Thinking of starting a contraceptive?

There are different choices when it comes to contraceptives, but not all methods are right for everyone. Your decision on the type of contraceptive you’d like to use is personal. You should carefully weigh the factors, risks, and benefits, along with the effectiveness of each method before starting birth control. Here’s more.

Factors to consider when choosing a contraceptive

Your age and health history.

Your reproductive goals, as well as whether or not and how soon you’d like to get pregnant.

Relationship factors such as marital status, number of sexual partners, and partner preferences.

Religious beliefs.

Differences between birth control methods, including how effective they are at preventing pregnancy, side effects, availability at clinics near you and costs.

Types of contraceptive methods

Barrier methods– An example of a barrier method is the male and female condom as well as the diaphragm, cervical cap and contraceptive sponge.

Short-term hormonal methods– these include birth control pills, the vaginal ring, patch and injection. These are considered short-term methods because you must remember to take them on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Long-term methods – these include the hormonal and non-hormonal IUD and implant. They’re considered long-term methods because they can last for 3 to 10 years after insertion, depending on the device used.

How effective are contraceptives?

To be effective, any method of contraception must be used consistently and correctly. Contraceptives that require little effort on your part, such as IUDs and implants, are associated with lower pregnancy rates. Methods that require monitoring such as the pill and injection, are associated with higher pregnancy rates. If you’re on a short-term contraceptive method, it’s important to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on how to take the contraceptive (eg. at the same time every day).

Your options

The method of contraception you choose depends on your reproductive goals. Depending on if and when you want to fall pregnant (after stopping contraception), your healthcare provider will be able to advise on the best contraceptive for you.

If you’re certain that you don’t want to get pregnant at any time in the future, you may prefer a permanent method, such as sterilisation. 

What are the side effects?

Some contraceptives, particularly hormone-based contraceptives, can cause side effects. When choosing a birth control method, talk to your healthcare provider about possible side effects and how they might affect your choice.

Other benefits

Some contraceptives provide benefits for some people, such as reducing acne, making your periods lighter and more regular, and easing menstrual cramps. If these benefits are important to you, they may influence your choice of birth control option.

It’s important to choose a type of birth control that suits your lifestyle. The best method of birth control for you is one that’s safe, comfortable to use, and that you can use consistently and correctly. Remember that not all contraceptives protect against STIs. To make sure you’re protected, you need to use condoms in addition to the contraceptive that you decide to use.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).