The different types of contraception, advantages and disadvantages.

Different contraceptive methods suit different lifestyles, life stages and needs, so even if you’ve been using a certain contraceptive for years, it’s natural to change methods as your life and your body change. The right birth control when you are 18 and single may not be the best when you are 30, in a stable relationship and planning to start a family in the next six months.

There are many types of contraception methods to choose from. The main ones are:

Read on to see how each one works then compare their advantages and disadvantages.


Natural contraception

These methods rely on abstaining from sex on certain days of the menstrual cycle. There are many days in your cycle where unprotected sex won’t result in pregnancy, so natural contraception requires you to identify when these days are and therefore also the days when you are at risk of pregnancy. With these methods there are no side effects to worry about and you don’t have to interrupt sex.  Examples of different types of natural birth control are:

Contraception Monitor (Persona)

Contraception Monitor (Persona)- Tracks two key fertility hormone levels and tells you when it’s safe to have sex (green days)* and when there is a risk that unprotected sex may result in pregnancy (red days)
- 94% effective when used according to instructions and as the only method of contraception*

Who can use the Contraception Monitor (Persona)

 

Symptothermal Method

- Uses self-observation of the cervical mucus and basal body temperature to define the beginning and end of the fertile phase of the cycle
- Needs to be taught by a specialist natural family planning teacher and followed carefully to be reliable
- Observations are entered on a specially developed cycle chart
- Can involve long periods of abstinence in order to be reliable

Calendar or rhythm method

- Some contraception methods assume that ovulation occurs around day 14, however this varies from cycle to cycle and woman to woman
- Requires you to accurately note in a diary when each menstrual cycle starts for a few months to estimate when you ovulate – so you have some idea of the days to avoid sex and when the risk is lower
- Involves long periods of abstinence in order to be reliable

  • Compare Natural Contraception Methods

    Method
    Advantages
    Disadvantages

    Persona Contraception Monitor

     

    - Doesn't interrupt sex
    - Easy to use
    - Non-invasive
    - No side effects
    - You are ready to conceive as soon as you stop using it
    - Hormone-free

    - No protection from STIs
    - You must check your monitor every day
    - You need to make behavioural changes to your sex life

    Symptothermal Method

     

    - Doesn't interrupt sex
    - Non-invasive
    - No side effects
    - You are ready to conceive as soon as you stop using it
    - Hormone-free

    - No protection from STIs
    - You need to be taught by a specialist NFP teacher
    - It can take 3-6 menstrual cycles to learn effectively
    - You have to keep daily records
    - Some events such as illness, stress or travel can make fertility indicators hard to interpret
    - You need to make behavioural changes to your sex life
    - Can involve long periods of abstinence in order to be reliable

    Calendar
    rhythm
    method

     

    - Doesn't interrupt sex
    - Non-invasive
    - No side effects
    - You are ready to conceive as soon as you stop using it
    - Hormone-free

    - No protection from STIs
    - It can take up to 6 cycles to build an accurate picture of your cycle
    - You need to make behavioural changes to your sex life
    - Can involve long periods of abstinence in order to be reliable

Even if used according to professional teaching and instructions, natural family planning methods such as the calendar / rhythm method or symptothermal method, effectiveness can vary.  It should be noted that methods with the very highest reliability can have a large number of abstinence days (over half the cycle).  Some of these methods are difficult to learn and some women find them unpleasant and messy.


Barrier contraceptives

These contraceptives stop sperm from reaching the egg by creating a physical barrier.

Male condom

- Thin latex rubber (there are non-latex options too)
- Fitted over the erect penis before sex
- Protect yourself against STIs
- 98% effective if used correctly**

Female condom

- Thin polyurethane
- Put into the vagina before sex
- Protect yourself against STIs
- Up to 95% effective if used correctly **

Diaphragm or cap

- Dome of thin rubber
- Put into the vagina before sex to cover the cervix
- Can be used with spermicide (a gel or cream that kills sperm)
- 92%-96% effective if used correctly **

 
  • Compare Barrier Contraceptives

    Method
    Advantages
    Disadvantages

    Male condom

     

    - You only have to use them when you have sex
    - They protect against some STIs
    - No visit to the doctor required
    - Hormone-free

    - Some people are allergic to latex
    - Putting a condom on can interrupt sex
    - The condom can split or slip off if not used correctly
    - Some lubricants can cause condoms to perish

    Female condom

     

    - You only have to use them when you have sex
    - They protect against some STIs
    - No visit to the doctor required
    - Can be put in before sex
    - Hormone-free

    - Can interrupt sex
    - Not as widely available as male condoms
    - Can be difficult to use

    Diaphragm/cap

     

    - You only have to use them when you have sex
    - Can be put in before sex
    - Hormone-free

    - Can interrupt sex
    - May need to be used with spermicidal lubricant which can be messy
    - A healthcare professional may have to tell you your size
    - If you lose or gain significant amount of weight you may need to get a new one
    - Spermicidal lubricant can cause irritation if used
    - Some people are allergic to latex
    - They may cause cystitis in some women


Hormonal contraceptives

These are usually synthetic versions of estrogen and/or progesterone that change your natural hormone levels to stop your body either ovulating or preparing for a baby. When used correctly they are very reliable methods. Some women report unwanted side effects and the pill may not be suitable for all women due to medical reasons.

