Birth control and contraception

Choosing the right birth control for your life and body isn’t always easy. There is a lot that nobody tells you about birth control, including possible negative impacts on your mood, weight and libido from the pill, for example, or vaginal irritation from vaginal rings. Many of us don’t even know exactly how we get pregnant.

Types of birth control and contraception

Birth control comes in four main forms: physical barrier methods, hormonal methods, IUDs and natural birth control.

Condoms stop sexually transmitted infections as well as babies, but hormonal and IUD methods just protect you from an unwanted pregnancy.

Natural birth control methods use the menstrual cycle and other interference to avoid pregnancy.

Another option is sterilisation (tubal ligation), also known as ‘having your tubes tied’. A tubal ligation means the fallopian tubes that would otherwise facilitate the egg and sperm meeting are closed off to block passage of both egg and sperm.

Physical barrier birth control

As the name suggests, a physical barrier creates a blockade between your fertile egg and the live sperm, during sex.

Condoms also stop most penis or semen-borne bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites from entering your vagina (or entering the penis, from your vagina), but diaphragms and sponges do not offer this protection.

Hormonal birth control

There are plenty of hormone-based pills, patches, rings and so on available from your doctor via prescription, with each preventing ovulation. No egg released means it’s impossible for fertilisation to occur, thus no babies.

Each hormonal birth control has its own unique formulation of hormones, since a pharmaceutical company cannot patent regular versions of hormones – only slightly molecularly different versions of hormones.

This is why some hormonal contraception will suit you better than others. While the core of that is about money, it also means that you can try different hormonal birth control with varying effects on your body – some will feel better than others.

Types of hormonal birth control

Natural birth control techniques

The two main methods here are cycle charting and the pull-out or withdrawal method. 

How to decide which birth control is right for you

First you need to figure out whether you need to be protected from bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, or just pregnancy. You can use more than one method of birth control, like be on the pill while also using condoms, or charting your cycles and using a condom during fertile times.

If no babies is the only goal, then you have all the options. If you need to be protected from infections, you need to get good at using condoms.

Condoms

Skins: condoms made from sheep intestine

So far hands-down the most-loved condoms ever made.

Latex allergy and condom allergy

Latex allergy affects millions of people globally, with our increasing use of latex in gloves, condoms, and many other everyday items. Condom allergy will manifest itself quite soon after contact, with swelling, itching, soreness, hives and other signs of irritation, which can be mild or severe.

Understanding and using the female condom

The female condom IS an option! We discuss the pros and cons of this form of barrier protection for sex.

Contraceptive alternatives to the pill

Don't want to take the pill? Weigh up the pros and cons of the alternatives here...

2016 Chilean health alert: faulty Kaiju condoms found

Warning for anyone having protected sex in Chile!

Condoms

Learning how to make condoms work for you, not the other way around, is the key to getting the most out of safe sex. Condoms are a form of barrier protection used during sexual penetration or oral sex to prevent unwanted pregnancy and the exchange of sexually transmitted infections.

The Pill

Synthetic hormones in contraceptive pills and rings

Not sure what is in your contraceptive? Find out here.

Study: post-BV-treatment sex life and contraceptives use matters

Worse outcomes were found in women who had the same sex partner before and after BV treatment, but better outcomes in those on oestrogen-based birth control.

Using the regular pill as emergency contraception

The oral contraceptive pill can be used as the morning-after pill - they are the same thing, just different doses.

PCOS: Why don’t I just take the pill to fix my hormones?

Your questions answered about how the pill works and its side-effects.

Contraceptive alternatives to the pill

Don't want to take the pill? Weigh up the pros and cons of the alternatives here...

Withdrawal bleeding

We explain why you are told to take a 7-day break from the contraceptive pill, ring or patch, and what bleeding in the middle of your cycle means when using hormone therapy.

The oral contraceptive pill

The pill is a hormonal tablet used for a few reasons, namely birth control and managing hormones that cause or contribute to acne, endometriosis, and PCOS.

The patch

The Morning After Pill, Plan B

There are options for stopping the process of pregnancy before it really gets very far, with emergency contraception available in many countries from pharmacies.

If you can’t get hold of emergency contraceptive pills, you can use regular ‘the pill’ pills – read the chart to figure out how many pills of the brand you have to take.

Poland: free electronic prescriptions for emergency contraceptives from WoW

Polish women can now get free emergency contraceptive prescriptions from Women on Waves after a short online consultation.

Using the regular pill as emergency contraception

The oral contraceptive pill can be used as the morning-after pill - they are the same thing, just different doses.

Contraceptive Rings

Legal: NuvaRing lawsuit for no warnings about dangers of blood clots

A 2014 lawsuit against the makers of Nuvaring alleged users were not warned adequately of the risks.

Contraceptive alternatives to the pill

Don't want to take the pill? Weigh up the pros and cons of the alternatives here...

Withdrawal bleeding

We explain why you are told to take a 7-day break from the contraceptive pill, ring or patch, and what bleeding in the middle of your cycle means when using hormone therapy.

Synthetic hormones in contraceptive pills and rings

Not sure what is in your contraceptive? Find out here.

The Nuvaring contraceptive device

The Nuvaring is a vaginal hormonal contraception that uses a silicone ring infused with hormones to prevent ovulation and therefore prevent pregnancy. The rings can affect your vagina by causing local irritation and discharge, and are not suitable for everyone.

Emergency Contraception

The Morning After Pill, Plan B

There are options for stopping the process of pregnancy before it really gets very far, with emergency contraception available in many countries from pharmacies.

