For decades, contraception has empowered women and improved their quality of life, giving them the freedom to choose when or if to become parents.
But how often do you stop to think about your birth control method and how it actually works to prevent pregnancy? That tiny little rod in your arm, or that device inserted into your uterus – how does affect your ability to conceive?
Explained simply, different types of contraception, like the pill, IUD and implant contraceptive, prevent pregnancy by interrupting a woman’s reproductive system.
How does the female reproductive system work?
Each month, an egg is recruited from the ovary. The egg matures and grows, and is then released from the ovary so that it can begin its journey towards the uterus, which should be ready for the egg’s arrival.
If, during this time, the egg comes into contact with male sperm, it can be fertilised, and it can then implant in the uterus, where it begins to grow and develop into a baby. Contraception interrupts this process so that sex does not result in a fertilised egg and possible pregnancy.
How different types of contraception work to prevent pregnancy
Hormonal forms of contraception, like the pill, the patch, the injection, the IUD and the implant, work by altering a woman’s levels of oestrogen and progesterone, in order to prevent fertilisation and pregnancy. They either stop the egg from meeting the sperm, or they make the uterus inhospitable to a fertilised ovum.
- The combination pill (usually just known as the pill) prevents ovulation (the release of an egg) during a woman’s monthly cycle. Without ovulation, pregnancy can’t occur.
- Progesterone-only pills thicken the mucous lining of the uterus, making it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus and fertilise the egg. They also stop ovulation in around 60% of women. Finally, they make the lining of the uterus thinner, so that it’s difficult for an egg to implant in it, and will instead be expelled during menstruation.
- The injection and the implant contraceptive slowly release progesterone into the bloodstream, and work in a similar way as the pill.
- The IUD (both copper and hormonal varieties) affect the way sperm moves once it enters the vaginal canal, so it can’t meet and fertilise the egg. The copper in the copper IUD creates a hostile environment for sperm, which prevents it from fertilising an egg, while hormonal IUDs contain Levonorgestrel, a manufactured hormone that is a form of progesterone. In some women, the hormonal IUD prevents ovulation.
Where can I get affordable, reliable types of contraception?
Pop into any Marie Stopes centre in your city for a range of reliable contraceptives that suit your lifestyle. We provide both short and long-term contraception, as well as advice and information about each type.