Know about the safest contraceptives that are available
As per a study on “Knowledge and attitudes towards contraceptives among adolescents and young adults” done among 130 men and women aged between 13 and 23 years (inclusive), it was found that though 80% were sexually active, only 2.6% used IUD and only less than 70% of the participants were aware of the benefits of IUD. It was also recorded that only 6.4% of them knew about copper IUD which is the safest form of birth control and can also be used as an emergency contraceptive.
In this article, we will put forth different contraceptive methods that are available for use for the benefit of our readers.
Different types of contraceptive methods
Condom is probably the only type of contraceptive method that can also prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections. This is totally free of any kind of hormones and a condom is available for both men and women. Male condoms are externally worn while female condoms go inside the vagina of a woman. Female condoms are not quite effective as male condoms.
The only risk of using a condom while having sex is the risk of tearing it. A torn condom during the act may not be effective in preventing pregnancy or transmission of STD/STIs.
- Oral contraceptive pills
This is typically a 28-day thing wherein one pill needs to be taken every day. There are two types of contraceptive pills. The first type has both estrogen and progestin and the other type, which is called a mini-pill has only estrogen. Your gynecologist will be the best person to prescribe which one is right for you.
The benefits of oral contraceptive pills are that it is highly effective when taken every day and it doesn’t interrupt sex (like tearing of condom) and they are effective in helping women with heavy periods.
The other side of oral contraceptive pills is that they may not be that effective if you forget to take them on any day. Of course, you can continue taking them even after a day went by without the pill, however, the effectiveness may drop a bit. Also, unlike condoms, pills cannot prevent the transmission of any sexually transmitted infection.
- IUDs – Intra-Uterine Devices.
IUD comes in two forms:
- A Copper-based IUD
- Hormone-based IUD.
Copper-based IUDs are the safest contraceptive methods that can also work as an emergency contraceptive if inserted (into the vagina) within 5 days of unprotected sex. The pure copper present on the device disables/kills the sperms and prevent the egg from getting fertilized. Copper-based IUDs are 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
Another form of IUDs is hormone-based. They continuously release small amounts of hormones and are 99.8% effective.
Initially, when the IUD is inserted, you may have little heavy periods and more cramps but that should settle down in 3 to 6 months. IUDs don’t offer protection against STDs. IUDs can be retained in the body for a period of 3 or 5 or even 10 years depending on the duration and brand that is being used.
- Contractive implant
This is a small device that is implanted in the upper arm of a woman. The device slowly releases progesterone hormone which prevents the ovaries from releasing the egg. Also, progesterone thickens the cervical mucus that making it difficult for sperms to enter the uterus. The implant, similar to IUDs can be inside the body for three years.
- The contraceptive injection
This is a shot given to the buttock or in the upper arm of the woman. The effectiveness of the injection lasts for 12 weeks during which the hormone progesterone is slowly released into the bloodstream. As said earlier, having a higher amount of progesterone stops the ovaries from releasing the egg, thereby preventing pregnancy.
- “Morning-after” pill or Emergency Contraception pill
This is taken ‘after the act’ and ideally, this should be taken by the woman within 5 days after having unprotected sex. The pill is most effective when taken less than 3 days after unprotected sex. The pill releases a mixture of female hormones that prevents pregnancy. Side effects of the morning-after pill include nausea, vomiting and the following period might get delayed a bit or may arrive sooner.
- Contraceptive ring
This is like an IUD that goes into the vagina and sits there for 3 weeks after which it has to be removed and replaced with a new one with a break of one week in between. Similar to hormone pills, the ring releases estrogen and progesterone to prevent the fertilization of the egg.
The benefit of using a contraceptive ring is that you can insert and remove it all by yourself and you won’t need a gynecologist to do that for you. (In the case of IUD, you will surely need a gynecologist).
Diaphram is a small device inserted into the vagina. This prevents the flow of semen to the uterus by acting as a wall. The diaphragm can be inserted before sex and needs to be in place for a few hours after sex to be safe (from getting pregnant).
The benefit of using a diaphragm is that it is kept clean, you can keep reusing it for two years.
- Hysterectomy or Sterilization
A 100% safest way to prevent pregnancy is not the have the uterus at all! However, not many women opt for this procedure but those who need to get their uterus removed due to another medical condition will never be able to get pregnant. Once the uterus is removed, you will also not have any periods mimicking the stage of menopause.
“If you ask me for the safest and most effective contraceptive method, I would recommend any woman to go for copper IUDs. The reason being, you can get that inserted once and forget about it for 5 years and it is hormone-free.” Says Dr. Manu Lakshmi, from Chennai Abortion Clinic in Chennai.