How Not To Make A Foetal Mistake If You Don't Want To Raise A Family Anytime Soon
Today is World Contraception Day. Yay!
The one day of the year where jokes like ‘Don’t be silly, wrap your willy’ and ‘No glove, no love’ are not only appropriate, but should be gleefully shouted from the rooftops as we all take a moment to make sure we are having safe, protected sex, doing what is best for our bodies and exploring all our options while we are in pursuit of a bit of love.
It’s a good idea to have a chat to your doctor about your chosen contraception on a regular basis. There’s also a quiz you can do that will help you explore your options. Dr Catriona Melville, who works for Marie Stopes Australia, told me that 46 percent of Australian women don’t consider exploring their contraceptive options until a problem occurs. Instead, she recommends that women actively seek out contraception that works for their bodies and stage of life.
“If you have become familiar with one method of contraception, it may not have occurred to you that your needs may have changed and that there are alternatives available that might suit you better,” said Dr. Melville. “It’s important that the contraception you choose reflects your requirements at this stage in your life.”
READ MORE: Do Condoms Make Men Lose Their Erections?
In the spirit of encouraging a lot of fun, safe sex without falling pregnant until you want to and knowing all your options, I thought I’d take a moment or two to run you through the basics of different contraceptive methods and the conversations you might want to have with your doctor and partner, because there’s nothing I love more than a bit of safe sex (except Nutella and binge watching NCIS. Obviously.)
These are the cheapest and most accessible form of birth control in Australia, and they also offer protection from STDs and STIs. They are a must have in any new relationship, until you both get tested and figure out another form of contraception. (Or you can just stick to condoms. Whatever tickles your pickle.) They’re 82 percent effective with typical use, and 98 percent effective when used correctly.
Because male condoms are the most effective way of stopping you from getting a nasty STD/STI, it’s a good idea to use them anyway, even if you are using another form of birth control. The only burn you want to feel down there is a burn of fire-y passion.
These are your next best bet for protection from pregnancy and STIs/STDs after male condoms. They’re basically the reverse of a male condom- it’s a small, elastic tube that gets inserted into the vagina before sex. Once it’s in, your partner has to make sure that whatever’s going in there ACTUALLY goes in there- not in between the condom and the vagina. These have a 79 percent effectiveness rate with typical use, and 91 percent effectiveness rate when used properly.
These are similar-ish to the female condom, but they definitely DO NOT protect you from STIs/STDs and they are less effective -- so if risk is your thing then these might be the way to go (or try something else risky during sex, like a handstand. If you injure yourself by having sex while doing a handstand, I am not liable.)
They have an 86 percent effectiveness rate when used correctly, which includes inserting the diaphragm AND a special barrier gel into your vagina no more than two hours before sex. They sit up against your cervix and act as a barrier to stop sperm combining with your eggs to make babies, and you can take them out between six and 24 hours after sex.
This is one of the most common forms of birth control for women. It’s not just a contraceptive though, the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill can also be used to treat a number of hormonal conditions in women. For the Pill to be effective, you need to take it at the same time every day-- this gives you a 99 percent chance of NOT falling pregnant. However, with typical use the effectiveness of the pill slips to 91 percent.
It won’t protect you STIs or STDs though, so make sure you use another form of protection to you don’t get the grown-up version of a pash rash in your pants.
The Mini Pill:
This is a similar concept to the Pill, but it only has progestogen. This hormone acts to thicken the cervical mucus so that sperm can’t swim through.
Like the Pill, it needs to be taken at the same time every day. What makes it different is that because there is no oestrogen it doesn’t prevent ovulation -- it just makes things a hell of a lot harder for the sperm to get to their desired destination. This method of birth control is 99.7 percent effective when used properly, but with typical use that decreases to 91 percent.
This is the same as the pill, but instead of remembering to take a tiny tablet at the same time every day, you ‘set and forget’ for three weeks at a time. The vaginal ring gets inserted into your lady bits (high up) and while it’s up there it releases progestogen and oestrogen, which prevents ovulation and thickens cervical mucus. The effectiveness rate of this method is the 99.7 percent when used properly and 91 percent with typical use.
