Choosing the Right Contraception For You
Sexuality is an important part of human existence. It allows us to enjoy our bodies, interact with one another and, if we so choose, procreate. Sex is also present in our everyday realities and seems to “penetrate” every aspect of human life.
However, like many things, sex comes with its own set of consequences and responsibilities. It can present you with outcomes which may seriously affect your well-being. Consequences, which can arise out of unprotected sex, can include unintended pregnancies and/or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Sexual health education is vital if women want to reclaim their bodies and protect their autonomy. Too often, the sexist and stereotypical obligations assigned to us as women in a patriarchal society work to discredit our own intuitions in favour of accepting a ‘prescribed sexuality.’ This prescribed sexuality attempts to dictate our sexual behaviour and controls how we handle our bodies. For example, our methods of contraception are prescribed and cost us money. Not only that, values which we may not agree with, are also imposed on us by way of our sexuality. Pressure is put on us to choose a contraceptive method that does not impede a man’s desire (i.e. pushing for the pill over a condom as contraception) or does not get in the way of our future fertility, and maintains the status quo that contraception should be a woman’s responsibility. What it means to be a sexual human being is lost along with our right to experience our bodies and choose what is best for our own health.
As a Planned Parenthood Ottawa Intern, I have had the opportunity to learn all about sexual health, and I have found that the most important thing you can do to have a happy, healthy sex life is to stay informed. This means knowing about your choices when it comes to contraception and protection against STIs and deciding on a method that is right for you. Protect your right to sexual autonomy.
Below are of some of the types of contraceptives that may be available in your area. Click on the slideshow for more information. Read on to find out how you can enjoy a pleasurable and satisfying sex life, shamelessly!
(All contraceptive information provided in this article has been brought to you by Planned Parenthood Ottawa. All prices for contraceptive methods listed were verified with Shoppers Drug Mart and may vary depending on region.)
Some other methods of contraception include:
The Birth Control Pill – Progesterone Only Pills
A pack of pills which you take at the same time every day. The progesterone-only pill works to prevent the ovaries from releasing an ovum each month. It also causes the lining of the uterus to thin and makes the cervical mucous thicker.
The Up Side: This pill can decrease menstrual blood loss, decrease cramping and some women have no periods at all. Also, once you stop taking the pill, there is a rapid return to fertility.
The Down Side: The pill does not protect against STIs, does not regulate your menstrual cycle and spotting can occur.
Efficacy: 95% Typical use: 95%
Cost: About $30 per month but this depends on the pharmacy’s dispensing fees
The Birth Control Pill - Estrogen Only Pills
A pack of pills which you take at the same time every day. Estrogen and progesterone prevent the ovaries from releasing an ovum (egg) each month, causes the lining of the uterus to thin and makes the cervical mucous thicker.
The Up Side: The estrogen only pill allows a woman to take control over her fertility. It is also fairly discrete, can help control acne, can help regulate your period and can help reduce cramping and bleeding. Plus, there are many brands to choose from!
The Down Side: The estrogen only pill does not protect against STIs. You will also need a prescription from a doctor to get it. It must be taken at the same time every day and is not good for women who are sensitive to hormones. If you are a smoker, there are more risks involved.
Cost: About $30 per month but this depends on the pharmacy’s dispensing fees
The Birth Control Injection
An injection that contains the hormone progestin which is administered every 12 to 13 weeks. The injection prevents the ovaries from releasing an ovum each month, causes the linking of the uterus to thin and makes the cervical mucous thicker.
The Up Side: The injection is only taken 4 times a year and it is reversible. About 50% experience amenorrhea (their periods stop) and there is a decreased risk of endometrial cancer.
The Down Side: The injection does not protect against STIs. You also need to get an injection every 12 to 13 weeks. Common side effects include irregular bleeding and weight gain. There is also a risk of decreased bone density and return to fertility after stopping the injections can take longer than with other birth control methods. The injection must be administered by a medical professional.
Efficacy: 99.7% Typical use: 97%
Cost: About $35 to $45 per injection.
The Intrauterine System
A T-shaped device that contains hormones. It works to prevent pregnancy for as long as you want for up to five years. It works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an ovum each month, by causing the lining of the uterus to thin and by making the cervical mucous thicker.
The Up Side: The IUS does not contain estrogen and can be used for up to five years. It decreases the amount of menstrual bleeding and cramping. Some women experience amenorrhea.
The Down Side: The IUS does not protect against STIs and you need a prescription to get it.
Efficacy: 99% Typical use 98%
Cost: Ranges from $380 to $400
The Cervical Cap
A barrier method. The cap is made of silicone and fits against the cervix. The cap is filled with spermicide and prevents sperm from entering the uterus.
The Up Side: The cap can be inserted many hours before sex. It does not alter the menstrual cycle and can be reused.
The Down Side: The cervical cap does not protect against STIs. It requires a fitting at a clinic but it can be hard to find a doctor who can fit it. Also, some women cannot be fitted at all. It can be dislodged during intercourse and you have to insert it and remove it yourself.
Efficacy: 96% Typical use: 80%
Cost: Approximately $70
A latex cap that fits over the cervix which prevents sperm from entering the uterus. Foam spermicide is placed inside the diaphragm in order to destroy sperm.
The Up Side: The diaphragm can be inserted up to two hours before sex. It is an alternative to hormones.
The Down Side: The diaphragm does not protect against STIs. It requires a fitting at a clinic, however it can be difficult to find a doctor who will fit it. The diaphragm may increase your risk of bladder infections and it can be messy. You have to insert it and remove it yourself.
