If you are having sex, using contraception is the best way to avoid falling pregnant. It’s important to learn about the different types of contraception so you can choose the one that suits you best. Remember, the only contraceptive method that prevents pregnancy and also stops a sexually transmitted infection including HIV is a condom.
Abstinence means not engaging in sexual intercourse. It can mean waiting until the right partner or marriage. Abstinence may be also be periodically practiced which means not having sex during a woman or girl’s most fertile time of the month. Abstinence doesn’t have to be just limited to penetrative sexual intercourse, it can also mean not engaging in any kind of sexual act, such as oral sex. Abstinence is the only way to 100% prevent pregnancy as well as the transmission of HIV or STIs.
For young men: The condom is worn over the penis during sex and it catches the semen after ejaculation so it doesn’t enter the female body. The semen contains sperm and possibly STIs and HIV.
For young women: Part of the female condom (also known as Femidom in some countries) is inserted inside the girl’s vagina and part of it sits outside the body, covering the vulva. The femidom blocks semen, which contains sperm and potentially STIs and HIV, from entering her body plus offers pregnancy prevention. It can also be used during menstruation to keep menstrual fluids from making contact with the sexual partner.
The pill is a small tablet (for young women) that you take every day. The pill releases hormones that prevent pregnancy by stopping the release of the egg from the ovary (ovulation) and making the mucous on the cervix thicker which prevents sperm from entering the uterus. The pill needs to be taken at the same time every single day, regardless of whether you are having sex or not. The pill will also regulate your period and it may help lessen cramps, lighten bleeding and prevent acne. And because the pill regulates it, you’ll know exactly when to expect your next period. There are two kinds of pill. On type has two hormones and (oestrogen and progestin) and are called combination pills. The second type, contains only one hormone (progestin only pill). Some medications, like antibiotics, can affect the effectiveness of the pill so always tell your doctor you’re on the pill. You can get the pill at a clinic, peer educators or a local pharmacy and they have different brand names in different countries. Remember you have to use it with a condom to protect yourself and your partner from STIs and HIV.
Emergency Contraception (EC)
Also known as the ‘morning after pill’. These hormonal pills must be taken within five days of having unprotected sex. The sooner it is taken after unprotected sex, the better it works. It should only be used as a real emergency as it’s not recommended to use it as a regular method of contraception. Emergency contraception may be one or two pills, either taken at the same time or as two separate doses. This medication is free at your local clinic and can be bought at some pharmacies.
Injection (injectable contraceptives)
This is for young women only. A doctor or nurse will give you an injection every three months. It’s free at your local clinic and easier than having to take a pill every day. The injection stops your body from releasing eggs. The most common name is Depo Provera but names may vary.
Also for young women, the implant is a small flexible stick or rod that is inserted under the skin of your upper arm by a trained health provider. It is free at your local clinic and works like the injection by stopping your body from releasing eggs. It also thickens the mucus in the cervix (opening to the uterus) thus making it difficult for the sperm to enter. It becomes effective one week after insertion - so you may want to use a barrier method such as a condom for that week. It lasts for about 4 years. It does not protect against STIs or HIV. Two of the most common names for the implant are Implanon or Jadelle, but different countries have different brand names for the implants.
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
This is a small plastic object that a doctor or nurse will insert into a girl’s uterus. Once it’s inserted, it is like a barrier between a boy’s sperm and a girl’s egg. It lasts for up to five years. It is usually suggested for girls who are older or have had a baby already. It does not protect against STIs including HIV. One of the most common hormonal IUDs is the Mirena, but different countries have different brand names for the IUD.
Withdrawal is a risky form of contraception. During sex, the boy withdraws his penis before he ejaculates. This is not a very effective birth control method and can result in an unplanned pregnancy. This is because the penis can release secretion or precum before ejaculation which can contain sperm. There is also a risk that the male partner may not be able to withdraw before he ejaculates. However, if you find yourself with no other option, withdrawal is better than an ejaculation inside the vagina if pregnancy is to be prevented. This is not advisable but better than nothing.
Permanent Contraception or Sterilisation
This is an operation that a doctor performs. For women, the fallopian tubes (through which the eggs travel from the ovary to the uterus) are cut or tied. For men, the vas deferens (the tube through which sperm travel from the testicles to the penis) is cut or tied. These operations should be considered permanent. Sterilization is not recommended for adolescent girls, young women and young men.
For contraceptives to work properly, they need to be used properly. Remember that only abstinence and condoms protect against both pregnancy as well as STIs and HIV When practiced correctly and consistently. If you have chosen to have sex, be protected and use a condom each and every time “The Safer Sex Hero!”.