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Whether you are sexually active atm, or whether you think you might be in the next few years, its important to know all about the many types of birth control available to you. Luckily, we have our favourite GP to break it all down for us….

If you have decided to have a sexual relationship with someone you really like, and you respect each other then you will likely need to choose a method or contraception.  Pregnancy happens very easily at a young age and STIs [ Sexually transmitted diseases] are very common unfortunately.

Use condoms with other contraception to protect against both Pregnancy and STIs.

What are my choices for contraception?

Abstinence or not having sex is definitely the absolutely safest method of contraception but there are also lots of other choices…….

Condoms, pills, patches, vaginal rings, injection, the ‘bar’, coils, intrauterine systems, caps and ‘natural methods.’

There is effective and easy contraception available for everyone and it just takes a chat with your doctor or local nurse to decide or refer to thinkcontraception.ie or mycontraception.ie

The most important thing is to protect against sexually transmitted infections and avoid unwanted pregnancies. The failure rates of different contraceptives are important to know….

Do all contraceptive methods have the same safety?

Condoms FAIL 10% of the time on average but do provide extra protection against STIs when used with another form of contraception.

The oral contraceptive pill (OCP) failure rate is about 9% in reality due to missed pills, vomiting, being on other medications, late pill taking and wrong pill taking especially in young girls. This failure rate is a little lower with the contraceptive skin patch (Evra) which is applied just once weekly for 3 weeks per month and the Vaginal ring (Nuva-ring) which is inserted like a tampon into the vagina once a month and removed after 3 weeks for a week break.

Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC) are by far the most suitable forms of contraception for younger girls and give peace of mind against pregnancy while using condoms also then gives protection against STIs.

What is Long Acting reversible contraception (LARC)?

There are several types of LARC:

The pill ‘injection’ known as Depo- Provera is a small injection of hormone given into the gluteus maximus (or muscle of your bottom!) and it lasts as a contraceptive for 12 weeks- you can’t forget it or miss it and, in most girls, it causes your periods to go away too! Happy days! Sometimes though it can cause irregular bleeding or bloating and sore breasts as a side effect and some girls will put on a little weight with it. Most girls however are happy on it and find it very easy and dependable to use.

The ‘bar’ or ‘Implanon’ is a handy matchstick size flexible plastic rod that is inserted under the skin of your upper arm under local anaesthetic by your doctor or nurse in a few minutes and again slowly releases hormones over a 3-year period. It can cause no periods or irregular periods. There is no way of predicting who gets what side effect. Side effects are similar to the Depo-Provera injection if any at all.

An IUS or intrauterine system is a small T-shaped piece of plastic which is inserted by a doctor into your uterus (womb) and can stay there for up to 5 years- It has a small dose of hormone in it which is released into the lining of your uterus and stops fertilisation of an egg occurring by sperm. It also makes periods much lighter. Side effects are uncommon, and it doesn’t put on weight. This method is called a ‘Kyleena’ or ‘Jaydess’ for young women who are sexually active.

Finally….

Doctors or nurses are always DELIGHTED to give information and there are lots of online resources like Thinkcontraception.ie or mycontraception.ie. All methods are covered by a medical card. They vary in price a lot otherwise with the ‘Bar’ and IUS being expensive to buy (about 200 -350 euros) and put in but value for money if they are measured over 5 years.

We much prefer to have a general chat and advice about preventing pregnancy or STIs than to comfort a girl who is devastated at being pregnant or about having a lifelong disease.