SP: What kinds of contraception is available these days?

SP: What kinds of contraception is available these days?
This Q&A is sponsored by Durex.

I’m dating a new guy and we haven’t slept together yet; we’re both coming out of long-term relationships and so have been taking it slow. But, we’re heading towards that. I’m writing in because it’s been years (okay, a decade) since I used condoms or any kind of contraception and I know things have changed. Can you give me a rundown on what’s available these days for men and women? Kate

Sure thing. What you choose should depend on a few things, including whether you and your guy are planning to be exclusive / monogamous, whether you’ve both been tested for STDs and what actually suits your body and your lifestyle. It probably goes without saying that if you guys haven’t been tested, condoms should always be your contraception of choice. But, here’s a run-down of what else is available from your GP or family planning clinic.

Condoms Male condoms are up to 98 percent effective preventing pregnancy and STD transmission (when used correctly), and they’re available in a range of options, from ultra-thin styles for added sensitivity to lubricated and ‘ribbed’ options for extra stimulation. For women, there are female condoms which are inserted inside before penetration. These are reportedly 95 percent effective when used correctly – but they’re not as widely available.

The Pill It basically works by keeping hormone levels steady throughout the month, thereby not giving the ovaries a signal to release an egg. If you’re consistent taking it, The Pill can be extremely effective and according to experts may also lighten periods, lessen PMT and cramps, and regulate your cycle. It may also protect you from certain types of cancers. The downside is, it may raise your risk of cardiovascular disease.

The implant There are many types to choose from, including ‘the ring‘, a soft, flexible ring which slides inside like a tampon and releases hormones slowly; it needs replacing once a month. Similarly, Implanon, which looks like a small plastic matchstick and is inserted into your upper arm, prevents pregnancies for up to three years. Then there are IUDs, t-shaped plastic rods inserted into the uterus which are 99 percent effective preventing pregnancy for in between 3-10 years depending on the type you choose.

The injection Also known as Depo-Provera, this is administered by your GP every twelve weeks. It releases progestin into your system, again preventing ovulation in 99.7 percent of cases. There can be side effects which don’t wear off until the 12 weeks are over – but on the bright side, many women don’t menstruate while they’re on Depo.

The patch Also called Ortho-Evra, this adhesive patch is embedded with hormones, and is 99 percent effective against pregnancy. You stick it onto your lower body – bum, tummy, for example – and it releases hormones over the course of a week, preventing ovulation. You replace the patch weekly and on the fourth week, you have a patch-free week when you get your period.

The sponge Designed to be used once and thrown away, this spermicide-infused polyurethane disk must be moistened with water and positioned around the cervix before sex. The downside is, it can be messy and needs to be left inside for six hours after intercourse – and can fall apart when being taken out. For women who’ve given birth, it’s also only 68-80 percent effective against pregnancy (slightly more effective in women who haven’t given birth). The plus side is, it contains no hormones.

The cap Also known as the diaphragm, this soft rubber dome covers the cervix and, in theory, prevents the sperm and the egg from hooking up, especially if used alongside a spermicide. It’s 92-96 percent effective against pregnancy if used correctly and because no hormones are involved it doesn’t mess with your cycle or fertility. The downside is, it must be initially fitted by a doctor or at a family planning clinic, learning to use it can take time, some women using the cap can suffer from cystitis and it only provides limited STD protection.

Hope that gives you some ideas to chat to your partner and your GP about! Don’t forget to ask about side effects for all types of contraception before making your decision.

Love, reality chick

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Freelance journo, blogger, self-appointed advice-giver and co-author of Get Lucky. If you've got a dating or relationship issue, feel free to ask a question. (PS. You can also find me at The Mama Files and Letter To My Ex).


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