately.

  • Hormonal Intrauterine system

  • The hormonal IUS is a small, T-shaped plastic device that steadily releases a small amount of hormone each day. It works by preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg. The IUS is placed inside the uterus and it prevents pregnancy for up to 5 years. Upon discontinuing use, it is possible to become pregnant immediately.

    You will experience lighter or no periods – making the hormonal IUD a great lifestyle choice. The IUD is inserted into the uterus through the vagina in a simple procedure conducted by the doctor. You may experience cramping during the procedure, and the cramping can last for a few days.

    You may experience irregular periods at the beginning. This problem generally stops after 3-6 months. Your period will eventually become lighter or even stop. Absence of a period does not mean you are pregnant. When you want to have the IUD taken out, schedule an appointment with your doctor for him or her to remove it.

    3. Permanent Method

  • Female Sterilization Method

  • Female sterilization or tubal ligation is a surgical procedure and a permanent method of birth control for women. During this procedure, the fallopian tubes are blocked or cut. This prevents the egg from moving from the ovaries through the fallopian tube where it could meet the sperm, preventing pregnancy.

    This method is suitable for women who are sure about not wanting more children, as you “set it and forget it.” It does not affect the sex drive or ability to enjoy sex. This surgery can be done in a hospital in about 30 minutes and get discharged on the same or the next day. Tubal ligation is a safe surgery which can be done at any time, including after childbirth or in combination with other surgeries such as a C- section.

    4. Emergency Contraceptives (EC)

    Emergency contraceptives, as the name suggests, help a woman avoid pregnancy after she has had sex without contraception or think their contraceptive method might have failed. They contain a hormone and it works by preventing or delaying the release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation).

    The emergency contraceptive pill needs to be taken within 72 hours after sex to have the best chance of avoiding a pregnancy. Note that EC works by preventing a pregnancy and not ending an existing pregnancy

  • Intrauterine Contraceptive Device (IUD)

The intrauterine device (IUD) can also be used for emergency contraception and is one of the most effective methods. It can be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex. An IUD can last as long as 10 years, the person has complete choice over how long they want it for. It can be removed if desired.