health

Cheat sheet: 4 types of contraceptive you never knew existed.

The pill.

Unless you’ve had a good, long chat with your GP about contraceptives – or have good long chats with your GP about contraceptives on a semi-regular basis – it’s entirely possible that there’s a whole world of contraceptives out there you don’t even know exist.

Available contraceptives are ever-evolving, so if you’ve been on the same pill for the past four/nine/forever years, you’ve probably never even been told about some of the newer options. It’s a brave new world out there, people.

Okay, so what about some contraceptive methods you haven’t heard of?

Nuva Ring (contraceptive vaginal ring)

The Nuva Ring is a soft plastic ring that is self-inserted (no pesky doctor’s room procedures here) into the vagina, and then releases low doses of oestrogen and progestogen (a similar dose of hormones to that used in the combined oral contraceptive pill). The ring stays in for three weeks, is taken out and then replaced with a new ring a week later. The Nuva Ring usually costs around $80 for three rings.

And the contraceptives that only 10 per cent of the population are using?

Nuva ring.

The contraceptives that everyone is talking about at the moment (okay, that all GPs are talking about at the moment) are Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives, otherwise known as LARCS. Dr Caroline Harvey, Medical Director Queensland, says that LARCs are methods of birth control that are administered less than once per month.

Implanon (Progestogen implants)

The implanon is inserted directly under the skin above the elbow, where it releases a low dose of progestogen over a three-year timeframe. Its effects are also immediately reversible upon removal, which is a plus for people who might be thinking of having kids sometime in the near future. The implanon insertion is a small procedure done by GP with a local anaesthetic.

Implanon.

The point of the implanon is that it results in a change in women’s usual bleeding patterns. For most women, this will mean little or no bleeding, but for one-fifth it will mean irregular or persistent bleeding. Luckily, if it doesn’t work for you, you can easily have the implant removed. An implanon costs $5 to $25 every three years (plus the cost of the procedure by a doctor).

IUDs (Intrauterine devices)

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IUDs are little devices that are inserted into the uterus – a procedure which some women may find uncomfortable. There are two types of IUDs: copper and hormonal. They can last five to 10 years and are immediately reversible after being removed.

Hormonal IUD.

Hormonal IUDs release progestogen into the womb over a five-year timeframe. (Extra facts for science geeks: it works by thickening the mucus in the cervix, which effects the implantation of the egg.) The copper IUD works by blocking sperm from reaching the egg, and is 99.2 per cent effective. The hormonal IUD costs between $6 to $36 and the copper IUD may cost up to $150.

Contraceptive Injections (also known as the unpronounceable depot medroxyprogesterone acetate)

So, it turns out you can also get an injection every couple of months to stop yourself getting pregnant – and do absolutely nothing in-between. Obviously for the needle-squeamish among you, this is probably not the most attractive option but for people who don’t like the sound of a piece of plastic being inserted into your arm or uterus on an ongoing basis, an injection could be your cup of contraceptive tea.

DMPA requires a prescription from a doctor, and you need to get the new injection every 12 weeks. It is 99.8 per cent effective but this relies upon keeping injections up to date. One of the bonuses is that for most women the injections result in little or no bleeding at all and it can be used by women even if they have significant health issues. It does, however, has a slower return to fertility after use has been stopped. On prescription, contraceptive injections are about $20.

There you have it, folks. Some of the lesser known contraceptives out there. As with any form of birth control, you should speak to your doctor about what sort of birth control is best for you – but keep these in mind.

Just because you’ve been on the pill for yonks, doesn’t mean it’s the best form of birth control for your lifestyle.

For more information on various forms of contraception, check out these NSW Family Planning fact sheets.

How many of these forms of contraception have you heard of? Which one do you use? Would you ever switch to something else?

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