Your guide to what options are available
In conservative communities, contraception is often a subject on the off-limits list. No one speaks about sex, let alone any sort of family planning. As a result, many young women are unaware of the various contraception options available, and, for the most part, think about sex all wrong. If you’re unmarried and sexually active (lower those brows, aunties), it’s important to ask questions on practising safe sex. Bottom line: We want to know about all the ways sex can be safe, frequent and enjoyable (regardless of whether or not we’re married). Here are the answers you wanted to know. It’s time to own your sexuality.
First off… ALWAYS consult a professional
If you’ve just become sexually active (or are planning to), it’s highly recommended that you consult a medical professional to determine what form of contraception will work best for you. “A General Practitioner, Gynaecologist, a professional at the Family Planning Association (FPA) or a Public Health Midwife (PHM) at your local government clinic should be consulted,” explains Dr. Nilani Kaluarachi, MB ChB (UK), D.R.C.O.G (UK), DFFP (UK). “A detailed history and examination should be done, before deciding the appropriate method of contraception. You should then be counselled on the options, and an informed decision should be made together.” Your doctor ideally should also discuss possible side effects, failure rates, risks, benefits and so on. If it’s not brought up, make sure to ask!
Here’s what’s available and how they work:
These typically tend to be the go-to contraceptives, since they are readily available (at all supermarkets), and are relatively intuitive to use (tear packet – slip it on – throw it out). Remember to not reuse a condom (ever, ever, ever), and if it breaks, take the morning-after pill (see below) to ensure you don’t get pregnant. Using a condom (even if you’re on another form of birth control) is also the best way to avoid an STD.
Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill
Commonly known as the Pill, this form of birth control contains derivatives of oestrogen and progestogen that ensures no eggs are released from your ovaries. There are different brands of the Pill available, but how you use each of them remains the same—basically, you take a tablet every day to avoid pregnancy.
Some Pill packs contain 21 hormone pills and 7 inactive non-hormone pills, also called placebo pills. Other packs just have 21 tablets and you begin a new pack after 7 days with no pills.
This is essentially a contraceptive injection that contains progestin and is injected once every three months. It works by suppressing ovulation, thereby stopping your ovaries from releasing eggs. (Released eggs increase your chances of pregnancy). It also works to keep sperm from reaching the egg by thickening the cervical mucus.
A tiny rod is inserted underneath the skin of your upper arm by a medical professional. It leaves a scar so small that you can’t even tell it’s there unless you point it out. It prevents pregnancy for up to five years (if you want to conceive before then, you can simply take out the implant).
Intra-Uterine Contraceptive Device (IUCD)
Essentially, a small, hormone-free, plastic-and-copper device is inserted into your uterus. It comprises of one or two thin threads at the end that hang through the opening of your cervix into the top of your vagina. This sounds scary, but it will be fitted by a trained professional (so don’t worry!) and blocks sperm from entering your bod for up to 10 years. After you complete every period, it’s recommended that you double check if the threads are in place.
Intra-Uterine System (IUS)
Similar to the IUCD, a small T-shaped plastic device is implanted into your uterus and releases progestogen, which stops pregnancy. Depending on the brand, it can last between 3-5 years, and sex feels as good as ever.
Commonly known as the ‘morning-after pill’, emergency contraception should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but the sooner the better! However, many women are unaware that taking the emergency pill on the regular can do their bodies a lot of harm. Dr. Nilani says, “It interferes with your regular cycle, thereby making future unwanted pregnancies more likely and is certainly not as effective as the regular OCP.”
Navigating birth control is like treading on broken glass—one misstep can send you catapulting down the wrong rabbit hole. Always talk to your doctor and heed her (or his!) advice. The Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka also has a ton of information plus a line of various birth control options that are available. Their Centre for Family Health (CFH) is on 37/27 Bullers Lane, Colombo 7 if you would like to visit them for more material.
This article was originally published as ‘Bring On The Birth Control’ in the October 2017 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more advice, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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