Finding the right contraception method is a long, challenging path, especially for women. Personally I reached a point in my life where I was unable to continue taking the pill due to health reasons, and for the first time in years I was able to feel and see a difference in my physical and mental state without it.
Enjoying an active sex life without a steady form of protection, however, can be stressful, and condoms alone often don’t make users ‘feel’ secure enough.
Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of all the different contraception options out there.
I would firstly like to focus on the hormone-free options available, since more and more women are choosing to go this route.
The most well-known hormone-free form of protection is the condom. What a lot of people may not know is that there are condoms designed for people with vaginas. This condom works slightly differently: it’s inserted into the vagina, placed as far up as possible.
Similar to this method is the diaphragm, which also has to be inserted into the vagina. This requires some practice, however, as it should not be able to move once placed in the vaginal canal. Before insertion, the diaphragm needs to be coated in spermicide (a substance that destroys sperm). After sexual intercourse the diaphragm needs to remain in the vagina for six to eight hours. The good thing about this method is that you can reuse the diaphragm for up to three years depending on its material, storage, and condition. You can simply wash it with warm, soapy water and store it in a clean place away from direct sunlight. It doesn’t protect from sexually transmitted diseases and in some cases can cause UTIs.
Overall I think this is a tricky one and will probably not appeal to most people since it is a bit time-consuming and kills any spontaneity, while in comparison a condom is a much faster form of protection.
If you would prefer a long-time solution over having to wear protection before sexual activity, here are a few options that make life a little easier.
There are two types of IUDs. One is hormonal, while the other is made from copper and is hormone-free. Let’s talk about the copper one first. It’s a small, T-shaped device that has to be inserted into the uterus. It changes the way sperm moves since it doesn’t like copper, thus preventing pregnancy. The hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by thickening mucus that lines on the cervix, therefore blocking or trapping sperm.
On the positive side, IUDs last for years and can even work as an emergency contraceptive as long as they are put in within 120 hours (five days) of intercourse. They’re also easily reversible, which means if you should want to get pregnant at any point in time all you have to do is simply have it removed by your doctor.
The only cons to consider are that they do not protect from STDs and can cause periods to be much heavier, longer, and more painful. There’s a small risk that your body will reject the IUD and push it out, and the procedure of putting it in is quite painful as well, but with painkillers this should not be an issue.
I’ve also come across a new invention called Gynefix, which seems to be reasonably new to the market but has received quite a positive response. It’s a hormone-free, flexible device with copper tubes threaded together. It is inserted much like an IUD and is a great option for those who struggle with digestive problems and therefore cannot use the pill. Gynefix is much smaller in size than the IUD and is ideal for younger people.
The cons of this product are exactly the same as those of the IUD: your period is affected in the same way, and it needs to be put in by a doctor who had to specifically learn about Gynefix insertion.
Unfortunately, this is everything I could find on hormone-free contraceptives today. So let’s move on to hormonal contraception methods! The first thing that comes to mind is naturally the pill. It has been around since the ‘60s and has changed many people’s lives. Many variations have other benefits, too, like clearing the skin or causing a lighter, more regular period. However, the pill can also cause mood swings, blood clots, and even breast cancer.
Personally, I have been on the pill for many, many years and have struggled with severe mood swings and even depression during this time. Since abstaining from taking the pill, I’ve noticed a drastic change in my mental health and weight. Without changing my diet I have lost about thirteen pounds. However, this is only my personal experience, and overall the pill worked very well for me. If you are unhappy with your current pill and don’t feel comfortable considering an IUD yet, I suggest you test a different pill. Every body works differently, and just because someone had a certain experience with a product does not mean it will have the same effect on you.
As easy as it is to take a pill daily, not everybody has the mindset to remember to do so. I recommend either setting an alert on your phone or considering a different method if you know you’re a bit forgetful. There’s no shame in that.
If that’s the case, you might want to consider the contraceptive patch instead. It releases the same hormones as the pill into your bloodstream through your skin to prevent pregnancy and has been proven to be 99% effective according to the UK’s National Health Service. It also thickens your mucus in a way similar to the hormonal IUD.
The patch has to be switched out every week for three weeks, allowing an off week for your period. It can be worn in water and during sports, and the patch is still effective even if you have diarrhea or are vomiting often. Similar to the pill, the patch lightens and regulates periods. However, if you weigh more than 200 pounds, are at risk for blood clots, or have other diseases such as diabetes, HIV, or cancer, ask your doctor if this is safe for you to take before making a decision.
Another form of contraception is the vaginal ring, also called NuvaRing. You can place it inside of your vagina yourself (though the first time should be supervised by your doctor) the same way you’d position the diaphragm. The plastic ring releases a small amount of hormones into your bloodstream, preventing pregnancy. You will be protected for a month and should have an off week with your period before inserting a new ring. The ring stays inside the vagina but can easily be removed by hand. It’s safe to have sex with it, though it will not protect you from STDs.
If this seems a bit too hands-on for you, you might want to consider a contraceptive implant. It’s a small, flexible, matchstick-sized plastic rod placed under the upper arm by a doctor. The implant shoots hormones into your bloodstream and thickens your vaginal mucus, and can last up to three years before having to be replaced. Much like the methods listed above, the implant is reversible, which means removing it will cause the body to return to its natural flow and fertility.
The implant is great for people who don’t want to worry about taking a pill or interrupting sex for protection. However, it can change your natural period flow to become heavier, lighter, or irregular depending on the individual.
This product may cause nausea and headaches, and may worsen or cause acne. The procedure of placing or removing the implant has to be done via a local anesthetic and can be a bit uncomfortable. This method does not protect you from STDs, so you should always use a condom on top of your own contraception method.
Finding the right contraceptive for yourself is not easy, and I want to encourage you to research and collect as many different opinions as possible. Just because your doctor might suggest something or brush something else off doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you, and it’s really worth putting in that extra effort to make your overall sexual safety more secure.
Annie Walton Doyle
Ameerah de Chabert