When’s the last time you switched your contraception? Here's our round up of what's best for your health and relationship needs.
What is it? The only contraceptive that protects against STIs, the newest innovation on the market is Durex RealFeel which uses a non-latex material called polyisoprene (also used by the brand Skyn) which feels more natural and is suitable for those with latex allergies. For men who struggle to find a condom to fit, theyfit.com offers 95 custom fit sizes for any length and width.
Good for you if: You’re not in an STI-tested, monogamous relationship, or if you’re unlikely to remember to take a pill at the same time every day.
The Combined Pill
What is it? This uses both oestrogen and progesterone to stop you ovulating. Newer pills, like Yasmin, Zoely or Qlaira, use different forms of hormones which may reduce risk of side effects like headaches, breast tenderness or skin problems, or offer shorter pill-free breaks. The combined pill can also be used for tri-cycling – you take the pill without a break for three months. However, it’s important to take it at the same time every day for it to be at its most effective.
Good for you if: You have acne. Zoely and Yasmin both have good reputations for improving skin conditions.
The Progesterone Only Pill
What is it? A pill without oestrogen, this works by thickening cervical mucus to stop sperm getting through and altering the womb lining so any egg they might reach can’t implant. POP Cerazette gives you a 12-hour window to take the pill (most other POPs allow only three hours) which not only makes it safer, but trials in Stuttgart found that 90 percent of women suffering side effects associated with the combined pill (like breast tenderness, fluid retention and headache) said they disappeared within three months of starting Cerazette.
Good for you if: You smoke or have migraine with aura (meaning you can’t take the combined pill).
What is it? This matchstick sized rod delivers progesterone into your system and offers protection against pregnancy for three years. It’s recently been replaced by a newer model called Nexplanon, which makes it easier to ensure it’s in the right place in the arm. The biggest side effect of the implant can be erratic periods – but things normally settle back into a regular pattern within six months to a year.
Good for you if: You have IBS. ‘Many IBS suffers find their problems get worse cyclically,’ Dr Kate Guthrie from The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists told us, ‘but because the implant wipes out your cycle, this doesn’t happen.’
What is it? Intra-uterine contraception is the new catch-all name for devices that are fitted into the womb. As well as copper coils (IUD or Intrauterine Device) – there are now also two hormonal coils, made from soft, flexible plastic, to choose from (called IUS or Intrauterine System). Mirena has been around for 20 years (and once inserted offers protection for 5 years) but it’s just been joined by Jaydess, which is the smallest on the market. This lasts three years.
Good for you if: You want to stop heavy periods or suffer from PMS. ‘We don’t know exactly why PMS occurs,’ says Dr Guthrie, ‘But many women using Mirena say they no longer suffer from it’.
What is it? Offering protection for 8-13 weeks at a time (depending on type), the most common injection used in the UK is Depo-Provera, but that’s been joined recently by Sayana Press which is injected into the thigh or tummy. One benefit is that it slightly decreased the 2-3kg weight gain from other injections (possibly because it contains slightly less progesterone) and it’s also possible to administer it yourself.
Good for you if: You’re not planning to have a baby in the next year. ‘While most contraceptives reverse quickly when you stop taking them, the Depo Provera injection can take a year to return ovulation to normal,’ says Dr Ewa Hellberg from the London Medical private clinic.
What is it? This sticky patch that you attach to your upper arm delivers oestrogen and progesterone through the skin – each lasts for a week and can be worn in the shower. Then you replace it with a new one. After you’ve used three, you have a seven-day break during which you have a period – although it’s okay to use up to six patches in succession if you want to delay your period a few weeks.
Good for you if: You’re not overweight; of the six pregnancies that occurred during trials of the patch, four were in women weighing over 90kg (14 stone). It also is known for increasing bust size.
What is it? Worn in the vagina (and inserted by you) it delivers both oestrogen and progesterone. Wear it for three weeks, then replace with a new one. Keep this up until a period occurs, then take it out for four days before repeating this cycle.
Good for you if: You get breakthrough bleeding on the pill; risks of this are lessened on this device.
Still unsure about what’s right for you? The FPA website has a ‘My contraception tool’ for women of all ages. It’s a simple questionnaire which suggests methods to suit you and your lifestyle.