Do you know that your ability to get pregnant may return as early as 3 weeks after putting to bed? So, it is important you know what your family planning options are. However, after going through the options, my advice is that you still have an intelligent discussion with your doctor as regards which option works best for you.

Now, your options include:

IMPLANTABLE DEVICES – which has to do with inserting devices into your body and leaving them in place for some years

HORMONAL METHODS – which has to do with interfering with ovulation, fertilization and/or egg implantation to prevent pregnancy

BARRIER METHODS – which involves seting up a barrier which prevents sperms from reaching your egg

NATURAL PLANNING METHOD – which involves you refraining from sex during the fertile period of your cycle

PERMANENT BIRTH CONTROL METHODS – for those sure they will never want kids again

Note that the implantable and hormonal methods usually involve the release of one or both of the following hormones – estrogen and progestin. For any method which involves the release of both estrogen and progestin into the body, the following must be noted:

  • Women should wait at least 3 weeks after giving birth before using birth controls that contain estrogen and progestin because it increases the risk of dangerous blood clot that can form after child birth
  • Women who had CS deliveries or have other risk factors for blood clot like obesity, history of blood clot, smoking, or preeclampsia should wait 6 weeks following child birth before using such birth control methods

 

IMPLANTABLE DEVICES

1. Hormonal Intrauterine Device (IUD)

  • Brand name – Mirena
  • Small, T shaped, plastic device that is inserted by a doctor
  • Releases progestin into the uterus in order to prevent egg release and also thickens the cervical mucus and prevents the sperm from reaching the egg. In addition,  influences the ability of a fertilized egg to successfully implant itself in the uterus
  • Over 99% effective
  • Can last up to 5 years in the uterus
  • Undetectable during sex
  • May reduce cramps and make period lighter
  • May cause cramping and backache during the days following insertion
  • May cause spotting between periods and irregular periods for the first 3-6 months after insertion

Possible risks and side effects

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Infertility
  • Tear or hole in uterus

 

2. Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)

  • Brand name – Paragard
  • Small T-shaped device
  • Made of flexible plastic and copper
  • Inserted by a doctor
  • Releases a small amount of copper into the uterus, preventing sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg. Also prevents fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus lining, just in case of fertilization
  • Does not change natural hormone levels
  • Can last up to 5-10 years
  • Over 99% effective
  • Undetectable during sex
  • May cause cramping and backache during the days following insertion
  • May cause spotting between periods and irregular periods for the first 3-6 months after insertion

Possible risks and side effects

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Infertility
  • Tear or hole in uterus

 

3. Implantable Rod

  • Brand name – Implanon
  • Match stick sized, flexible rod inserted under the skin of upper arm
  • Releases progestin into the body which causes changes in lining of uterus and cervical mucus in order to prevent sperm from joining with egg. Sometimes it stops the ovaries from actually releasing eggs
  • Over 99% accurate and may not work as well for overweight women.
  • Can last up to 3 years

Possible risks and side effects

  • Lower interest in sex
  • Ovarian cyst
  • Hair loss
  • Depression and mood changes
  • Acne
  • Changes in period
  • Sore breasts
  • Dizziness and headache
  • Upset stomach

 

HORMONAL METHODS

4. The shot

  • Brand name – Depo-Provera
  • Shots of progestin  is administered by a doctor once every three months either in the arm or buttocks
  • In most women, it stops ovaries from releasing eggs and also causes cervix changes which prevent any sperm from joining with the egg
  • Should not be used more than 2 years in a row because it causes temporary loss of bone density and even though the bone resumes growth after the method is stopped, it may increase risk of fracture and osteoporosis if used for a long time
  • Over 94-99% effective
  • Possible risks
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Sore breasts
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Bone loss with long term use
  • Changes in sex drive

 

5. Oral contraceptives (The pill)

  • Contains estrogen and progestin
  • In addition to stopping a woman’s egg from fully developing, it also thickens the cervical mucus at the uterus opening, making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. Also it changes the uterus lining so that the egg will not stop in the uterus to develop
  • 91-99% effective
  • Taken daily
  • Women who have a history of blood clots, breast liver or endometrial cancer or are older than 35 and smoke are usually advised not to go on the pill.
  • Antibiotics may reduce how well it works
  • Being overweight may increase your chances of getting pregnant when on the pill
  • There are extended cycle pills which make women have their period only 3-4 times in a year

Possible risks and side effects

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Blood clot
  • Stroke
  • New vision problems
  • Changes in mood
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach
  • Changes in period

 