The contraceptive pill (or combined pill)

- Normally taken for 21 days with a 7-day break
- Prevents ovulation
- Makes it harder for sperm to swim through your cervical mucus
- Over 99% effective if used correctly **

The mini pill

- Taken for 28 – 35 days (depending on the brand) with no break
- Stops your womb lining thickening in preparation for a fertilised egg
- 99% effective if used correctly **

Implants, injections and the contraceptive patch

- Long-term contraceptives
- Prevent ovulation
- Make the womb lining unreceptive to a fertilised egg
- Make it harder for sperm to swim through your cervical mucus
- Over 99% effective if used correctly **

IUS (Intrauterine system)

- Long-term contraceptive
- T-shaped device put into your womb that contains a slow-release hormone
- Fitted by a doctor and lasts 5 years
- Makes womb lining unreceptive to a fertilised egg
- Makes it harder for sperm to swim through your cervical mucus
- Over 99% effective **

IUD (Intrauterine device)

Similar to the IUS, in that it is inserted into the womb by a healthcare professional, but does not contain hormones. It creates an environment where sperm can’t fertilise the egg.

- Long-term contraceptive
- T-shaped device put into your womb
- Fitted by a doctor and lasts 5 – 10 years
- Stops sperm fertilising the egg
- The new types of IUD are over 99% effective **. Previous models are less effective.

 
  • Compare Hormonal Contraceptives

    Method
    Advantages
    Disadvantages

    The
    contraceptive
    pill
    (combined pill)

    - Doesn’t interrupt sex
    - The withdrawal bleed is regular, predictable and usually lighter and shorter than a ‘real’ period
    - Can have other health benefits such as reduction of acne

    - No protection from STIs
    - You must remember to take it every day
    - May not be suitable if you're over 35, if you smoke or are breastfeeding
    - You'll need to visit your doctor to renew the prescription
    - Can cause mood changes, breast tenderness, headaches and nausea
    - In rare cases can cause blood clots (thrombosis) or high blood pressure

    The mini pill

     

     

    - Doesn’t interrupt sex
    - Can reduce PMS symptoms
    - You can take it if you're over 35, if you smoke or are breastfeeding

    - No protection from STIs
    - You must remember to take it every day at the same time
    - You'll need to visit your doctor to renew the prescription
    - Can cause acne and breast tenderness in the first few months
    - Your periods may become light, more frequent, irregular or stop entirely

    Implants
    and
    injections

     

     

    - They don't interrupt sex
    - They are long lasting: the injection lasts for either 8 or 12 weeks and the implant for 5 years
    - You don’t need to remember to do anything daily
    - You can use them if you're breastfeeding
    - May reduce heavy or painful periods

    - No protection from STIs
    - It may take some time for you to be fertile again after you come off the injection
    - Your doctor or nurse will fit the implant or carry out the injection
    - Getting the implant/injection can be uncomfortable
    - Can take a while to change  from the injection to another method if it doesn’t suit you
    - Can cause acne, breast tenderness, headaches and mood changes
    - Your periods may change or become irregular

    Contraceptive patch

     

     

    - Doesn’t interrupt sex
    - You only need to replace the patch once a week
    - Could make your bleeds regular, lighter and less painful
    - Could reduce PMS symptoms

    - No protection from STIs
    - It can be clearly visible
    - Can cause skin irritation
    - Can cause headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes in the first few months
    - In rare cases can cause blood clots (thrombosis) or high blood pressure

    IUS

     

     

    - Lasts up to 5 years - there's nothing to remember daily
    - Doesn't interrupt sex
    - Most women find that their periods become lighter and less painful
    - Fertility returns immediately after you stop using it

    - No protection from STIs
    - You must regularly check that the IUS is still in place
    - Getting the IUS fitted can be uncomfortable
    - Can cause side effects such as breast tenderness, headaches and acne for the first three months or so
    - Can cause irregular bleeding for the first few months after it is fitted

    IUD

     

    - Lasts from 5 - 10 years there's nothing to remember daily
    - Doesn't interrupt sex
    - Fertility returns immediately after you stop using it

    - No protection from STIs
    - After you have an IUD fitted, there is a chance that you may get an infection
    - You must regularly check that the IUD is still in place
    - Getting the IUD fitted can be uncomfortable
    - Your periods may become heavier, longer and more painful than normal


Sterilisation

Intended as a permanent form of contraception, involving an operation. Generally irreversible so only consider if you’re certain you don’t want children in the future.

Male sterilisation (vasectomy)

- Stops sperm travelling from the testicles to the penis
- Around 1 in 2000 vasectomies fail **

Female sterilisation (tubal occlusion)

- Stops the egg travelling down the fallopian tubes
- Around 1 in 200 female sterilisations fail **

 
  • Compare Sterilisation Methods

    Method
    Advantages
    Disadvantages

    Male
    sterilisation
    (vasectomy)

     

     

    - Doesn't interrupt sex
    - Has no effect on sex drive or the pleasure felt at orgasm

    - No protection from STIs
    - Can’t easily be reversed

    Female
    sterilisation
    (tubal
    occlusion)

     

    - Doesn't interrupt sex
    - Has no effect on sex drive or the pleasure felt at orgasm

    - No protection from STIs
    - Can’t easily be reversed