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Contraception is safe for both men and women, so don't shy away from them

 Contraception is safe for both men and women, so don't shy away from them (Photo: iStock)

I recently had a consult with a lady who had pretty good reasons to be on reliable contraception, but she couldn’t get her head around using any. 

Most of such uncertainties are based on inadequate information, or even from biased anecdotes. The safety of female and male contraception is not in question. Not only does contraception prevent unwanted pregnancies, but there are also many other health benefits accrued from some contraceptive methods.

Reversible contraceptives have been around for ages. Oral contraceptives, commonly known as ‘the pill’, are fairly familiar to most women. All you need is to take a tablet daily, without fail, and you will be protected against an unplanned pregnancy. Once the pill is stopped, your potential to conceive returns immediately. Contraceptive skin patches are also available, you simply select a discreet part on your body and stick one as advised. Patches are more appealing to those averse to swallowing a pill every day. There are also injectables, the common one is Depo Provera, given every three months.

Barrier methods, universally called condoms, are available to females and males. They have the additional advantage of protecting you against sexual infections, including HIV. The effectiveness of condoms in preventing pregnancy is somewhat lower than the hormonal methods. There are other less-known methods, like the placement of a barrier on the cervix, called a cervical cup. You will obviously conceive as soon as you stop the use of barrier methods. 

Then there are the so-called long-term contraceptive methods. Long-term contraceptives include the intra-uterine contraceptive device (IUCD), simply known as ‘the coil’; and implants. The coil is usually placed inside the uterus, while implants are placed under the skin on the upper arm. Long-term methods are very effective in preventing pregnancy. You don’t need to remember to take or do anything for several years. Your potential to conceive returns as soon as the long-term method is withdrawn.

Those who have their desired family sizes can opt for permanent contraception. Vasectomy is a simple permanent contraceptive surgical procedure for men. Women can have their Fallopian tubes tied, a procedure called tubal ligation. It is best to be pretty sure you won’t desire to have more kids before opting for this.

Visiting a family planning clinic, or your gynecologist, gives you the opportunity for guidance on the best option. It is also an opportunity to have your health screened. For most, contraception negates undesired pregnancies and some associated ill-advised interventions.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.

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