Contraception: Contraceptive Methods, Condoms vs. the Pill

It is easy to get carried away with the romanticism of spontaneous sexual expression. Unless you’re planning on a baby, sexual intercourse should be protected by a reliable contraceptive method. You can almost see a finger wagging in front of you, can’t you? But it is true. If you don’t want to get pregnant, you have to plan not to.

Here is a brief outline of contraceptive methods used now and divided. There are many more details about each of the methods that may help you make a decision.

1. Withdrawal

This means that the guy pulls out of the girl’s vagina just before he comes. The guy must be strong-willed and aware of his body and able to judge his sensations. Perhaps while counting sheep the guy might be thinking of merino no. 99 and just “oops. Oh, fuck! Sorry. Do you think it will be OK?“. She says “I hope so” and ends up in church the next weekend.

Some say that withdrawal is frustrating. There is also the risk of pregnancy even if the guy withdraws, because the sperm may escape before orgasm. Withdrawal gets the thumbs down for the contraception talent quest.

2. Rhythm methods

These methods consist of planned sex on infertile days and abstinence on fertile days. There are three different ways to monitor female fertility:

  • Calendar method: if the women has menstrual cycles like clockwork it may be possible to calculate the time of ovulation.
  • Temperature method: involves a women keeping a daily record of her temperature. After ovulation the woman’s temperature rises and stays raised until the beginning of the next period.
  • Mucus method: based on changes in vaginal mucus throughout the menstrual cycle.

The Student Health Service at the Uni of Melbourne found that most unwanted pregnancies resulted from attempts to use one of the methods. Despite this, these methods have become much more popular in recent years as women demand greater control over their bodies, freedom from chemicals, gadgets and doctors. If you decide that you wish to use one of these methods first discuss it with some one in the know.

3. Spermicide methods

Some brands of foam and spermicide pessaries assert that they are reliable when used alone. This is not true and they should always be used with condoms or diaphragms.

4. Condoms vs. the Pill

a) Reliability

The Pill

It is the most reliable form of contraception. Combined formulations are more reliable than the mini-pill. Vomiting, diarrhea, other medication and forgetting to take the pill all make it less reliable. In these situations use a back up method as well.

Condoms

This depends on how they are used. If they are used properly the failure rate should be as low as 2 – 5%. They are more reliable when used with a spermicide and a lot less reliable when used incorrectly.

b) How it works

The Pill

The combined pill is synthetic hormones, estrogen and progestogen, that mimic a woman’s natural hormones. It adjusts the hormones in her ovaries, producing an artificial constant state of pregnancy. The ovaries, as a result, do not develop or release ovum. The lining of the uterus is changed so that it is not suitable to implantation and the cervical mucus is thickened so that it is harder for the sperm to penetrate.

The mini-pill contains only progestogen. Its main effect is on cervical mucus. It is not as reliable but it is free from estrogen related side effects. The pill must be taken every 24 hours and at the same time each day

Condoms

A condom is a sheath of thin strong latex rubber which fits over the mans erect penis and prevents ejaculated semen entering the women’s vagina. Before intercourse, some one should put the condoms on the erect penis, be careful to leave about 1 cm at the tip to collect the semen, and also make sure there is no big air space at the top.

They are best used with a vaginal spermicide, a chemical preparation which kills sperm on contact. The penis should be removed shortly after ejaculation and the condom should be held tightly against the base of the penis to make sure that no sperm leak back into the vagina.

c) Advantages

The Pill

Relief from worry about falling pregnant because it is reliable, convenient, and allows you to have sex at any time. Some women have lighter, regular, less painful periods, less PMT and improved skin.

Condoms

They protect against STD’s – warts, herpes, AIDS etc.They are easy to carry around with you. There are virtually no side effects. They help the man last longer before coming. They can be fully the man’s responsibility and they are reliable and safe when properly used.

d) Disadvantages and side effects

The Pill

Weight gain, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, spotting between periods, missed periods, yeast infections (thrush), depression, mood swings, loss of libido, and blotches on the face.

Condoms

Condoms can only be used once. Condoms can rot and burst, but this unlikely if you use a reliable brand and make sure that the pack is sealed and that the used-by date has not gone by. Some people say that condoms cut down on sensation. Condoms interrupt the spontaneity of sex for some couples.

e) Who should not use this method

The Pill

Women who are pregnant. Women with impaired liver function. Women who have a blood clotting disorder. Women who have had a heart disease. Women who have had breast tumors that have been shown to be estrogen dependent, and women who have an unusual vaginal bleeding which has not been investigated and a cause found.

Condoms

People who are not motivated to use them. Women who are allergic to rubber.

NOTE: Emergency contraceptive pills or morning-after pills

In an emergency, you can use morning-after contraception, in the form of either a series of hormonal pills (within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse) or by having an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted within five days. Because of adverse side effect on the fetus, these methods should not be used when unprotected sexual intercourse has also occurred earlier in the menstrual cycle.

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