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Stay safe during the holidays

Health & Science - By Standard Digital | December 12th 2009 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

By Dr Brigid Monda

Combined oral contraceptive pill

Women on the pill have several advantages. You will not get pregnant if you take the pill correctly and you can postpone your menses by simply continuing with it without taking the usual seven-day break.

The pill also relieves period pains, which can ruin your holiday, and the newer brands on the market also prevent PMS, fluid retention and the bloating that comes with your periods. Adjust your pill-taking schedule if you are travelling into a different time zone. An upset tummy can reduce the effectiveness of the pill and you may need to use extra protection like the condom to avoid getting pregnant.

Take note that the pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Contraceptive Patch

This is a life style enhancing, ‘on your body and off your mind’ kind of contraceptive method because it is convenient and easy to use without the worry of a missed pill or a burst condom to ruin your holiday . It works exactly the same way as the pill because it contains the same hormones the only difference being that the hormones in the patch are delivered to thebody through the skin.

It has all the advantages of the pill and more. It is more than 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy, is completely reversible and you can stop the method immediately by simply removing it. It is discrete and you can exercise, shower, jog, swim, sauna, steam bath or hot tub without reducing its effectiveness. It has no effect on your libido nor does it interfere with sex because you do not have to do anything right before, during, or after sex. It can also be used to postpone your periods if you are going on that honeymoon, safari or holiday by simply skipping your patch free week when you expect to get you period.

Condom

The male condom reduces the risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. It makes sex safer by protecting both partners during intercourse by offering protection against STIs including HIV.

Protection against pregnancy is enhanced if contraceptive foams, creams or jellies are also used because they immobilize sperm. Some condoms are coated with spermicide like nonoxynol-9 to increase effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. One can use latex condoms along with the other methods of contraception for the best protection against both pregnancy and STIs. They should be handled gently, the expiry date checked and should be stored in a cool, dry place because long exposure to air, heat, and light makes them more breakable.

Bursting is more likely during dry sex so use a water-based lubricant. Use only a water-based lubricant because oil-based lubricants like petroleum jelly, mineral or vegetable oils damage latex and weaken them. Always have a good supply on hand because you can only use a condom once.

‘Morning after Pill’ or Plan B

This can be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse like when a condom breaks. The sooner it’s taken after sex, the more effective the emergency pill is. It’s about 95 per cent effective when taken within 24 hours, up to 85 per cent if taken between 25-48 hours, up to 58 per cent taken between 49-72 hours.

However, even if taken within 24 hours, it’s not as effective as using the other regular on going methods of contraception and the closer to ovulation a woman is during unprotected intercourse, the less likely the method will succeed so it should not be used as an ongoing regular method of contraception.

Some medicines affect how it works and its’ failure rate is also higher when used repeatedly because it disrupts the menstrual cycle and you can never be quite sure after using it when you are safe. It also does not protect you against STIs.

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