Everyone’s experience with going on contraception is different. It can be a feast or a famine when it comes to getting information from our doctor. So because there are so many options out there, we’ve decided to break it down. First up is understanding what hormonal contraception is and all the different types of it.
Hormonal contraception is contraception that uses synthetic hormones to prevent pregnancy. The chosen contraception method will release synthetic oestrogen & progestin or progestin only, to stop your body from ovulating and prevent pregnancy. Wondering what progestin is? Don’t worry, we’ve got you. Progestin is actually a form of progesterone, the hormone that plays a role in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
Now that that’s all cleared up, let’s dive right in! Psst… You might want to grab a large coffee, it’ll be a long one :)
1. The Combined Pill
There’s A LOT of brands & options when it comes to the combined pill but there are some things we need to know before heading down this route. When on the combined pill, ovulation does not occur.
Although a lot of us assume that we have to take a 7-day break from the pill to get our period, but we actually don’t, who knew?? And it’s not even a real period! The bleed we get on the combined pill is called a ‘pill bleed’ or ‘withdrawal bleed’ and it’s from withdrawal of the pill.
It’s also important to remember that your fertility may not return as soon as you would like after you stop taking the pill. On average it can take 3 months but this is totally dependent on the person and the brand you take.
Effectiveness: With perfect use, over 99%, but without perfect use it’s over 91% effective.
2. The Patch
This is where a small plaster is placed on your body (usually arm or ass) for 1 week at a time. After 3 weeks in a row, you can leave your patch off for a few days to a week (but speak to your GP to find this out for sure). Once the time is up you start the routine again with a new patch.
Similarly, to the combined pill, the patch releases synthetic oestrogen and progestin stopping ovulation. This also means when you stop for a few days, yep you guessed it, withdrawal bleed, not an actual period - always good to know the difference.
Usually it will take up to 4 months for fertility to return after stopping use of the patch.
Effectiveness: With perfect use, over 99% effective, but without perfect use it’s over 91% effective.
3. The Mini Pill
This is a progesterone-only option. Some people find their skin/hair becoming increasingly oily after starting the mini pill. Ovulation may occur sometimes when taking the Mini Pill so it’s not as effective as the combined pill. Another difference between the two types of pills is that you have to take the mini pill continuously, without a 7 day break. Those taking the mini pill can also expect either a light period or none at all.
When we talk fertility, it can take up to 3 months to return after you stop taking it.
Effectiveness: With perfect use, over 99% effective, but without perfect use it is over 91% effective.
4. The Mirena Coil (IUD) AKA Hormonal IUD (Intrauterine Device)
Some people get confused between the copper coil and the Mirena coil. First things first, Mirena is a brand name not the name of the device. The IUD brands available in Ireland are the Mirena, Kyleena and Jaydess. It’s a small, plastic T- shaped device that’s inserted into the womb and blocks sperm from reaching the egg.
Ovulation might occur however the IUD also works by thinning the lining of the womb to prevent a fertilised egg from embedding.
Only a trained doctor can insert and remove your IUD. A period may or may not occur, but if it does, it’s usually very light.
It can take up to 2 months for fertility to return after removing your IUD.
Effectiveness: Over 99%
5. The Nuva Ring
This is a small flexible ring that’s inserted into your vagina for 3 weeks. You then take it out for a few days to a week (but speak to your GP to find this out for sure). And like the patch, once the time is up you insert the ring again and start your new cycle. So really, it’s like a mini hula hoop for your vagina, without the spinning of course.
Once again, because both hormones are released, like the combined pill and the patch, ovulation doesn’t happen and when you remove the ring, say it with me… a ‘withdrawal bleed’.
It can take up to 3 months for fertility to return after stopping use.
Effectiveness: With perfect use, over 99% but without perfect use, over 91% effective.
6. The Implant aka The Bar
This is a small flexible rod that’s inserted into your upper arm (about the size of a match-stick). You won’t be able to see it but you can feel it. It works by releasing a small amount of progestin into your body to try to stop ovulation and make it difficult for sperm to meet the egg. It can remain in your arm for up to 3 years before it has to be replaced. Like the IUD, only a doctor with specialised training can insert and remove your implant.
Ovulation doesn’t occur and you don’t get a real period, however some people experience spotting.
It can take up to 2 months for fertility to return after removing your implant.
Effectiveness: Over 99%
7. The Depo Injection
This injection lasts for a minimum of 12 weeks (+/= 5 days) after administration. Which means it stops ovulation for at least 12 weeks. Because of this, this option takes the longest for fertility to kick back in once you stop taking it. Some people do experience spotting, but this doesn’t happen to everyone.
There are some side effects with this option: reduced bone density and brittle bones so taking vitamin D and calcium would be important.
When you stop getting the injection it can be anywhere between 5-8 months or up to 12 months for fertility to return (insert shocked face!)
Effectiveness: With perfect use, over 99% but without perfect use it is over 94% effective.
Alright, that was a lot of info right!? Who knew there’s so many hormonal options out there. It’s important to remember that with any hormonal contraception, there may be side effects so sometimes it’s a case of trial and error to find the right option for you.
But as with everything we chat about here at Riley, it’s so important to talk to a medical professional or your GP and discuss your options and this is the same for absolutely ANYTHING you read on the internet, ok? Ok.
Now don’t you worry, we know some of you ladies prefer the oh-natural route and we’re here for you. Stay tuned to catch our blog on Non-Hormonal Contraception!