First off, thanks for tuning in to #thespreadpodcast and listening to the first of many episodes. I have been wanting to do this for so long. The idea of being able to talk openly about sex and sexuality without hiding behind a pseudonym is heaven for me. But let’s get straight to the point. Contraceptives.
The most effective way not to get pregnant is to abstain from having sex. But lets be real, not everyone wants to do that. So let’s talk more about how to prevent pregnancies and in some cases STI’s.
First let’s discuss what a menstrual cycle is. If you are not aware: in the first half of the cycle, levels of oestrogen (the “female hormone”) start to rise. Oestrogen plays an important role in keeping you healthy, especially by helping you to build strong bones and to help keep them strong as you get older. Oestrogen also makes the lining of the uterus (womb) grow and thicken. This lining of the womb is a place that will nourish the embryo if a pregnancy occurs. At the same time the lining of the womb is growing, an egg, in one of the ovaries starts to mature. At about day 14 of an average 28-day cycle, the egg leaves the ovary. This is called ovulation.
After the egg has left the ovary, it travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. Hormone levels rise and help prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy. A woman is most likely to get pregnant during the 3 days before or on the day of ovulation. Keep in mind, women with cycles that are shorter or longer than average may ovulate before or after day 14. A woman becomes pregnant if the egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm cell and attaches to the uterine wall. If the egg is not fertilized, it will break apart. Then, hormone levels drop, and the thickened lining of the uterus is shed during the menstrual period.
So if you are sexually active without the use of contraceptives, chances are, you will get pregnant. Here are a list of popularly used contraceptives or birth control methods and a short description of how they work.
- Intra-Uterine Device (IUD) -Very effective against pregnancy. Provides protection against pregnancy as long as its in place in your uterus- protects as soon as inserted (so don’t need to remember to use contraception if you have sexual intercourse). Doesn’t need daily attention- just need to check to make sure in place at least once a month at time of menstrual period. Comfortable- you and your partner cannot feel the IUD, although you partner may feel the string. The levonorgestrel IUD (Mirena) lessens menstrual flow and can be used to treat heavy periods. Can be removed at any time and you can get pregnant right after removal. Needs to be inserted by a health care provider. Can fall out or can rarely puncture the uterus. The copper IUD can have side effects such as menstrual cramping, longer and/or heavier menstrual periods, and spotting between menstrual periods. (I couldn’t remember this point during the podcast but there is a slightly higher risk for infection in the first 20 days after insertion especially if you’ve never had a child.
- Hormonal Implants – Also known as the coil. It’s a long-term method of birth control (protects against pregnancy from 24 hours to 3 years after insertion- can be removed whenever you want or can wait until time for a change of implant. Very effective against pregnancy. May cause light or no menstrual periods. Down side is, it may have side effects such as weight gain, tiredness, and possibly a decrease in bone density.
- Depo-Provera Hormonal Injection – Each injection provides 3 months of protection against pregnancy and is effective if used correctly. Many women stop getting their menstrual period while getting injections. (This is not a medical problem and menstrual periods usually return 6-18 months after you stop taking injections). it has been known to protect against uterine cancer. Doesn’t interrupt sexual activity.
- Birth Control Pills – Very effective against pregnancy if used correctly. Makes menstrual periods more regular and lighter. May decrease menstrual cramps and acne. Makes you less likely to get ovarian and uterine cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, and anaemia. Doesn’t interrupt sexual activity
- Hormone Patch (Ortho-Evra) – see birth control pills above
Down side is: Still need condoms to lower the risk of STIs (just like all the above contraceptives). Can’t be used by women with certain medical problems or by women taking certain medications. Can occasionally cause side effects such as nausea, increased appetite, headaches, and irregular bleeding in the first few cycles. Higher risk of blood clots. Needs a prescription.
- Male Condom – Lowers risk of STIs. Contraception that provides the most protection against sexually transmitted infections (latex condoms are best). Don’t cost much, can buy at almost any drug store (don’t need a prescription). Men feel they can “last longer” when using a condom. Allow men to have an active part in preventing pregnancy. Downside: Have to use a new one every time you have sexual intercourse (can only be used once). May disrupt/interrupt sexual activity as it needs to be put on just before penetration. Can break. Women may be allergic to latex.
- Female Condom – Provide protection against STIs and pregnancy. Can be inserted well before intercourse so less interruption of sexual activity. Male does not need to withdraw right after ejaculation, as he does with a male condom. Downside is: May move, be noisy, or uncomfortable. Can only use for one act of sexual intercourse.
- Withdrawal – Natural, so no side effects. Doesn’t cost anything. Allows men to be an active part of preventing pregnancy, Downside: Doesn’t protect against STIs. Not very effective method of contraception .Difficult for male to always predict ejaculation (remember ejaculation doesn’t always happen at the same time as orgasms). May decrease sexual pleasure of woman since need to always be thinking about what is happening during sexual intercourse. No control by women- need to rely completely on men to prevent pregnancy.
With all this information and lots more, i rug you to choose your forms of contraception wisely! Be safe folks and till next week, be sure to tune into The spread and tweet us on @thespreadpodcst or follow us on FB and IG on @thespreadpodcast. We look forward to hearing your remarks!!!