Did you know that there are 15 methods of contraception available in the UK?Jon
To mark World Contraception Day, we are busting some common myths and misconceptions.
MYTH: My only contraception choices are condoms or the pill
Although these are still the best known methods, there are actually 15 different types of contraception available in the UK, all free through the NHS. Of these 15, unfortunately there are still only two options for men – the male condom and vasectomy (sterilisation) – although research into both the male pill and male contraceptive injection is ongoing.
Women have a choice of 13 methods, including four methods of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). These are methods which don’t need you to remember to take or use them every day or every time you have sex for them to be effective.
MYTH: You can’t get pregnant if you go to the loo or douche after sex
Going to the toilet or douching (washing the inner and outer female genitals) won’t help to prevent a pregnancy if you’ve had unprotected penis in vagina sex. This is because sperm are brilliant swimmers. By the time you’ve got to the loo, or started to have a wash, the sperm are already well on their way and this isn’t going to stop them.
MYTH: If your partner withdraws before he ejaculates you won’t get pregnant
The withdrawal method, also referred to as pulling out, has been used throughout history to try and prevent pregnancy. The idea is that during sex the man will pull his penis out of the vagina before he ejaculates so that his sperm don’t get a chance to make the woman pregnant.
But withdrawal isn’t a reliable way to prevent pregnancy – and based on the way it’s typically used, around 22 out of 100 women relying on it will get pregnant in a year. Withdrawal needs consistency and self-control, which you can’t always depend on. Many men just don’t withdraw fast enough for it to be effective.
Even if a man pulls out in time, pregnancy could still be a risk. A study in 2011 found that fluid released before ejaculation (often called pre-cum) sometimes contained live sperm – and if sperm get into the vagina one of them could end up meeting and fertilising an egg.
MYTH: You can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex
This persistent myth is still out there and leading to unplanned pregnancies. If the egg meets sperm then it’s possible to get pregnant, whether it’s the first, 10th or 1000th time you’ve had sex.
MYTH: Emergency contraception has to be used the morning after unprotected sex
This is a myth that really needs busting. While people often refe to the ‘morning-after pill’ there are actually three different types of emergency contraception. Only two of them are pills and none of them have to be used within 24 hours, or by the “morning after” to be effective.
One type of emergency pill contains levonorgestrel (sold under different brand names in the UK, including Levonelle) and is effective up to three days after unprotected sex, though it is more effective the earlier it is taken. The emergency pill ellaOne and the emergency IUD are effective up to five days after unprotected sex.
The emergency IUD is the most effective emergency method you can use, but unfortunately not as widely or conveniently available as pills as it needs to be fitted by a trained doctor or nurse.
MYTH: Long-term use of contraception can make a woman infertile
Once you stop using contraception your periods and fertility will return to normal, often straight away, but depending on the method and your individual cycle it may take a while. If you used the contraceptive injection in can take up to a year for your periods and fertility to get back to normal.
The exception is sterilisation which is a permanent method of contraception if you are absolutely sure you don’t want to have children in the future. Sterilisation is intended to be permanent and although it can sometimes be reversed this is not always possible.