Written by Tánia Wilson
Family Planning | Different Types of Birth Control & Contraceptives – Part II
I hope that those who have read part I enjoyed it and have been looking forward to part II! There are many options that I have personally never heard of that will be featured in the coming parts and I’m curious what your experience of these options are.
Years ago I looked into getting the Mirena IUD, but was massively put off by what I was reading about other women’s experiences – so many were ladies complaining about cramps and bleeding after the device was fitted. I think at some point I will update the article with general reviews from what real women have said, rather than just an average poll or research study. We are all about what real women think and feel!
In today’s post, I am covering the Birth Control Patch and the Combined Oral Contraceptive (the Pill).
3. Birth Control Patch
What is it?
The Birth Control Patch is a sticky, square 5cm x 5cm patch that sticks to your skin like a plaster or a band-aid, similar to a nicotine patch.
How does it work?
It operates in the same way as the pill does, only the hormones are released into the body through contact of the skin. The primary function is to prevent ovulation, in other words – it stops you from releasing an egg so that it can’t be fertilised by sperm. It thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the womb, just as the implant does, and it also thins the uterine lining, which would make it less likely for a fertilised egg to implant there as it cannot support a pregnancy.
How effective is it?
If the patch is used correctly, it can be 99% effective. Approximately six women out of 100 get pregnant in a year of typical use.
When does it start to work?
If you apply it on the first day of your period, it starts working straight away.
How is it applied?
It can be applied to the skin, just as you would apply a nicotine patch or a plaster. The patch lasts for one week. You replace the patch on a weekly basis (the same time of day) and you apply a three weeks on, one week off routine. Do not apply it to your breasts, pierced skin or where clothing can rub it off.
What are the side effects?
- A rise in blood pressure
- Headaches, though temporary
- Blood clots, although they are very rare
- Skin irritation if you have sensitive skin
What are the pros and cons?
- It is one of the cheaper options in comparison to other methods like the implant
- You don’t have to remember to take it everyday
- It is still effective when you vomit or have diarrhea
- You can wear it in the swimming pool or bath
- It helps with heavy bleeding and painful periods
- It may protect against ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and colon cancer
- It may not be suitable for smokers, or if you are over the age of 35 or if you weigh more than 90 kg
- It doesn’t protect against STIs
- You still have to remember to replace the patches
- Having to buy patches on a regular basis can be expensive in the long term
- It’s not safe to use for breastfeeding mommies
- It’s not suitable for everybody
Who can use it?
Anyone can use it as long as you:
- Are not pregnant
- Aren’t breastfeeding
- Don’t smoke or are over 35
- Are over 35 and stopped smoking less than a year ago
- Are not overweight (or more than 90 kg)
- Are not taking antibiotics or meds to treat HIV, TB or epilepsy
4. Birth Control Pills (The Combined Contraceptive Pill)
What are Birth Control Pills?
“The birth control pill (also called “the Pill“) is a daily pill that contains hormones to change the way the body works and prevent pregnancy. ”
Source: Kidshealth – http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/contraception-birth.html
How does it prevent pregnancy?
Similar to other contraceptives, the pill prevents ovulation by keeping an egg from being released, thickening the mucus to avoid sperm entering the womb and fertilising an egg, as well as thinning the uterine lining so that it cannot support a pregnancy.
How effective is it?
If it is taken correctly, it can be over 99% effective. Fewer than 1 in 100 get pregnant using the pill. You would also need to make sure that you take it at the same time every day for it to work properly.
How should it be used?
Over a period of 21 days, you will take the pill every day at the same time of day. After the 21 days, you will cease taking the pill for seven days, to allow a period-type bleed. You will resume taking the pill again after seven days.
What are the side-effects?
The pill may have some mild side effects that include breast tenderness, headaches and mood swings. There is no evidence to support claims that it causes weight gain. Even though the risk is very low, it could cause blood clots and cervical cancer.
Anecdote ~ My husband and I were using the rhythm method (where you track your cycles and determine more or less when you’re ovulating and abstain from sexual activity on those days to avoid pregnancy – we’ll cover that in later parts…). Because it’s not the most effective method of birth control, we ended up in the GP’s office to get a prescription for birth control pills. We were nearly laughed out of the room for using a natural method before the doctor finally explained how to use the pill and gave us a prescription. Just as I was about to start taking them at home, I read the part about the blood clots and cervical cancer and panicked so much I went back to the pharmacy where I collected the prescription from and returned them… They thought I was mental!
What are the pros and cons?
- If you suffer from heavy bleeding and painful periods, the pill can relieve these symptoms
- The risk for serious side effects like blood clots and cervical cancer is very low
- If you vomit or have diarrhea, or forget to take the pill you could still get pregnant
- If you’re over 35 and a smoker, the pill is unsuitable
- It doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
When does it start to work?
You can start taking the pill any time in your cycle (with the exception of abortion, miscarriage and childbirth). Depending on what day of your cycle you start the pill on, you may need to use added contraception. Similar to other contraceptives, if you start the pill on the first day of your cycle, it starts working immediately.
What if I missed a pill?
If you have gone more than 24 hours without taking a pill, it is considered late or missed. You will still be protected against pregnancy even if you have missed one pill. Two pills however is a different matter. If you have skipped two doses or started your pack two days (48 hours) or more late, you may not have contraceptive cover.
Sources: NHS – http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception-guide/pages/contraception.aspx
Planned Parenthood – https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-pill
There is another article that is worth reading regarding birth control pills published by Mind Body Green – check it out here.
This concludes part II. I will try and create some fancy infographics (like those ones we tend to pin on Pinterest because we’re too lazy to read the entire article) to make it fun for those who aren’t in the mood for reading so much boring info!
There is also another article that I want to write – about my stance on birth control as a whole. It has a lot to do with what your view is on when life actually begins and therefore what may be considered acceptable birth control. It’s a very thought provoking subject when you consider how different types of birth control operate and how the Bible might approve or discourage the use of certain methods. It’s not intended to be a finger pointing session but rather just an interesting discussion 🙂
Keep an eye out for part III! Until next time …