Women's Health

A guide to Contraceptive Methods

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Contraception is the process of preventing pregnancies. It is a part of family planning. Contraceptive methods range from natural to pills to injections, implants, devices and finally surgery (male or female sterilization). 

Natural Contraceptive Methods

These don’t involve use of pills. It involves tracking the fertile period (when you’re likely to get pregnant) of the menstrual cycle and abstaining from sex at those periods to prevent pregnancy. There are three main fertility indicators that can be monitored:

  • The length of the menstrual cycle and the ovulation period– most women’s cycles are between 26-32 days, the average being 28 days. The ovulation period, which is when the egg is released, is usually calculated as day 14. The fertile period is usually at day 14 plus or minus two days. This means you can get pregnant if you’ve had unprotected sexual intercourse from day 12 up to day 16 of your cycle. 
  • The temperature method- the basal body temperature can also be used. During ovulation, the body temperature increases. How to do this is to take your body temperature with a thermometer before you get out of bed each morning, before having anything to eat or drink. The period during which your temperature is higher indicates your ovulation period. This method is unreliable because charting the temperature indicates when the ovulation period has already occurred. 
  • Cervical secretion monitoring- During ovulation, the cervical secretion is sticky, white and creamy unlike the first few days after your period. Around ovulation, the secretion gets wetter, slippery and raw egg white. This is the most fertile period. 

Advantages of Natural Methods

  • No side effects as you don’t take drugs. 
  • It helps women know their menstrual cycle well so one can recognize when there’s a problem. 

Disadvantages  of Natural Methods

  • It is unreliable and much less effective especially if it is not strictly adhered to
  • It does not protect against STIs 
  • Stress, Illness and some other things can affect the menstrual cycle. 
  • One would need to keep a daily record of the signals. 

Other Contraceptive methods 

  1. Barrier Methods- These include use of male or female condoms, diaphragm, cervical cap. They are used only during sexual intercourse. Condoms, especially male condoms, are widely available. Condoms are highly effective in preventing pregnancy and STIs. You should always check the expiry date of condoms before use. 
  2. Contraceptive Pills- these are pills taken every day in order to prevent pregnancy. The pills are taken by women. The way the pills work is through prevention of egg release from the ovaries as well as thickening cervical mucus to keep the sperm from getting to the egg. 

One pill should be taken at the same time everyday whether or not you have sex in order to have good results. If you miss your pills often, it will not be effective enough. Read the patient information slip provided with the pill pack for directions. If you experience unpleasant side effects, talk to your healthcare provider. 

Advantages of taking pills:

  • It is very effective when used appropriately 
  • It is easy to use
  • It is also advantageous in those with heavy and painful periods 

Disadvantages of taking the pills

  • Burden of having to take a pill everyday 
  • They don’t protect against STIs
  • Some women may experience mood swings or depression 
  • It cannot be used in some who have heart diseases 
  • Some women experience weight gain 
  • It may cause changes in the menstrual cycle. 

READ: How to maintain a good vaginal health

Contraceptive Implants

a contraceptive implant is put in the upper arm which then slowly releases a hormone called etonogestrel into the blood stream. The progestin works by preventing the release of eggs during ovulation and also thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. It is effective for a period of three years and should be removed after three years. It can be removed earlier if you wish to get pregnant. 

Advantages of the contraceptive implant:

  • It is a relatively long-acting form of family planning. 
  • It is very effective. 
  • Fertility returns as soon as it is removed. 

Disadvantages of the contraceptive implant:

  • It does not protect against STIs
  • Some women also gain weight. 

RECOMMENDED Telehealth In Nigeria: Learn How To Access Healthcare Delivery From Anywhere.

The Contraceptive intrauterine devices

These are devices inserted into the woman’s womb to prevent her from getting pregnant.

Examples include the intrauterine copper devices and mirena coil.

The copper device does not release hormones into the system. It triggers the immune system to prevent pregnancy.

Mirena, on the other hand, releases a hormone into the body. Intrauterine devices last very long.

The copper devices can last up to ten years while the mirena coil can last up to five years. 

Advantages of intrauterine devices

  • They are very effective. 
  • They last very long. 
  • The mirena is useful for those with heavy periods. 
  • They are safe to use. 

Disadvantages of intrauterine devices:

  • They do not protect against STIs
  • You are unlikely to get pregnant but if you do while on the device, you are at a risk of having an ectopic pregnancy 
  • There is also a risk of having pelvic infections. 

Permanent contraceptive methods

(male sterilization or female sterilization)- these include ‘tying the tubes’ (Bilateral tubal ligation) in women or a vasectomy in men. These methods are irreversible and require the couple to be very sure of this before undergoing the surgery. 

Advantages of Permanent Contraception

  • It is highly effective
  • It has no effect on the body such as mood swings or weight again
  • It is very long lasting. 

Disadvantages of Permanent Contraception 

  • It does not protect against STIs 
  • It is irreversible 

Emergency Contraception 

This involves preventing pregnancy after an unprotected sexual intercourse. They are used when there’s no contraceptive method in place, sexual assault or in the case of a failed contraceptive method like burst condoms, three or more missed contraceptive pills. Emergency contraceptive pills or morning after pills are usually taken within five days of unprotected sexual intercourse and they work by preventing or delaying ovulation. 

To get sexual health services, talk to your healthcare provider who will advise you on which is best for you.

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