6. Contraceptive vaginal ring

  • Brand name – NuvaRing
  • Small plastic ring inserted in the vagina once a month, left there for 3 weeks and taken out during the period week. A new one is then inserted in the new month.
  • Usually, to insert ring, simply squeeze it between your thumb and index finger and insert it into your vagina
  • Ring releases estrogen and progestin
  • 91-99% effective

Possible risks and side effects

  • Swelling of vagina
  • Irritation and vaginal discharge
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Blood clot
  • Stroke
  • New vision problems
  • Changes in mood
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach
  • Changes in period

 

7. Contraceptive patch

  • Brand name – Ortho Evra
  • Thin patch that sticks to the skin
  • Releases estrogen and progestin into the bloodstream
  • A new patch is put on once a week for 3 weeks. In order to have your period, you don’t put on one in the 4th week 
  • May not work as well in women weighing over 198 pounds

Possible risks and side effects

  • Greater exposure to estrogen
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Blood clot
  • Stroke
  • New vision problems
  • Changes in mood
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach
  • Changes in period 

 

8. Morning-after pill

  • Taken after intercourse
  • 89% effective if started within 72 hours after unprotected sex
  • Uses same hormones as the pill but in slightly greater amounts

Possible risks and side effects

  • Some women feel queasy after taking it. But the queasiness should go away in 24 hours or so
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Breast tenderness
  • Taking it to often can cause irregular periods

 

BARRIER METHODS

9. Diaphragm

  • Dome shaped cup with flexible ring made of latex
  • Inserted inside vagina to cover cervix, blocking the opening to the uterus and preventing sperm from joining with egg
  • Must be left in place 6-8 hours after sex to prevent pregnancy
  • Must be taken out within 24 hours
  • Before inserted, add spermicide to it to kill or block sperms
  • It comes in different sizes and so you will need a doctor to ‘fit’ you for one
  • 88-94% effective
  • Has no effect on hormones
  • Most people say they don’t feel it during sex
  • Other similar alternatives to diaphragm is the cervical cap (FemCap) which is a thimble shaped latex cup or cervical shield (Lea’s shield) which is a silicone cup with a one way valve that creates suction and helps it fit against the cervix.  The cervical cap will also require a doctor’s fitting while the cervical shield which comes in only one size requires no fitting.

Possible risks and side effects

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Allergy related vaginal irritation
  • Toxic shock if left in too long

 

10. Contraceptive sponge

  • Round, soft foam which is usually 2 inches in diameter and contains spermicide nonoxynol -9 that kills sperms
  • Inserted into vagina prior to intercourse
  • Covers cervix and blocks sperm
  • 88-91% effective for those who have never had babies and 76-80% for those who have
  • No effect on hormones
  • Unobtrusive during sex
  • Effective for more than one act of intercourse for up to 24 hours
  • Needs to be left in for up to 6 hours after sex in order to prevent pregnancy
  • Must be taken out within 30 minutes after inserted
  • Women sensitive to nonoxynol-9 mustn’t use it

Possible risks and side effects

  • Some say it makes intercourse too wet or too dry
  • May be tricky to insert or remove
  • Irritation
  • Allergic reactions

 

11. Female condom

  • Worn by the woman inside the vagina to prevent sperm from getting into the body
  • Made of thin, flexible, manmade rubber
  • Can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex
  • Use a new one everytime you have intercourse
  • Don’t use at the same time with a male condom
  • 79-95% effective

Possible risks and side effects

  • Irritation
  • Allergic reaction

12. Male condom

  • Thin sheath placed over erect penis to keep sperm from entering woman’s body
  • Made of latex, polyurethane or natural/lambskin
  • They work best when used with vaginal spermicide
  • A new one must be used with every new act
  • Don’t keep in hot places like wallet or car in order to prevent tear or break
  • The lubricated types make intercourse more comfortable. Lubricants can be added to the non-lubricated types.
  • Oil based lubricants such as lotions and petroleum jelly causes tear and break. So use water based lubricants like K-Y jelly

The Natural Planning and Permanent birth control methods continue with the next post…

But just for laughs: Why does all of the onus have to fall on in the woman? They have even managed to introduce the female condom… 

As for me, to be honest, considering all the possible side effects that come with most of these methods, I will be very careful before adopting any of them. For those of us who are not through making babies, playing safe with a combination of the condom and natural planning method (which will be explained in the next post) may just be the ideal that saves one avoidable complications.

Sources: Women’shealth.gov, healthline.com, mayo’sclinic and planned parenthood

Image courtesy: intimatehealthhelp.net