What is Contraception?

 Contraception is simply a method used to prevent pregnancy. This term is used interchangeably with birth control and fertility control.

Pregnancy occurs when the sperm successfully fertilises the egg (ova); this results in the development of one or more offspring.

How Contraception Works 

Generally, contraception works by

  • Preventing the fertilisation of the egg by the sperm
  • Prevention of egg production
  • Stopping the attachment of an already fertilised egg to the uterine wall.

Methods of Contraception

There are several types of contraception and each has specified way which they work. There are permanent and temporary methods of contraception.

The permanent contraception could also be referred to as sterilisation. The method permanently eliminates any chance of pregnancy.

  • Tubal ligation(female sterilisation)

This is a surgery carried out by sealing off the fallopian tubes to prevent the egg from reaching the uterus thereby preventing fertilisation with the sperm. The eggs will still be released, but they are absorbed by the woman’s body naturally.

The good thing about tubal ligation is that it is more than 99% effective.  The downside of it is that it doesn’t prevent STIs, and you would need to use condoms; the fallopian tube may re-join as a result of surgery failure although this is rare.

  • Vasectomy (male sterilisation)

This method is exclusively for men and is carried out by cutting the tubes that carry sperm. This leads to the production of semen without sperm.

The temporary contraception could be barrier contraception, long-acting reversible, emergency or hormonal contraception having either a short or long term effect.

  1. Contraceptive Diaphragm (caps)

The diaphragm is inserted into the vagina alongside a spermicide before sex and left for at least 6 hours after sex. It works by preventing the sperm from passing through the cervix into the womb. Its use could prevent STIs, but there is a higher risk of bacterial vaginosis and UTIs

Consult a doctor or nurse for advice on the right side of the diaphragm and how to properly use it.

  • Combined Pill

The combined pill works with the release and inhibition of certain hormones in the body. The pill prevents pregnancy by either thickening the mucus in the neck of the womb, making it hard for sperm to penetrate the womb or by thinning the lining of the womb thereby reducing the chances of the implantation of a fertilised egg to the womb. 

The combined pill could reduce acne, reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, leads to regular, lighter and less painful bleeds, protects against pelvic inflammatory disease. Side effects like nausea, mood swings, headaches, and breast tenderness could be noticed at first. The use of combined pills does not prevent STIs,

Consult a health professional before the use of combined pills.

  • Condoms

There are male and female condoms. The female condoms are worn inside the vagina; they work by preventing the egg from meeting the sperm and preventing pregnancy.

This is the only contraception method that prevents both STIs and pregnancy. Condoms may be damaged during sex, reducing its effectiveness.

  • Contraceptive Implant

This contraception falls under the long-acting reversible category. It has an effective rate of more than 99%.  A doctor or nurse places the implant (small flexible plastic rod) under the skin of your upper arm. The implant releases a hormone (progestogen) into the bloodstream.

The hormone prevents ovulation each month and thickens the cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to move through the cervix. It also thins the endometrium, making it difficult for implantation of a fertilised egg to take place. It can last at least 3 years.

  • Contraceptive Injection

Contraceptive injections may last for 8-13 weeks depending on the type you use. Contraceptive injections work by releasing the progestogen. This hormone prevents the release of an egg, thins the endometrium to prevent implantation of a fertilised egg and thickens the cervical mucus.

This may not be the best option for persons who desire to have a baby shortly; fertility may take up to a year to return to normal after the injection is stopped.

  • Contraceptive Patch

A contraceptive patch releases a daily amount of hormones into the bloodstream through the skin. The hormones released are both oestrogen and progestogen.

It has the same effect as the combined pill. The patch is changed weekly and worn for three weeks every month, during the patch-free week. Bleeding occurs.

  • Intrauterine Device (IUD)

 IUD is a T-shaped object inserted into the uterus. The IUD releases copper. The copper released makes it difficult for sperm to reach the egg by altering the cervical mucus. It lasts from 5- 10 years. If the procedure is done correctly, it is more than 99% effective.

  • Intrauterine System (IUS)

IUS is similar to IUD; the only difference is that IUD releases copper while the IUS releases the hormone progestogen. They work the same way and the procedure for insertion are the same.

  • Natural Family Planning

This method of contraception involves identifying and recording the signs and symptoms of fertility such as the length of your period, daily reading of body temperature and changes in cervical secretions to plan and prevent pregnancy. It is advisable to be taught by qualified fertility awareness teachers on how to properly identify these signs.

  1. Progestogen-only Pill (POP)

The pill helps to thicken the cervix mucus making it difficult for sperm to reach the egg; it also stops ovulation. The pill must be taken consistently to be effective. If taken properly, it has an efficiency of 99%. Side effects like breast tenderness, irregular or more frequent periods may be noticed.

  1. Vaginal Ring

It is a small soft, plastic ring placed in the vagina; it releases oestrogen and progestogen into the bloodstream. These two hormones prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation, fertilisation of the egg and thickening of the cervical mucus.

Consult a general practitioner on the best time to insert or remove the ring.

Where to get Contraception

Contraception is easy to get. You can get them from

  • Sexual health clinics
  • General practitioners
  • Community contraception clinics
  • Young people’s services