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Contraception - Explore The Benefits And Side Effects

Summary

Contraception, also known as birth control and fertility control, are methods or devices used to prevent pregnancy. Several methods of contraception are available in Australia. The method that you choose will depend on your general health, lifestyle and relationships. Contraceptive options include barrier methods, oral pills and vaginal rings, intrauterine devices (IUDs), implants and injections, sterilisation, emergency contraception and natural methods. Hormonal contraception is regarded as one of the most reliable and successful ways of preventing pregnancy. Proven to be almost 100% effective at preventing pregnancy, it is the preferred form of contraception for more than 3.5 million women across Australia.

The oral contraceptive pill (OCP), commonly referred to as ‘the pill’ is the cornerstone of fertility control and has been used by over 100 million women worldwide. Australia was the second nation in the world to have access to this simple pill over 50 years ago and now approximately 50% to 80% of Australian women use the pill at some stage of their reproductive lives. The pill comes in different forms and strengths and choosing the right one is an important individual choice. Different pills may suit you at different times in your life so it is important to talk to a doctor about the choices available to you. There are two families of OCP available in Australia, the combined oral contraceptive (COC) pill and the Progesterone only pill (Mini pill). While oral contraceptives are regarded as the most popular forms of contraceptives available today, recent studies have shown that more and more women are choosing alternative forms of hormonal contraception like injections, implants and the vaginal ring, Nuvaring.

Making the right choice is important and our doctors can help you find a pill that suits you and your body. We can offer you advice on your choice of contraception whether you are taking the pill for the first time or looking for a change. Book now for a confidential consultation with one of our friendly doctors and find out how we can help you.

What are the benefits of hormonal contraception?

Hormonal contraception is an effective, economical and convenient form of fertility control with many benefits which may include:

  • Improving period regularity
  • Reduced period pain
  • Reduced premenstrual symptoms
  • Reduced acne appearance and development
  • Decreased risk of ovarian and uterine cancer and;
  • Offering contraception without interrupting sex

How do hormonal contraceptives work?

Hormonal contraceptives contain different synthetic versions and strengths of two naturally occurring hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. Different contraceptives may work through slightly different mechanisms however most prevent pregnancy by:

  • Inhibiting the egg leaving the ovary;
  • Changing the lining of the womb so an egg cannot attach and grow and;
  • Increasing the thickness of mucus lining the cervix which prevents sperm from entering the uterus.

Are there any side effects?

While any new medication has the risk of adverse reactions, most women using a contraceptive pill experience no side effects. Some women starting the pill for the first time or changing between pills can experience side effects such as:

  • Light spotting or bleeding between periods;
  • Nausea;
  • Headaches and;
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood changes

How is the Mini pill different?

The mini pill (progestogen-only pill) contains only one hormone, a synthetic version of progesterone. It works by thickening the mucus in the cervix (entrance to the uterus), preventing sperm from getting through. As ovulation is not inhibited it is very important the mini pill is taken at the same time every day.

Advantages

  • It can be used by most women who cannot take synthetic oestrogen
  • It is safe to use when breastfeeding

Disadvantages

  • Must be taken within three hours of the same time every day
  • It can cause unpredictable bleeding patterns