The need for contraception after birth
Contraception is the conscious use of artificial methods or natural techniques to prevent pregnancy as a result of sexual intercourse. After delivery, breastfeeding prevents conception for as long as it continues. However, this is not failproof. Thus, using additional contraception is important.
The major forms of contraceptive methods available are:
- Barrier methods
- Contraceptive injections or contraceptive pills
- Intrauterine devices
- Surgical methods
Barrier methods are used only when having sexual intercourse, and they work by preventing the male sperm from reaching the female egg. Some of the commonly used barrier methods are:
The female condom is soft and a pouch-shaped device made of latex with a ring at the end. You insert it in the vagina to stop the sperm from getting into the uterus.
Each female condom should be used only once and not at the same time as your partner uses a male condom.
The male condom is a thin sheath made of rubber/latex or other materials that the male partner wears on the erect penis. It prevents the sperm from entering your vagina and uterus.
Condoms have the advantage of protecting against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
A diaphragm is a silicone cap that you wear inside your vagina that covers your cervix (the entrance to your uterus). It stops the sperm from passing into the uterus.
You can use a diaphragm even during your monthly period. The diaphragm needs to used before sex (up to 24 hours earlier) and remove it after sex. It is reusable, so you can wash it after each use.
Contraceptive injections and pills
A contraceptive injection releases the hormone progesterone into your bloodstream, which prevents ovulation (release of the egg from the ovary) to prevent pregnancy.
Birth control pills contain hormones and are to be taken every day to prevent pregnancy. Women opt for the oral pill to prevent pregnancy because of the ease of compliance too. When taken correctly, contraceptive pills are up to 99.9% effective.
There are two different types of contraceptive pills: the combined pill and the mini-pill. The difference is mainly in the amount of hormones they contain. The combined pill contains the hormones estrogen and progesterone, and the mini-pill contains just progesterone. Women who cannot opt for contraceptive pills containing estrogen are usually put on the mini-pill. These women include those who are breastfeeding, are overweight or have high blood pressure, or are smokers aged 35 and over. In most other cases, the combined pill is prescribed extensively.
Intrauterine devices (IUD)
An IUD is a small, T-shaped device that's put into your womb (uterus) by a doctor or nurse. IUDs are long-acting reversible contraceptive devices.
There are two types of IUDs, made of copper and hormone-releasing. Based on the IUD you select, it releases copper or hormones to prevent a pregnancy and protects against pregnancy for about 5 to 10 years.
The IUD alters the cervical mucus, which makes it more difficult for the sperm to reach the egg and survive. An IUD can also stop a fertilized egg from being able to implant itself.
If you're 40 or over when you have an IUD fitted, it can be left in until you reach menopause or no longer need contraception.
The surgical birth control method in women is known as tubal ligation (also known as getting your "tubes tied"), and in men, it is called vasectomy. Both these methods are permanent birth control methods. One can opt for a tubal ligation when undergoing a C-section too.
Talk to your doctor about which is the most suitable method for you based on your preferences. Feel free to ask about their risks and complications before you settle for one. It is essential that you opt for a contraceptive method post delivery as this is helpful in spacing out pregnancies to prevent the adverse effects of closely spaced deliveries on your health as well as that of the baby!