Efficacy: 92-96% Typical use: 82%
Cost: Approximately $70
The Male Condom
A latex casing which is rolled over a male’s erect penis or a toy before penetration. It protects the genitals by preventing any secretions from entering the vagina or the anus. It prevents an exchange of fluids.
The Up Side: The male condom protects against STIs. It is inexpensive and comes in different flavours, textures and styles. It is available in non-latex for those with sensitivities. The male condom can be used as a secondary contraceptive method.
The Down Side: The male condom might slip off during sex, it can break, they expire and they cannot be reused.
Efficacy: 97% Typical use: 85%
Cost: Depends on the brand but usually ranges between $5 and $10
The Female Condom
A polyurethane sheath which is attached to a ring. It is inserted into the vagina. The female condom prevents an exchange of fluids and holds in the sperm which prevents it from entering the vagina. It can also protect the external genitals.
The Up Side: The female condom protects against STIs. It is made from polyurethane, so it is an option for people with latex sensitivities. The outer ring may provide extra stimulation to the external genitals, including the clitoris.
The Down Side: The penis may slip between the condom and the walls of the vagina during intercourse. The ring moves from side to side during sex. The female condom cannot be reused and can be noisy.
Efficacy: 75-82% Typical use: 79%
Cost: Ranges between $2 to $4
A chemical that comes in the form of a cream, foam or gel that is inserted into the vagina and in front of the cervix. The most common spermicide is a chemical called nonoxynol-9 which kills sperm on contact.
The Up Side: Spermicide protects against bacterial infections and pelvic inflammatory disease.
The Down Side: Spermicide does not protect against STIs. It can be messy, can irritate the vaginal walls and the tip of the penis and you must insert it right before sexual intercourse. It may also increase your chances of contracting HIV or other STIs because of the irritation to the vaginal walls.
Efficacy: 85% Typical use: 80%
Cost: Ranges from $12 to $20
The Birth Control Patch
A patch that you put on your skin which releases estrogen and progesterone into your bloodstream. You wear one patch per week for three weeks. During the fourth week, you do not wear a patch. It works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an ovum each month, causing the lining of the uterus to thin and makes the cervical mucous thicker.
The Up Side: There is no daily pill-taking and the patch can regulate your menstrual cycle. Also, it decreases acne and lowers your risk for endometrial and ovarian cancers as well as ovarian cysts. It is also waterproof.
The Down Side: The patch does not protect against STIs and you will need a prescription to get it. It may irritate the skin and it only comes in beige colour. It can also peel off. In addition, it is not as effective for women who weight more than 198 pounds. If you are a smoker, there are more risks involved.
Efficacy: 99% Typical use: 98%
Cost: About $30 per month but depends on the pharmacy’s dispensing fees
The Birth Control Ring
A soft, plastic ring containing hormones. It remains in the vagina for a 21-day cycle. The ring prevents the ovaries from releasing an ovum each month, cases the lining of the uterus to thin and causes the cervical mucous to thicken. The ring is worn for days 1 to 21. On days 22 to 28 the ring is removed and bleeding occurs.
The Up Side: The ring is only inserted once a month and does not affect future fertility. It can also regulate your cycle, decrease menstrual flow and decrease menstrual cramping. The ring also decreases acne and your risk for endometrial and ovarian cancer. It may also decrease your risk for ovarian cysts. Side effects are uncommon.
The Down Side: The ring does not protect against STIs and you have to insert it and remove it yourself. Breakthrough bleeding can occur. If you are a smoker, there are more risks involved.
Efficacy: 99% Typical use: 92%
Cost: About $20 to $40 per month.
A disposable sponge that contains spermicide. It is inserted into the vagina. Each sponge contains spermicide (nonoxynol-9), a substance that destroys sperm.
The Up Side: It is possible to have as many acts of intercourse as desired for 12 to 24 hours, depending on the brand of sponge. There is a high level of comfort and it is sold over-the-counter.
The Down Side: The contraceptive sponge does not protect against STIs. Some women may be allergic to spermicide and it cannot be used during menstruation. The sponge can cause yeast infections and it can be difficult to find in the Canadian market.
Efficacy: 89-91% Typical use: 84%
Cost: Ranges from $14 to $20
The Intrauterine Contraceptive Device
A small, T-shaped device that is placed into your uterus via the cervix. It provides up to 5 years of contraception. It works by changing the chemistry in the uterus, making it an inhospitable environment for sperm and destroys the sperm.
The Up Side: The Copper IUD provides up to five years of contraception and has a high efficacy rate. It is convenient and does not contain hormones.
The Down Side: The Copper IUD does not protect against STIs and increases your risk for ectopic pregnancies. It may also cause heavier periods with more cramping.
Efficacy: 99% Typical use: 98%
Cost: Ranges from $60 to $100
A natural contraceptive method where a male withdraws his penis prior to ejaculation in order to prevent ejaculate from entering the vagina.
The Up Side: It is inexpensive and does not interrupt sex.
The Down Side: Withdrawal does not protect against STIs and takes a lot of practice to master. Also, pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) contains semen which may cause pregnancy.
Efficacy: 81% Typical use: 73%
Not having sex. No sperm will enter the vagina and cause unintended pregnancy. Risk of contracting an STI is reduced.
The Up Side: Abstinence is worry-free. It is inexpensive (free) and anyone can choose to abstain. There are also plenty of other sexual activities to engage in.
The Down Side: It can tale a lot of willpower to abstain from sex. Pressure from peers or partners to engage in sexual intercourse may make you uncomfortable. A barrier method still needs to be used for other sexual play.
Efficacy: 100% Typical use: 100%