When it comes to contraceptives, there are a handful of common ones that most people rely on, like the pill and the condom. But there are in fact many other types of birth control to choose from, some of which may be better suited to you and your lifestyle than others.
9 types of birth control you didn’t know about
1. Female condom
The female condom is inserted into the vagina and prevents sperm from entering and fertilising an egg. It can also help protect against STIs and HIV, and for the average woman, is around 79% effective. Learn more about female condoms.
2. Contraceptive implant
This is a small device, roughly the size and shape of a matchstick, that is inserted under the skin of your arm to help protect against pregnancy for up to five years. This long acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) works by preventing ovulation, and the beauty is that you can’t forget to take it. It’s around 99% effective, but can’t protect against HIV or STIs. Learn more about the implant contraceptive and how it works.
Another LARC that only needs to be administered every two to three months, depending on the type you use. You don’t have to remember to take it every day, and it’s up to 99% effective in preventing unplanned pregnancy (but not STIs or HIV). Read more about the contraceptive injection.
The IUD (intrauterine device) is a tiny plastic and copper device that’s inserted into the uterus, and is commonly known as the ‘loop’ or ‘coil’. It’s 99% effective for five to 10 years from the time it’s inserted but can be removed at any time, and fertility will return to normal. Learn more about the IUD. It doesn’t protect against HIV and STIs.
As the name suggests, this is a small patch that adheres to the skin, and is around 91% effective in preventing pregnancy. It’s effortless to use and you don’t have to remember to take it daily, though it isn’t suitable for all women, and won’t protect against STIs and HIV. Find out more about the patch.
This is a soft dome made of latex or silicone that is inserted before having sex, and must be kept in for six hours afterwards. On average, it’s around 88% for most women. It’s not widely used in SA because it’s not always easily available, and you must have a medical assessment before using it.
7. Natural family planning
Also known as ‘the rhythm method’, this method relies on you having a good knowledge of your menstrual cycle, and avoiding sex when you’re at risk of falling pregnant. It can take up to six menstrual cycles for you to get to know the rhythm of your body, and if you want to try this free but not foolproof method, it’s advisable to speak to a doctor, nurse or healthcare professional first. Daily record-keeping is essential. It also puts you at high risk of contracting HIV or STIs.
‘Having your tubes tied’ (tubal occlusion) works by making a cut in the Fallopian tubes, under general anaesthetic, to prevent any future pregnancies. It’s a permanent method of sterilisation and can’t be reversed. It must be performed in hospital by qualified doctors and surgeons.
A vasectomy is a permanent method of sterilisation for men, and works by cutting, tying or sealing the tubes that carry sperm from the testes to the penis.