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Here's What A Doctor Wants You To Know About Contraception

The best contraception is the one that is tailored to your needs.

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How clued up are you about contraceptives?

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So you might pop a pill each day without giving it a second thought, or maybe you use the implant or coil, but have you ever stopped to think how it's affecting your insides? Yeah, same.

So to gain some knowledge on the topic we spoke to doctors from Marie Stopes UK who pretty much know everything about contraceptives in the UK.

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Marie Stopes UK is the leading independent provider of sexual and reproductive health services in the UK. The doctor we spoke to asked to be credited as Marie Stopes UK doctor.

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1. It helps to be prepared before you see your doctor about contraceptives.

Before you even think about using contraception, there are a few things you need to speak to your doctor about. The experts at Marie Stopes suggest asking the following:

"What are my contraceptive options, taking into account my medical and family history, age, and reproductive health needs?

How does it work? How soon will it work as a contraceptive?

How effective is the method at preventing me from getting pregnant?

How often do I need to remember to take it?

What if I forget to take it?

How will it affect my periods?

Will my mood and skin be affected?

What are the common side effects from it and will these go with time?

Will it improve period pain or will I get heavier periods?

Which hormones does it contain and how may these affect me?"

2. Condoms aren't the most effective method.

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Using just a condom might not really be the best idea. Compared with other devices like the implant, which have failure rates of less than 1%, condoms have a slightly higher failure rate.

"Condoms are excellent at reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and herpes," says the Marie Stopes doctor we spoke to. "However, data from FRSH has suggested that with typical use (i.e. incorrect and inconsistent use) the failure rates are 18%, and that with perfect use (i.e. correct and consistent use) there is a 2% failure rate with the male condom.”

3. Forgetful people should really try something other than the Pill.

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If you are the type who constantly forgets to take your Pill, you should try downloading an app like myPill. It will remind you to take the Pill every day and will also let you know what to do if you forget it. And if this doesn't work, maybe consider another contraceptive.

"LARC (long acting reversible contraception) is the most effective form of contraception and can also have fewer side effects," explains the Marie Stopes doctor. This includes the Depo-Provera injection which lasts fourteen weeks, the contraceptive implant which lasts 3 years and intrauterine devices which can last 5 to 10 years.

4. It can take a while to find the right Pill for you.

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Anyone who has ever been on the Pill will know it can take some time to get used to it and the effects it has on your body.

"When it comes to the Pill we recommend trying a pill for three months before switching as it can take that length of time for side effects, such as bleeding, to settle," says the doctor. "Everyone's bodies react differently, but remember there is the right contraceptive out there for everyone; you might just need to try a few before you find the one that fits right for your body.

"At different stages in your reproductive life different methods will suit you best. In-between children you might be happy just using something nonhormonal like the copper intrauterine device but later in life your periods can get heavy, so a hormonal intrauterine device such as the Mirena might be best."

5. You don't have to take the Pill the same time every day, but it's good practice.

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Only people taking the progesterone-only pill have to take it at the same time every day, but if you're on a combined pill (with both estrogen and progesterone) you have a little more leeway. Still, it's a good idea to take it around the same time so you don't forget it.

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6. There is no research to suggest that using birth control long-term will affect your fertility.

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"We wouldn’t prescribe contraception if it did affect fertility," the Marie Stopes doctor says. "We want to encourage women to have choice over their fertility, not reduce it. Depo-Provera (contraceptive injection) may cause a delay in return to fertility but not affect it permanently."

7. A coil can get dislodged, although it is very rare.

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"This is called expulsion. It happens when the womb contracts and pushes the coil down through the cervix, making the threads longer. It's most likely to occur in the first six weeks after insertion. This is why it is important to check threads after your period and check the toilet bowl for clots. If the threads are longer then you may not be protected, and you should go and see a doctor."

Here's a helpful guide on what to do if you think your coil has expelled.

8. The IUD and IUS should not cause ongoing pain.

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The IUD and IUS should not cause you constant pain at all.

"It might feel a bit uncomfortable and crampy at insertion, a bit like a period pain, but that should settle after insertion," says the doctor. "You might also have some irregular bleeding and crampy pain on and off for the first few weeks, but you shouldn't feel this once it’s settled in."

If you do experience ongoing pain, you should let your doctor know.

9. You can get period abnormalities with hormonal contraceptives.

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Hormonal contraceptives will probably have some sort of effect on your period, and it's perfectly normal.

The Marie Stopes expert explains: "What you have to remember is that some contraceptions can stop you bleeding completely, whereas some will give you a monthly withdrawal bleed. It's called a withdrawal bleed because some contraceptives stop you from releasing an egg every month, so you are having withdrawal bleeds rather than actual periods."

10. There is no "best" contraceptive.

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When it comes to contraception, it's not a case of one size fits all. While long-acting methods like the IUD and implant are the most effective reversible options, it really comes down to what works best with your body and your lifestyle — taking into consideration your medical history and any potential side effects you experience. "The best contraception is the one that is tailored to your needs [and] reproductive health goals, and has a side-effect profile that suits you."

Thanks to Marie Stopes for their help with this piece. You can go to the Marie Stopes website for further information or you can call the 24-hour confidential helpline One Call (0345 300 8090) for advice or counselling day or night.

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