Hormonal contraception: All the different options available to you right now

Get clued up on staying baby-free

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Ahh hormones, they're quite mystical things
aren't they that often get blamed when you're having a shit day.  But paired with a bit of science you can also
do some pretty impressive stuff with hormones, like protect yourself from any unwanted pregnancies. WAHEY.

If you're thinking about changing your method of contraception, or getting something like the pill sorted out for the first time, it's important to make sure you know exactly what's out there, and what might suit you best and what would fit in with your lifestyle.

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Recently we clued you in on everything there is to now about non-hormonal contraception, but this time we're chatting about stuff that DOES deal with hormones. Here's everything you need to know about what's available to you right now.

Combined pill aka THE PILL

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Good points: The combined pill is made up of artificial versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which women produce naturally in their ovaries. These then simply prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg, or make it difficult for sperm to reach an egg. 

The pill is usually taken by girls who don't wanna get pregnant, but it can also be used to treat painful periods, heavy periods, PMS and endometriosis. You take it every day for 21 days and then have a break, meaning you still get your period as part of the cycle.

Bad points: As well as the pill often being associated with mood swings, weight gain and occasionally more serious side effects like blood clots, you need to remember to take it at roughly the same time every day which isn't great if you're forgetful. If you do forget (or vomit or have diarrhoea, by the way), it instantly becomes WAY more unreliable. Oh, and no STI protection, obvs.

Success rate (if used correctly): Over 99% effective, so it's a good'un.

The implant

Good points: The contraceptive implant is a small, flexible tube only about 4cm long, that's inserted under the skin of your upper arm by a medical type person, and can last for up to three years. The implant stops the release of an egg from the ovary by slowly releasing progestogen into your body, which also thickens the cervical mucus and thins the womb lining. This then makes it harder for sperm to move through your cervix, and less likely for your womb to accept a fertilised egg. Wahey. 

It's great if you're crap at remembering to take a pill every day, or if you know you don't want to get pregnant for a while because you can leave it in for so long. If you experience side effects, it can also be removed quickly.

Bad points:  In the first year of having an implant, your periods can become a little bit messed up - irregular, lighter, heavier or longer, although this should settle down. Sometimes your period might even stop altogether, which some girls aren't a fan of. And yup, no protection of STIs either.

Success rate (if used correctly):  More than 99% effective, yaaas

The injection

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Good points: There are three types of contraceptive injections in the UK, each which last for a different period of time from 8 to 12 weeks. The injection itself contains progestogen, which thickens the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm reaching an egg while also thinning the womb lining and sometimes preventing the release of an egg altogether. 

It means you don't need to think about protection every day or each time you have sex, which is great if you're disorganised or just lazy af.

Bad points: It's important to remember that once the injection's in your system, it's in. Side effects can include weight gain, headaches, mood swings, breast tenderness and irregular bleeding - but the injection can't be removed from your body, so you just have to ride out anything that doesn't suit your body. It can take up to one year for your fertility to return to normal too, and of course you still need to think about STI protection.

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Success rate (if used correctly):  More than 99% effective

The patch

Good points: Yup, it's just like a nicotine patch, measuring 5x5cm and sticky to your skin.The patch contains the same hormones as the combined pill - preventing ovulation, thickening cervical mucus, and thinning womb lining. 

Each patch lasts for one week, meaning you don't need to think about it every day, and you take a week off from it each month. It's also still effective if you vomit or have diarrhoea, and you can wear the patch in the bath, in the swimming pool and while playing sports.  

Bad points:  The patch can increase blood pressure which is a bit of a health risk, and some women get temporary side effects like headaches.  It's also occasionally linked to more serious issues like blood clots and further problems, so make sure you seriously chat to a GP first (although that goes for any hormonal contraceptive option).

Success rate (if used correctly):  More than 99% effective

The hormonal coil / The IUS

Good points: YES, it's different from the non-hormonal coil, duh, and it's definitely not as scary or painful as it looks. Promise. It's inserted into your womb by a medical person in the same way as the non-hormonal coil, but this one releases a progestogen hormone into the womb to do the job. The IUS can work for five years or three years depending on the type which is a pretty long time, leaving you with one less thing to worry about once its in - plus it can be removed at any time. The coil can also have a great effect on your period, making it lighter, shorter or stop altogether.

Bad points:  Some women may experience mood swings, skin problems or breast tenderness while using the hormonal coil. This one obviously means you have to have something actually inserted into your body, so there's a small risk of getting an infection after it's inserted, and it can sometimes be quite an uncomfortable process so you'll need some painkillers handy. Oh, and y'all need condoms too 'cos there's now STI protection.

Success rate (if used correctly):  More than 99% effective

Progestogen-only pill

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Good points: Oooh look, ANOTHER pill option. How fancy.  This one, as the name suggests, is just progestogen and no oestrogen, so is a better option for women with high blood pressure or who are overweight. The progestogen-only pill thickens the mucus in the cervix, which stops sperm reaching an egg. 

You take this one every day, with no break between packs of pills like with the combined pill,  which means that your often stop altogether or become lighter, irregular or more frequent. So that could be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you like to run this shizz.

Bad points:  This one's only for gals with a GOOD memory, because you must take the progestogen-only pill at the same time each day – if you take it more than three hours late,  it may not be effective. If you're sick (vomit) or have diarrhoea, it might also mess things up. Not-so-great side effects may include spotty skin and breast tenderness, which ain't ideal. Also, *broken record*, condoms needed too for STI protection.

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Success rate (if used correctly): More than 99% effective

Vaginal ring

Good points: This is one that you might not know very much about, eh? The vaginal ring is a small, soft plastic ring that you place inside your vagina, basically. It's about 4mm thick and 5.5cm in diameter, and is left up there for 21 days to release oestrogen and progestogen before being thrown away in a special disposal bag. Seven days after removing the ring, you insert a new one for the next 21 days. Simples.

One ring will mean you're sorted for a month, so you don't have to think about contraception every day and it won't interrupt the magical moment. Unlike the pill, the ring is also still effective if you have vomiting or diarrhoea which is handy, and it can also help ease period pain.

Bad points:  Side effects might include a bit of extra discharge, tender boobs or headaches, but more practically, the ring can sometimes come out on its own. It's easy to rinse and put it back in, but obviously you have to be comfortable with sorting that out. And, altogether now, there's no protection from STIs.

Success rate (if used correctly): More than 99% effective


What do you reckon to non-hormonal contraception? Any of these take your fancy? Or do you recommend something else? Let us know with a tweet to @Sugarscape.


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