Contraceptives can be tricky, especially since there are so many to choose from! Which one protects us from STI’s, and which ones protect us from pregnancy? Here are Letena’s Top 10 list of things you should know before setting up your next OB-GYN appointment. 

Contraceptives are methods you can use that would help protect you from Sexually Transmitted Infections as well as prevent the occurrence of pregnancy. 

1. Women can take contraceptives for other reasons than preventing pregnancy, such as regulating periods, hormone imbalances, and reducing blood flow during their period.

2. There are a variety of options available based on your preference and lifestyle choices as well as body type.

When you decide to be sexually active, it’s a smart choice to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist and learn about contraceptives and decide which one to use. This process is known as contraceptive counseling. This decision should not be made lightly, and that’s why a proper discussion with your gynecologist is always advised. For example, if you are a 24 year-old woman who is interested in a long-term effective contraceptive option, the birth control pill might be one option for you. If you are forgetful or don’t have a daily routine, it may not be the best because it relies heavily on taking it around the same time everyday for protection. The implant might be a good option for you if you are thinking about being sexually active and would want a long-term option that would last about 3-5 years, but not if you are afraid of weight gain and/or are already prone to hormonal disturbances. These and such things are what you should discuss with your care provider during a counseling session.

3. Using Contraceptives will NOT make you infertile.

Almost all contraceptives available today are reversible, most offer no delay at all in women who want to get pregnant immediately after stopping contraceptive use.

4. Contraceptives DO NOT cause birth defects. 

Although a heavily circulated myth in Ethiopia, using contraceptives will not affect you or your unborn child in any way at all. Contraceptives only act by releasing hormones in the body, and have no clinically proven effects on unborn children.

5. There are more options than the “morning after pill’’ for women requiring an emergency contraceptive after unprotected sexual intercourse or a missed pill.

Other than the so-called‘’ morning after pill’’ the IUD is also an option for sexual intercourse that occurred without protection. But it’s important to bear in mind that while they may be a somewhat reliable option for preventing pregnancy but they have no impact whatsoever on prevention against sexually transmitted infections.

 6. Emergency Contraceptives aren’t a reliable option for long-term prevention against pregnancy.

Emergency contraceptive methods are ideal for preventing pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse occurs. If you had sexual intercourse without condoms or any other contraceptive methods, emergency contraceptives are a safe choice for you – they can be taken up until 72 hours of intercourse for maximum results. There are studies that show it has some efficacy up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse. However, using them continuously isn’t advised. If you are sexually active it’s better to consult your health care provider and get on a more reliable contraceptive method.

7. Contraceptives DO NOT cause abortions or harm an existing pregnancy.

Most health care providers in Ethiopia wait until you are on your period to provide you with a contraceptive method. This is meant to ensure that you aren’t pregnant before you start using contraceptives. Even if you used emergency contraceptives while unknowingly pregnant, it will not affect the unborn fetus.

8. The only contraceptive options available today that protect against both sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy are condoms.

Condoms are the most widely known and widely available contraceptives we have in the market. They are available for both sexes, but the female condom could be easily dislodged during sexual activity so it often requires the user to hold it during sexual intercourse. Because of this reason the male condoms are much preferred over female condoms.

Another not widely known fact about condoms is that some people can be allergic to them. This situation can result because of the material some condoms are made of which is called latex. This situation can result in itchiness, swelling, and redness around the exposed(genital) area. But the good news is that there are condoms available that are made of other materials besides latex, that could be offered to such users.

9. Birth control pills, also called Combined Oral Contraceptives, are one of the most effective contraceptive methods out there. As effective as they are for preventing pregnancy, they don’t protect you from Sexually transmitted infections.

These are effective methods for women who remember to take the pill every day. For it to work effectively, the pill must be taken continuously even if you aren’t planning on having sex that day. Another awesome fact about Birth control pills is that they can protect you from some cancers like cancer of the ovaries and cancer of the lining of the uterus, and this protection continues even after you have stopped using birth control pills. Birth control pills have also been associated with causing some forms of cancer like breast cancer, but the risk is extremely low.

10. For women who already suffer from hormonal irregularities and would like the option of a contraceptive method that doesn’t add any exogenous hormones into the body, the Copper bearing IUD is the perfect option.

The IUD which arguably is the most effective contraceptive method, aside from sterilization comes in two forms, the hormone-containing IUD and the copper-bearing IUD, the copper-bearing IUD contains no hormones, and so it would be an ideal choice for a woman who is interested in a long term contraceptive method and wouldn’t want mood swings that come with the hormonal imbalances, the IUD is a safe bet for you.

For more information on contraceptives, consult an OB-GYN to discuss which form of contraceptive is best for you.