While we tend to avoid the topic of reproductive health, it’s an extremely important part of our day to day lives and is something that we should definitely be more open about. After all, it forms a huge part of our life experience! So, here are a few things that you should take into consideration when taking care of your reproductive health!

Contraceptive Options

The Combined Pill

The combined oral contraceptive pill is better known simply as “the pill”, and is one of the most commonly employed methods of contraception in the world. This is the original form of female contraception and was developed to be an option that allowed women control over their reproductive systems in a tablet that could be discreetly taken as part of their day to day routines. In 1951, Margaret Sanger approached Gregory Pincus (a biologist specialising in the study of hormones and fertility) in order to offer women a reliable form of family planning. By 1960, the pill had been developed and was approved by the FDA, and within five years, six and a half million were using it to regulate their families. Nowadays, around 10.6 million women are taking the pill as recommended by their doctor. So, how does it work? Well, the pill contains artificial versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progestegon, which women products naturally in their ovaries. The release of these hormones prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg each month, as well as thickening the mucus in the neck of the womb making it harder for any sperm to reach an egg. It also thins the lining of the womb, so should an egg be released and a sperm happen to reach it, it will then be extremely difficult for the egg to implant itself into the womb. When taken correctly, the pill is 99% effective, meaning that less than one in 100 women will get pregnant when taking it. In order to ensure that the pill can work as effectively as possible, you need to ensure that you take one every day for twenty one days of the month before taking a seven day break, when you will have a period-style bleed. You should also attempt to take the pill at the same time each day. If you vomit or have diarrhoea, you should avoid sexual intercourse, as the pill could have left your system and you could risk becoming pregnant. In order to be prescribed the pill, you should visit your GP or a family planning clinic. These professionals will be able to determine whether the pill will be right for you, as well as which brand or type of pill will be safest and best for you to use.

The Implant

While the pill is extremely effective when used correctly, you need to practice self-control and regulation for its success. If you are unreliable, have a bad memory, or are likely to skip or miss pills, you should consider other options. The contraceptive implant is one of these. Otherwise referred to as Nexplanon, the contraceptive implant is a thin, flexible, plastic rod that is inserted under the skin in the upper arm by a professional practitioner. It works by steadily releasing the hormone progestogen into the body via the bloodstream, which helps to prevent pregnancy. This prevents ovulation (or the release of an egg) each month. Like the pill, it also thins the lining of the womb, making it difficult for a fertilised egg to implant itself and start developing. It also thickens cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to swim through the cervix into the womb. One of the main benefits of the contraceptive implant is that once it is fitted, it can be left in place for up to three years. This means that you do not have to worry about or consider contraception for another three years after your fitting, as it is already in place and working. You can also rely on this method of birth control, as it is over 99% effective. As with any process that alters your hormonal balance, there can be side effects, such as spotting or your periods may completely stop. These side effects are not dangerous, but they often can’t be regulated and should be something you take into consideration before having an implant fitted. You may also experience some bruising or swelling around the site that it has been placed for a day or two after the procedure. However, the procedure itself uses local anaesthetic and is not painful. If you decide that you do want to be fertile again, it can easily be removed and your fertility will return to normal over a few days.

IUSs

Another option for those of us who want to have contraception fitted and to not have to think about it again for a while is the coil. Now there are two different types of contraceptive coil – IUS’ and IUDs. As we have been focusing on hormone-based contraception first, let’s focus on IUS’ to start with. An IUS is a small plastic device that is placed in the womb and prevents pregnancy by releasing progestogen into the womb. Like the other progestogen-based contraceptives, it thickens cervical mucus and thins the lining of the womb. When having an IUS fitted, a qualified and trained doctor or nurse will examine you to determine the location and angle of your cervix, and will then place the IUC through your cervix and inside your womb. The procedure is a little uncomfortable, but is fast and pain-free. When it comes to complications, the strings of an IUS can tuck up or come loose, making it difficult to remove the IUS immediately. However, a scan can easily determine whether it is still in place and it can be safely left until you want to have it removed. This is a 99% effective way to prevent pregnancy!

IUDs

Like IUS’, IUDs are intrauterine devices that take the shape of a small T-shaped device. However, IUDs are composed of copper as well as plastic. While the IUS releases hormones into your system, the IUD releases small amounts of copper, which makes your womb a hostile environment for sperm. The copper alters your cervical mucus, making the cervix a difficult place for sperm to pass through and survive. This can also help to prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb and developing. This, of course, is a brilliant alternative for women who cannot use hormone based contraceptive for other health reasons. Like the IUS, the IUD can prevent pregnancy for five or ten years, depending on the type. It works straight away, and you can return to normal fertility immediately after it has been removed. Two complications that you may experience with the copper coil and that you should seriously take into consideration before having the IUD fitted is that they can significantly increase period pain and increase menstrual bleeding. However, it is 99% effective, like the other mentioned methods of contraception.

Unwanted Pregnancy

Now, it’s important to remember that while all of these methods of contraception may be 99% effective, that also leaves a 1% chance that you may become pregnant, even with their help. That’s one in every hundred women! So, you need to always bear in mind that when you engage in sexual intercourse, there’s a slim chance that you could become pregnant regardless. If you do find that you are pregnant and do not want a child, it’s important to remember that your body is your own and you have a complete right over it. You do not need to allow the development of a foetus if this is not what you want and there are steps that you can take to prevent this. First, if you think that your means of contraception may have failed (for example, if you think that you may have forgotten a contraceptive pill or you may have thrown it up), you can head to a pharmacy to request emergency contraception (more commonly referred to as “the morning after pill”). You will need to head there as soon as possible for the pill to be most effective. If you take Levonelle, you will have to take it within three days of intercourse, or if you take ellaOne, you will need to take it within five days of intercourse for the method to have a chance of working. If you have passed these time periods, you should visit a doctor, family planning clinic, or other professional to determine the best abortion method for your needs.

STI and STD Prevention

It is important to remember that none of the above means of contraception prevent STIs or STDs. This is why you should also use a condom when engaging in sexual intercourse. A form of contraception in and of itself, the condom is the only way to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Remember to check the date on the packaging, and to avoid oil based lubricants when using them.

As you can see, there are plenty of options out there for you to consider when deciding how best to take care of your own reproductive health. Do your research, consult your doctor, and find what’s best for you!

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