Australian women got access to the birth control pill in 1961, and to say that it was a game changer would be putting it lightly. For women, having choice about if and when to have children meant they could make decisions around their future. But medical science didn’t stop there, and since the 60s has been continuously innovating and improving on contraceptive methods.
Sadly though, not many Australian women are taking advantage of the vast array of choice available to them. A lot of this is to do with negative media reports, and the myths that circulate about the safety of longer acting methods.
Meanwhile, there’s been a growing trend to reject hormonal interventions, most notably hormonal contraception.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the facts and considerations to take into account when selecting the contraceptive that’s right for you.
What kind of sex are you having?
If you’re in a same sex relationship, you’re most likely not too concerned about pregnancy. But that doesn’t mean that contraception can’t help you with other issues such as painful periods, bad acne, or menstrual regularity.
If you’re enjoying sex with multiple opposite-sex partners, you can and should absolutely be considering contraception as a form of birth control, but it’s important to remember that the only thing that can help prevent the spread of STIs is a “barrier”. These include condoms, female condoms and dental dams.
How do you feel about pregnancy?
Never – More and more people are making the decision to live a childfree life. For people who are confident in the knowledge that they don’t ever want kids, there’s the option of tubal ligation or vasectomy. Both are safe, effective and permanent methods of contraception.
Not now – For many people, especially younger people, it can be hard to make a decision with absolute certainty regarding children. You might know that you don’t want kids for at least the next three, five or ten years, but you want the option to reconsider after that. If that’s the case then long acting reversible contraception (LARC) is definitely the best option. LARCs are a group of “set and forget” methods, where you don’t need to do or remember anything for between 3-10 years depending on the option you choose. They can be removed at any point that you decide you’d like to start a family, and have no impact on your fertility rates. They’re also extremely cost-effective when you compare them to condoms or The Pill, considering how long they last.
Soon – If you’re aiming to get pregnant in the next six to eight months, you may consider short term contraception options, though most LARCs can still be an option for this time. But remember that if you’re using the contraceptive injection that it can take up to 18 months for your body to begin ovulating again after you’ve stopped getting shots.
How do you feel about periods?
My periods are awful – If your periods tend to be long, heavy, painful or emotional it’s worth considering hormonal birth control options, as these have been proven to help minimise the symptoms of periods.
My periods don’t bother me – One of the most effective methods of contraception on the market is the copper IUD. It doesn’t use any hormones, just some really cool science. However, it can make periods heavier or more painful for some women, so if you already struggle with your period, the copper IUD may not be your best option.
My period gives me migraines – If you find that you suffer from migraines during your menstrual cycle, you’ll need to speak to a healthcare professional before considering contraception. Depending on the specifics of your migraine symptoms certain types of birth control could make it better, or it might create serious problems for you. Best to discuss with your doctor before making a decision.
How do you feel about hormones?
I would prefer not to use hormones – If you’ve made the decision not to use any kind of hormonal birth control, your options will be limited to barrier methods, a copper IUD or fertility awareness methods.
I would like to be taking less hormones but they sort some things out for me – Hormonal contraception can be useful for controlling irregular periods, acne and pain but if you’re looking to lower your dose then a hormonal IUD might be for you. It delivers small doses directly where it needs to go.
I don’t mind using hormones – If hormones aren’t an issue for you either way, then you can select from a broad variety of both short and long term reversible contraception.
What’s going to fit in with your lifestyle?
We lead lives that don’t necessarily fall into a neat pattern or routine, so taking a tablet at the same time every day could be quite challenging for some. For others it could be an issue to make it to a doctor’s clinic ever 3 weeks for an injection. It’s important to consider any lifestyle factors that might be a barrier to the efficacy of your contraception.
Chances are you’ll find something to suit your lifestyle and need. If you’re still not sure you can take the My Best Fit quiz to help you narrow it down or book in a consult with one of our doctors to discuss your options.