The down side of this method is that depending on how you’re getting it on, it can get caught on both fingers and penises. Gives a whole new meaning to that iconic Beyoncé song.
The injection is a 150ml shot of progestogen administered every three months, which acts to thicken your cervical mucus and prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg. This one comes with an addendum though- some women can experience significant negative side effects, and it can take up to 18 months for your fertility levels to return to normal following your first shot. It’s 99.8 percent effective when taken properly (every three months on the dot) and 94 percent effective at preventing pregnancy with typical use.
This is the most effective form of reversible contraception available- 99 percent effective with perfect and typical use. It’s simple, really-- you go to the doctor and have it inserted into your arm and then forget about it for three years. If you decide you want to start trying for a baby during those three years, you get it taken out early.
Many people believe that long acting reversible contraception can have a permanent, negative effect on your fertility, but don’t stress- once you have the rod removed, you are fertile again!
It releases progestogen, which will prevent ovulation and thicken cervical mucous to prevent pregnancy. It can also be used to treat heavy periods and period pain, and in some women, it will stop menstruation all together while it is inserted.
This is another form of long acting reversible contraception that utilises progestogen to thicken cervical mucous and prevent ovulation. This one requires a doctor for insertion and removal and is 99.8 percent effective.
You have to be a little careful with this one -- while it is low maintenance, lasts for five years, is cost effective and can help with managing painful or heavy periods, there is a small risk of perforation of the uterus, or expulsion if your body decides it doesn’t like it.
It sits up in your uterus, so there is no way that a partner will ever be able to feel the IUD itself- but it does have two small strings to allow for easy removal, and they may be able to feel those from time to time (this is super rare though.) If it’s disrupting your sex life, go back to your doctor- they can cut the strings a bit shorter.
If you can’t find a hormonal contraceptive method that works for you, then the copper IUD is the way to go. It releases low levels of copper ions, which affects sperm motility and stops fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterine wall. It’s marginally less effective than the hormonal IUD- 99.4 percent with perfect use and 99.2 percent with typical use.
It has the same possibility of expulsion and perforation as the hormonal IUD, but it also lasts from 5-10 years. It can lead to heavier periods, so if you already have issues with your cycle, it might be worth asking your doctor about other options. If you do have negative side effects, no stress- just make an appointment to get it removed with your doctor.
Plan B (the morning after pill):
For when you have a bit of a slip up or the condom breaks, the morning after pill is a godsend for when you’re not suuuuuuuper sure that you had super safe sex last night. These work by delaying the release of an egg until all viable sperm have left your body.
These are the most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after you finished getting it on, and are about 85 percent effective if you take them within the first three days post hanky panky. However, if you ovulate before you can get your hands on the morning after pill, it may be too late -- so go and see your doctor just in case.
The Rhythm Method:
As much as I wish I could tell you that involved listening to some music while you’re doing the dirty, it’s actually much more mathematical than that. For this one, a woman will count out the days of her cycle and avoid sex when she is fertile.
This one is quite risky- cycles chop and change depending on lots of factors, and you can never be 100 percent sure when you are ovulating. You can also miscount your cycle, and you need to take into account that sperm can live in the vagina for up to seven days. This method is typically 75 percent effective. You can track your cycle in lots of ways -- temperature, calendar, discharge. Whatever tickles your fancy.
The Withdrawal Method:
Look, this is the one that I am least convinced by. The idea is that if the man pulls out BEFORE he, ahem, reaches his final destination (sorry), you will be able to avoid falling pregnant. There is so much at stake here; pre cum, for instance, can still contain sperm, so a bit could leak out before the magic has officially happened. You could both get wrapped up in the throes of passion and forget. He could miss.
By all means, if this works for you then go for it. But with an effectiveness rating of a mere 78 percent, I think I’ll be backing this up with another method.
So, there you have it. A comprehensive breakdown of every contraceptive method available to women and men in Australia. You’re welcum. (Sorry.)