Choosing a contraceptive method

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Choosing a contraceptive method

Written by Dr David Delvin, GP and family planning specialist

NetDoctor/Geir - methods of contraception

There are so many different types of contraception available that you should be able to find the right method. You may have to try several different things before you choose the one you like most.

We have reached the stage where unplanned pregnancies really should be rare, because there are so many good methods of birth control.

What are the most popular types of contraception?

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the Pill remains the most popular method in the UK. Among women aged 16 to 49, 27 per cent were using the Pill in 2007.

Below is a league table of popularity among the various non-permanent methods of family planning.

It’s based on the recent survey carried out by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on contraception among women aged 16 to 49. (The figures may differ very slightly from those in other surveys. Even when using large samples, minor variations in results will occur.)

  1. The Pill including the mini-Pill – 27 per cent.
  2. Male condom – 22 per cent.
  3. Vasectomy – 11 per cent
  4. Female sterilisation – 9 per cent
  5. The coil (intra-uterine device) – 4 per cent
  6. Withdrawal method – 3 per cent.
  7. Persona and other variations of the rhythm method – 3 per cent.
  8. Contraceptive injection – 2 per cent.
  9. Mirena (intra-uterine system) – 2 per cent.
  10. Skin patch – 1 per cent.
  11. The cap or diaphragm 1 per cent.
  12. Female condom – less than 1 per cent.

The league table changes from time to time, depending on factors such as Pill scares and the introduction of new methods.

For instance, the number of women using Depo-provera (the contraceptive injection) seems to have increased a little since 2000.

What works and what doesn't?

With the exception of withdrawal (coitus interruptus), the above methods have the blessing of family planning experts because when used properly, they prevent pregnancy.

However, while the rhythm method is okay for well-motivated couples who have been trained in its use by a qualified natural family planning teacher, for the rest of us, it’s a bit risky.

Also very risky are certain non-approved methods, for instance, using spermicides (chemical pessaries, creams or foams), or douching your vagina after sex.

Practices like ‘doing it standing up’ or ‘coughing a lot afterwards’ or ‘trying not to come’ don’t work, and will simply lead to unwanted pregnancy.

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