In simple terms, contraception can be defined as intentional prevention of pregnancy through various methods such as barriers, drugs, and hormones. In the context, any method/device that prevents pregnancy can be called a contraceptive.
Presently, men and women have ample options they can resort to to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Dr Sabrina Bokil, consultant gynaecologist, Jupiter Hospital, Pune, states, “The simplest method is using condoms, which are classified as barrier contraceptives. They prevent contact of the egg and the sperm, thus preventing conception. In women, one example of a barrier contraceptive is cervical cap or diaphragm. It is a plastic cap that the woman has to place over her cervix before intercourse. Another example of the same is a female condom—a plastic tube with a ring. While the tube lines the vagina, the ring is outside it.”
Naturally, it is imperative women are in control of their fertility. Barrier contraceptives offer high efficacy, but may backfire if the man or the woman do not use it correctly. Thus, intra-uterine contraceptive devices came into being. “These are mechanical devices kept inside the uterus, and just by the fact that they are present, the brain is tricked into believing that conception has taken place and pregnancy does not take place. Most commonly used mechanical device is Copper T, a T shaped plastic device with copper wire wound around it to improve efficacy of contraception. Another example is the Mirena Coil, which releases a small amount of progesterone into the vagina,” states Dr Bokil.
Other forms of contraceptives include a patch (you apply them on the skin, let it stay for 21 days, remove it, allow a period to come and put a new patch), vaginal ring (you place this ring in the vagina and it releases hormones), implant (inserted below the skin and release small doses of hormones and prevent ovulation. It can stay for two, three, or five years depending upon its life), injection (hormones to be taken every three weeks) and finally, oral contraceptive pill.
With a host of options for men and women, does every form have a high success rate? “Contraceptive pills have an efficacy of 99 per cent, and are considered to be the most efficient. You have to take it every day for 21 days. The principle being that it stops the egg from being released from the ovaries, thus preventing ovulation. Every three weeks, the woman gets a predictable period,” says Dr Bokil.
Despite science having come a long way, and access to information easier than ever, there are several myths associated with contraception. Dr Bokil advises to steer clear from hearsay and emphasises that not everything passed on from one generation to another, is true. “The contraceptive pills were first introduced in the 1940s, and had several side-effects. Sometimes, even after discontinuing them, the period wouldn’t come back on time. This led to a certain mindset being developed. Older women continue to believe that fertility will be delayed once you stop the pill. The fact of the matter is that each pill works only for one day. Even if you miss your pills for two days, you can get pregnant in that time,” she says.
Another common side-effect attributed to the pill and methods like Copper T are that they lead to weight gain. Dr Bokil rubbishes the belief, saying, “You don’t put on weight because of the pills, you put on because you are at ease. With the pill, you wouldn’t gain over one-two kilograms only for the first two tothree cycles, or till your body adjusts to the dose. Other misconceptions include that hearing and vision are affected due to the pills. In addition, Copper T can penetrate into other organs of the body.”
Health Issues And Contraceptives
As per Dr Bokil, certain antibiotics might interfere with the effective working of contraceptive pills. In addition to that, if a woman smokes or drinks, it is unlikely the contraceptives will work for her. “However, she has an option of opting for Copper T. The fact remains, your gyanaecologist can suggest options based on your lifestyle and body profile. There is something for every one,” she signs off.