The different types of female contraceptives
Long-acting contraceptive methods:
The implant is a plastic rod that is inserted under the skin of the upper, inner part of the arm. It releases small amounts of progestogen into the body. Like the hormonal IUD, it stops ovulation and thickens the mucous in the uterus, preventing sperm from reaching the egg. Also, it alters the lining of the uterus so that a fertilised egg cannot implant and begin to grow. The implant is non-invasive, lasts between 3 – 5 years and only requires a single visit to a clinic to be fitted.
Copper IUD (Intrauterine device)
An IUD is a small, T-shaped device that is inserted into your uterus. Copper wire is wrapped around the stem of the IUD – the reason for this is that copper is toxic to sperm and causes the uterus and fallopian tubes to produce a fluid that kills the sperm before it can reach the egg. A copper IUD can last between 5 – 10 years.
Short-acting contraceptive methods:
Combined contraception pill
More commonly known as ‘the pill’, the oral contraceptive (meaning that it needs to be ingested) contains a mixture of two hormones, oestrogen and progesterone which prevent ovulation. Please remember that combination pills should be taken at the same time every day to be most effective.
Progestogen-only contraception pill
This contraception pill works the same way as the combination pill, except that it doesn’t contain any oestrogen. It’s recommended for women who are breastfeeding or can’t take the combined pill for medical reasons. You can purchase packs containing one month’s supply. Like the combination pill, it should also be taken at the same time every day.
The patch contains the same hormones found in combination pills (oestrogen and progesterone.) All you need to do is to apply it to your skin (belly, upper arm or back is recommended.) Put on the patch once a week for three weeks, keep it off for one week and then repeat the cycle. You can purchase packs containing one month’s supply.
Also known as the ‘birth-control shot’, the injection is a safe, convenient contraceptive method. The injection contains progestogen which prevents ovulation. However, you need to have the injection every 2 – 3 months.
Barrier contraception methods:
Female condoms need to be inserted internally. One of the benefits is that you can insert it up to eight hours before sex and the condom will still be effective. It covers a larger surface area than a male condom thereby reducing the amount of skin-to-skin contact, lessening the chances of contracting an STD. Female condoms are sold in packs of three or you can get them for free at government clinics.
Permanent contraception methods:
Tubal ligation / female sterilisation
Also referred to as having ‘your tubes tied’, tubal ligation is a surgical procedure; your fallopian tubes are cut and tied, preventing the egg from travelling to the uterus. The procedure is approximately 99% effective and can be reversed if necessary.
Emergency contraception pills (A.K.A ‘morning-after pill’)
Accidents happen. Should you have unprotected sex, forget to take birth control pills or a condom breaks during sex, emergency contraception can be used to prevent unplanned pregnancy. It needs to be understood that the morning-after pill needs to be taken within 72 hours after sex. You’ll be able to get it at your local government clinic or pharmacy.
The device can be fitted within five days after unprotected sex. It can last up to 10 years.
It’s essential to know the different types of female contraceptives. Marie Stopes is the global leader in women’s sexual and reproductive health services and can help you. We offer a variety of services including pregnancy care, HIV and STI screening and safe abortion should you want to terminate an unplanned pregnancy. Book an appointment at one of our centres for more information.