How effective is your contraception?
Typically, when a young person, with a womb, visits their GP or a sexual health clinic in search of contraception, doctors stick you on one kind or another of the contraceptive pill. One type is the combined pill, which contains both progesterone and oestrogen. The other kind is known as the mini pill, but is it not really any different in size to the combined pill, it’s just a progesterone only pill. Yet, even though the pill is generally the first option given, it’s not strictly the most effective.
According to the NHS website, both types of the pill are 99% effective. But, here’s the catch; ‘When taken correctly’. YOU, sorry to break the news, are the biggest reason your pill doesn’t work to its fullest potential.
No one’s perfect after all….
Human error when taking the pill could be just simply forgetting to take it. We all have those days, things just slip your mind. So, maybe you take it later on in the day or just skip it completely, but it happens every now and then. Or perhaps you unexpectedly stayed at a ‘friends’ house (cheeky) or forgot to pack your pill when going away. Another form of human error is if you’re ill and throw up, or hungover and throw up, or for whatever reason, just throw up. You may throw up your pill along with your peas and carrots (because there’s always peas and carrots) without realising.
With one year of typical, average, day to day human being usage there is actually an 8% chance of pregnancy, not 1%. This is a little bit higher than I was expecting, I must admit.
If you are taking the pill to not get pregnant, and are just as surprised by this recent statistic as I was, you might want to consider more effective methods of contraception which take away human error.
This brings us to LARC – which stands for Long-Acting reversible contraception, and more commonly known as the coil, the implant, and the injection. They are way more effective and don’t require you to do much.
Briefly, the injection is given by a nurse at your GP surgery or a Sexual Health clinic every 8 or 12 weeks. The coil (there are two, IUS which is Mirena, hormonal coil, and IUD which is the copper, non-hormonal coil) and get put up inside the uterus, they can usually last up to 5 years but you can have it taken out whenever. Finally, the implant gets inserted under the skin into your arm and is there for up to 3 years, but you can again get it taken out whenever you want. All 4 of these according to the NHS website are ‘if inserted/used correctly’ more than 99% effective.
With, again, one year of typical, average, day to day human being usage, LARC has the following chances of pregnancy:
The injection – 3%
IUS (hormonal, Mirena) – 0.2%
IUD (non-hormonal, copper) – 0.8%
The implant – 0.05%
Sounds great, right? So, what’s holding people back from getting them? The most common response I get when I recommend LARC to people is:
‘But you have to have it for 3 years, or 5 years, or however long it is!’
Which, yes, at first may seem like a longer term commitment to something, maybe the longest commitment you’ve ever made. But the truth is, you don’t have to have LARC for that long. You can have it removed/stopped can be removed at any point. Another reason is horror stories. Most people seeking contraception have heard from someone they know about someone’s cousin’s, friend’s, dog’s, mum’s, fiancé’s sister having an implant or coil horror story. Cases where things go wrong are extremely rare and often due to external factors, like injury, and shouldn’t put people off getting LARC.
If you’re still not sure which contraception is right for you, perhaps consider asking yourself these questions to figure out which type is best suited to your needs and lifestyle:
- Why do I want to start taking contraception?
- Is it to lighten or stop my periods?
- To help control a skin condition?
- To reduce symptoms of menopause?
- To prevent pregnancy?
- How important is it that I don’t get pregnant?
- Am I good at remembering to take medication?
- How regularly can I visit health professionals who can give me the contraception I need?
- Do you go on holidays? work away? or travel?
At the end of the day, when it comes to contraception, you should always do what’s right for you. Make sure you make an informed choice based on the full range of contraception available to you, even if this means having to try out multiple options before finding the one that works best for you.
Stay Safe. Stay Sexy.
***For those of you interested in the research: Contraceptive Failure in the United States, by James Trussell, Contraception, 83(5), 2011 p397-404 ***