If you can’t get hold of emergency contraceptive pills, you can use regular ‘the pill’ pills – read the chart to figure out how many pills of the brand you have to take.

Using the regular pill as emergency contraception

The oral contraceptive pill can be used as the morning-after pill - they are the same thing, just different doses.

Poland: free electronic prescriptions for emergency contraceptives from WoW

Polish women can now get free emergency contraceptive prescriptions from Women on Waves after a short online consultation.

Diaphragm

Diaphragm contraceptive devices

Diaphragms are useful as a contraceptive for some people - you have to insert the device, usually with spermicide, before sex, taking it out afterwards.

Implants

Contraceptive alternatives to the pill

Don't want to take the pill? Weigh up the pros and cons of the alternatives here...

Implanon

Implanon is a hormonal contraceptive implant about the size of a matchstick, that is implanted into the upper inner arm, and lasts for about three years.

Sterilisation (tubes tied)

Getting your tubes tied – female sterilisation – tubal ligation

Getting your tubes tied is now much more like getting your tubes clipped, but the result is the same: the egg cannot meet the sperm to create a pregnancy. This is called tubal ligation and female sterilisation.

Sea sponges

Contraceptive sponges

Contraceptive sponges are one of those birth control methods that never really took off, but you can easily and cheaply make your own natural sea sponge period-blocker or contraceptive with a little know-how.

Depo Provera injection

Depo Provera contraceptive injection

The Depo Provera contraceptive injection is given every three months, is very effective at preventing pregnancy, but comes with a host of negative side effects that you can't undo until it wears off.

The Depo Provera and BV – help or hindrance?

We discuss the impact of the Depo Provera contraceptive injection on BV.

Contraceptive alternatives to the pill

Don't want to take the pill? Weigh up the pros and cons of the alternatives here...

Intrauterine Devices (IUD)

There are two types of IUD – hormonal and non-hormonal (also known as the copper IUD). The hormonal IUD releases hormones into the area around it in your uterus, which causes a reduction in your period blood volume.

You may not get any periods. The hormonal IUD is also smaller than the copper IUD, so can be better tolerated for many women. Both have their pros and cons, but which choice is best for you will depend on your body.

Contraceptive alternatives to the pill

Don't want to take the pill? Weigh up the pros and cons of the alternatives here...

Study: The impact of the Mirena IUD on vaginal bacteria – good, bad or indifferent?

This study found that numbers of L. crispatus before and after the IUD was inserted were more or less the same.

Withdrawal Method

The withdrawal method (also known as the pull-out method or coitus interruptus)

The withdrawal method is where the man pulls his penis out of the vagina before he ejaculates. This means the sperm doesn’t have a chance to make its way to the egg, and no pregnancy can occur.

This method of birth control has been in use since time began, and has been extremely controversial for one very good reason: it sometimes works and sometimes definitely does not work.

But how do you know if it will work for you or not?

Well, that’s not super easy to answer because it turns out that every individual man is either able to successfully pull out, or he is not (see precum study). Now, we don’t mean he is unable to pull his penis out before he ejaculates – let’s assume he’s got that covered – but it means the pre-ejaculate fluid of each man is either fertile or it is not.

While you are having sex, some pre-ejaculate fluid escapes the man’s penis, and enter the vagina. This is normal. Each man is either fertile in this stage, or he is infertile in this stage, and this remains constant throughout his life. This has as much to do with his plumbing as anything else, and there is nothing you can do to change his status as either a pre-ejaculate-fertile man or a pre-ejaculate-infertile man. That is, able to successfully avoid pregnancy using the pull-out method or not.

The only way to figure out a man’s status as a potentially successful puller-outerer is to either undergo testing (which is likely to cost a lot as part of fertility testing) or to take your chances. Many couples can successfully go their whole relationship without getting pregnant using this method alone. The pre-ejaculate fertility is the reason why.

Aunt Vadge: how fertile is pre-cum?

What's the story with pre-cum and pregnancy? We explain.

Cycle charting

Charting your cycles is a valid method of birth control, so long as you know exactly what you’re doing!

Usually the minute you learn when you ovulate – and the associated fun bits that go with it – you want to experience that all the time, while also enjoying sex without contraception when it’s safe to do so.

To keep your natural cycle, the only options available to you are a copper IUD, barrier methods, or natural birth control.

Feeling your cervix for signs of ovulation

You can feel where you're at in your cycle by feeling your cervix - is it high, soft and wet? Maybe you're ovulating. If it's low and hard, you may be about to get your period.

How to chart your menstrual cycle and identify ovulation

Not sure when or if you ovulate? We run you through charting your cycles and how to check if and when you are ovulating using some very simple tips and tricks. No temperatures!

Termination (abortion)

If you do get pregnant, you may be able to get an abortion, but how easy, safe, and cheap this is will depend very heavily on where you live.

Women on Waves provide online medical consultations and mail abortion drugs to women who can’t get an abortion from their own country or area. Contact them for confidential help.

EVENT PASSED: Barco de aborto en México – 23 de abril – Abortion ship in Mexico – until April 23 2017

An abortion ship is providing free medical abortions to women in Mexico up until 23 April 2017. Call 755 980 0548 for help.

What’s new in abortion rights around the world for 2018

News update on abortion law and social changes ahead for 2018.

Abortion (pregnancy termination)

Learn what an abortion is, the different types of pregnancy terminations available, and what the abortion procedure is like.

EVENT PASSED: Abortion drone flying to Northern Ireland 21 June 2016, protest at 2.30pm in Belfast

The abortion drone lift-off to Northern Ireland is ready for flight.

Should I get an abortion?

Ideas for helping you decide if you want to have an abortion or not.

Start your search here



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