Contraception is vital if you want to avoid pregnancy. There are various methods of contraception, including barrier methods such as condoms and hormonal methods such as the contraceptive injection and the pill. The right choice of contraception for one person will be different from another, because contraception is a highly personal choice dependent on multiple factors such as health and ease of use.
Contraception can work in one of three different ways or a combination of ways: stopping the sperm and egg meeting, stopping the egg being produced or stopping the implantation of a fertilised egg in the womb. You can ask your GP for advice on choosing the right contraception for you, but it is also easy to find resources online or to contact a contraception helpline in the UK for consultations and further information.
The easiest method of contraception is the condom. This can be used with no preparation and acts as a barrier to stop the sperm from meeting the egg. You can buy condoms for both men and women. Condoms are normally made from thin latex and the man's condom is worn over the penis while the women's condom is worn inside the vagina. The condom is a simple and effective contraceptive when used properly, and does not require hormonal changes or other invasive procedures.
Diaphragms, also called caps, are inserted into a woman's vagina prior to sex to act as a barrier. Spermicidal cream needs to be used in conjunction with a diaphragm to make it completely effective. The diaphragm needs to stay in place for at least 6 hours after sex, and initially it must be fitted by a doctor to ensure the right size is utilised.
If a woman wants to protect herself from pregnancy long term but still enjoy the flexibility of easily reversible contraception, a hormonal method of contraception is often a good choice. Often called 'the pill', a popular hormonal method of contraception requires the woman to take a small pill each day containing a low dosage of synthetic hormone.
Oral contraceptive pills can be 'combined' with pills containing oestrogen and progesterone, or progesterone-only pills, called the 'mini pill'. It is easy to use a contraception helpline in the UK to arrange a consultation with a doctor and begin to take the pill.
Injections, Implants and Patches
Hormones can also be introduced into the body via injections taken every few months, a small rod implanted under the skin in the upper arm, or a patch similar to a nicotine patch. The injection uses progesterone to stop egg production and can last up to 12 weeks, while the implant works in the same way as the injection and lasts for 3 years before needing to be replaced. The patch works in the same way as the combined pill.
Inter-uterine devices are small T-shaped devices fitted by a doctor which sit inside the womb. They work long-term, stopping the egg and sperm surviving and preventing a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb wall.