Women & Health: Female Contraceptive Methods

Women & Health: Female Contraceptive Methods

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Effective Female Contraceptive Methods 

(See also less reliable methods below)

Contraceptive Method How It works Key Advantages Key Disadvantages
“The Pill”(Various Pills) Contain hormones that basically prevent release of the egg for fertilization (the sperm coming in contact with the egg). Very effective when taken as prescribed. Must be taken on a regular basis each month. Usually taken daily for a certain number of days, then none for a certain number of days.

Should not be taken by smokers (increases risk of blood clots).

Should not be taken if one has cardiovascular (heart) disease or hypertension.

Male Condom A thin cover that’s put over the penis to collect semen, the fluid that’s ejaculated (expelled) during sexual intercourse. Made of latex (usually), animal skins, and polyurethane. Latex condoms are most effective in preventing HIV, and condoms made of natural skin are most likely to leak. Effective when used properly.

Low in cost compared to other effective contraceptives.

Latex condoms are very effective as protection against HIV and othersexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Requires male cooperation.

Must be used properly to avoid exchange of semen/body fluids.

Condoms may break or leak although overall, not common.

Sexual activity must be planned, or interruption is necessary.

May cause allergic reactions.

Oil based lubricants weaken latex condoms.

Shouldn’t be used after expiration date.

Shouldn’t store in warm area.

Should only be used once.

Female Condom This is a wrap or cover for the penis made of polyurethane, a soft, thin plastic. It is inserted in the vagina, loosely lines the vagina, and protects the vagina and the cervix (the outer end of the uterus). Very effective when used properly.

Does not require involvement of a health professional.

Can be inserted before intercourse.

Does not require an erect penis.

Gives the woman much more control.

Protects against HIV and other STIs as well as pregnancy.

Does not have to be removed – immediately, but should be removed before walking around.

Can be used with oil and water based lubricants.

Does not cause allergic reactions.

Stronger than the male condom, thus lasts longer, and has no special storage requirements.

Low cost compared to most other effective contraceptives.

Opinions of women and men vary about its convenience.

Although control by the woman is a promoted feature, male cooperation is generally necessary in order to have the penis inserted properly.

Should only be used once.

Patch Looks like a square band-aid, and is usually applied to the abdomen, buttocks, or back. The patch is changed every week for 3 weeks, and then left off for the fourth week. It slowly releases hormones that prevent release of the egg. Very effective .

Easy to use.

Prevents pregnancy one month at a time.

Does not protect against HIV and other STIs.

Less effective in overweight women

Does not interfere with sexual activity.

Increased risk of heart attack and stroke among users.

Implants Capsules are surgically insertedunder the skin. They slowly release a hormone that stops eggs from being released. Very effective.

Convenient, and side effects are uncommon.

Effective about 5 years.

Very effective.

Convenient.

Eliminates interference with sexual activity.

Minor surgery is needed to insert and remove the capsules.

Some women have irregular periods, or no periods.

May cause changes in the menstrual cycle, including heavy bleeding.

Requires involvement of a health professional.

Intrauterine Device (IUD) A small metal or plastic device that’s placed in the uterus. It stops pregnancy by either:

preventing fertilization, or

preventing the egg’s being implanted in the uterus.

Very effective.

Doesn’t have to be changed often.

Some women have excess menstrual bleeding, excess menstrual pain, or both.

Although it’s uncommon, IUD’s can cause a hole or tear in the uterus.

Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Can result in infection, includingpelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is described in our glossary, “What It Means.”

Injectables Hormone injections taken every three (3) months. They are slowly released, and prevent release of the egg (ovulation). Very effective.

Convenient.

Eliminates interference with sexual activity.

May cause changes in the menstrual cycle, including heavy bleeding.
Diaphragm A flexible ring covered with a dome-shaped sheet of elastic material. It covers the opening of the uterus to prevent sperms from reaching the egg. Contains a spermicide (chemical that disables sperms). Generally effective if used properly.

Gives some protection against STIs.

No major side effects.

Requires careful fitting.

Insertion and removal may be inconvenient.

Can be displaced or come off during sex.

Cervical Cap A tiny diaphragm that covers the cervix more closely. It works in the same way as the diaphragmdoes (See above). Generally effective.

Stays in place longer than a diaphragm.

Requires careful fitting. Insertion and removal may be inconvenient.

Has a limited number of sizes.

Emergency Contraception Hormone treatment is given within 72 hours after unprotected sexual activity. It is usually used after incidents like a torn condom, or sexual assault Generally effective if given within 72 hours. The most common side effects are nausea and vomiting.

Should not be considered a routine form of contraception.

Less Reliable Contraceptive Methods

(See also effective methods above)

Contraceptive Method How It works Key Advantages Key Disadvantages
Vaginal Foams, Creams, and Jellies Spermicides are inserted in the vagina before sexual intercourse. They prevent sperms getting to the egg. Easily used by women.

Protects against some STIs.

Method not too reliable.

Some women may be allergic.

Must be inserted at least 10 minutes before intercourse.

Their use may be messy.

Vaginal Sponge A sponge that keeps sperm from getting into the uterus. The sponge also has spermicide in it Easy to insert.

Can be inserted up to 24 hours before sexual activity.

Protects against some STIs.

Method not too reliable.

Cannot be used during periods.

Only comes in one size.

Should not be left in more than 24 hours.

Should be left in at least 6 hours after sexual intercourse.

Can cause removal problems

Calendar Method The period of fertility is decided by counting the number of days between the shortest and longest menstrual cycles. Then, abstinence is practiced during periods of fertility. Acceptable for women whose religious beliefs prohibit the use of contraceptives.

No side effects.

Method may not be reliable because menstrual periods may not be reliable.

Requires long periods of abstinence.

Temperature Method The period of ovulation or fertility is decided by the fall and later rise in the “basal bodytemperature. Then, abstinence is practiced during fertile periods. Acceptable for women whose religious beliefs prohibit the use of contraceptives.

No side effects.

May not be reliable because the Basal Body Temperature may go up and down for various reasons.

Requires temperature monitoring on a continuous basis.