When considering contraception, most women tend to think about going on the pill – but it is important to know what other options are available to you. Dr Anusha Dias, expert in sexual and reproductive healthcare and psychosexual medicine, explains other forms of contraception available to women and the benefits they may bring.
The four most effective methods of contraception fall into a ‘use and forget’ category – which is often more convenient depending on the lifestyle and needs of the individual. These types of contraception are often referred to as Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) because they can be effective for many years, meaning they can indeed be forgotten about for the most part…and they are completely reversible.
The contraceptive implant
The contraceptive implant is a small flexible rod inserted under the skin of the upper arm, which will prevent pregnancy for up to three years. The implant is the most effective method of contraception currently available (over 99% effective). It works by releasing a low dose of the hormone progestogen, which stops ovulation and makes the womb lining temporarily thinner, meaning pregnancy is prevented.
Note that this method may make your periods longer, more irregular, or could even stop them all together.
The contraceptive injection
The most common injection currently given as a contraceptive method lasts for 12 weeks. It is over 99% effective and also releases progestogen. The injection usually stops your periods or makes them irregular. It may take several months for menstruation to return to normal after you stop getting the injection.
The intrauterine device (IUD or coil)
This small plastic device, often referred to as ‘the coil’ is inserted into the uterus and can last up to 10 years. It works by stopping the egg and sperm meeting but can make periods longer, heavier or more painful – however, it is a good choice for those who do not wish to use contraceptive treatments with hormones. The insertion usually takes 10-15 minutes and the coil is 99% effective. The coil can be removed at any time after insertion.
The intrauterine system (IUS)
This plastic device is inserted into the uterus and works by releasing progestogen. It works for about three to five years, depending on the device put in place. It is 99% effective and works by thinning the lining of the uterus, thickening the mucus produced by the cervix, and sometimes stopping ovulation altogether. It makes periods shorter and lighter and often can stop periods altogether. This process, however, generally takes up to six months, during which time bleeding can be irregular. It is particularly beneficial in those who experience heavy periods or those wishing to start hormone replacement therapy. When the device is inserted into the uterus, the procedure can be uncomfortable, but it only lasts 10-15 minutes.