Picking the right birth control is as important as picking the right partner — and almost as tricky. While we don’t have exact figures for South Africa, according to the Guttmacher Institute, each year more than half of pregnancies among American women are unplanned, primarily because “some doctors are biased about which method is best,” says Dr Vanessa Cullins, vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
1/ The Pill
How it works: Synthetic forms of progesterone (progestin) and oestrogen prevent ovulation. If an egg is released, thickened cervical mucus blocks his swimmers.
Warning: The Pill alters levels of mojo-pumping testosterone, so your libido may suffer. Trading in your pack for a new formula (there are dozens of hormone combos) can help.
Need to know: The mini pill must be taken at the same time every day; others have a few hours’ leeway.
2/ The Sponge
How it works: The squashy disk-shaped device is inserted into the vagina and releases spermicide.
Warning: In a word: messy. You have to soak it in water before inserting it, and it should stay in for six hours after sex — so it may fall apart when you take it out.
Need to know: It’s not considered as effective in women who have already given birth; their vagina muscles may not be strong enough to hold it in place.
3/ The IUD
How it works: Your gynae inserts a T-shape device into your uterus, helping to keep you baby-free for three to 10 years. Plastic ones pump out hormones that help prevent egg implantation by thinning uterine walls; the metal in copper ones naturally nukes sperm.
Warning: It can worsen an existing case of chlamydia or gonorrhoea, so expect an STD test before getting the go-ahead.
Need to know: Fears that the IUD causes pelvic inflammatory disease are generally overblown; numerous studies vouch for its safety.
4/ The Injection
How it works: Every three months your gynae injects you with a dose of progestin to block ovulation. Many women stop having their period altogether (uh-amazing!).
Warning: The shot or injection has been linked to a loss of bone density (which can lead to osteoporosis), so the FDA recommends that you don’t stay on it longer than two years.
Need to know: It can take up to a year to get preggo after you cease the injections, so consider skipping it if kids are in your near-future plans.
How it works: Your Fallopian tubes or his vas deferens (tubes that carry semen from the testicles to the penis) are cut or blocked, so sperm and egg can’t hook up.
Warning: Reversals can cost thousands (and aren’t guaranteed to work), so you should be 100 percent sure about your decision.
Need to know: If he gets the snip, it’s considered less complicated than tubal ligation. You’d require surgery and anaesthesia; vasectomy is generally a doctor’s office procedure, comparable to an IUD insertion.
6/ The Patch
How it works: The adhesive attaches to your butt, stomach, or upper arm for three weeks (not the week of your period) and releases anti-ovulation hormones.
Warning: Some experience skin irritation, and the patch can get that dingy, old-bandage look. Users have a slightly higher risk for blood clots, but they’re still very rare.
Need to know: If the adhesive starts to peel off, slap on a new one ASAP — it needs to be completely secure to work properly.
7/ The Ring
How it works: Once a month you insert a flexible, ring into your vajayjay (pushing it in as you would a tampon), where it releases the same hormones as the Pill. Take it out for the week you have your period, and then swap it for a new one.
Warning: It’s been associated with a slightly greater risk for blood clots, possibly because it’s absorbed directly into the bloodstream instead of passing through your digestive system first. But most docs say the increased risk is negligible.
Need to know: There’s a small chance it can be pushed out of place by his vigorous thrusts, but it should still provide protection if you push it back into place within four to six hours.
8/ Condoms (Female and Male)
How it works: A sheath (synthetic rubber for the female, usually latex for the male) goes either over his penis or into your vagina, blocking sperm as well as protecting against STDs (it’s the only form of BC that does).
Warning: Male condoms can break (panic!) or come loose; the female version looks kinda funny (one end hangs out of your lady parts).
Need to know: No matter who wears it, the lessening of sensation can be a deterrent.
9/ The Diaphragm
How it works: A rubber dome sits on top of the cervix. Add a generous dollop of spermicide and you create a no-entry point for his swimmers.
Warning: You’ll have to get fitted for the right size, and they can be tricky to remove at first, until you practice. You’ll also have to check for holes regularly.
Need to know: You can pop it in up to six hours before sex, and you can leave it for six hours after the deed. If you get busy more than once while it’s in, reapply spermicide (and give him a high five!).
10/ Natural Family Planning
How it works: No sex at all near ovulation, which you track via your body temperature or by getting familiar with the consistency of your cervical mucus.
Warning: You need an extremely regular cycle for it to be effective.
Need to know: Ovulation occurs midway through your cycle. Cervical mucus becomes clear and slippery right before your ovulate (a sign you’re fertile!); right after ovulation your body temp rises about half a degree to a degree.
11/ Cervical Cap
How it works: A spermicide-filled silicone cup covers the cervix, so his sperm can’t reach your eggs.
Warning: The cap is a no-go during your period, and there’s a chance it can be dislodged during sex.
Need to know: The opening to the cervix stretches during labour and delivery, so the cap is only about 71 percent effective for women who have given birth.
12/ The Implant
How it works: A plastic, matchstick-size rod is inserted under the skin in your arm and releases progestin for up to three years.
Warning: About 80 percent of women have irregular bleeding or spotting their first year.
Need to know: There’s very little lag between removal and your ability to get pregnant.
Now that you’re clued up on the necessary deets… consider your oven bun-free until you’re ready!