Six alternatives to the Pill

03:50, Feb 05 2014
MORE HARM THAN GOOD? Side effects from the Pill range from inconvenient to downright debilitating.

First things first: for some women, the Pill just works.

You know the type - the one with super-regular, pain-free periods, without any of the side-effects. Because, let's be honest, the side-effects of the Pill can be pretty... unpleasant.

Weight gain. Nausea. Spotting. Stroke. High blood pressure - the impact ranges from inconvenient to downright debilitating.

And if that's not your issue, there's still that annoying little fact you need to remember (and obviously forget) to take it daily.

While it's one of the most common forms of birth control, the contraceptive Pill might not be the right option for your body and situation.

If chronic period pain is an unwelcome monthly reminder that yes, you're a woman, you're piling on unwanted kilos, or keep forgetting to take that little tablet, then girl, it's time for a Plan B.


The Pill may have revolutionised women's sexual freedom in the '60s, but it's not your only option.

From the hormonal (NuvaRing) to the natural (withdrawal) and barrier (condoms), modern medicine means you can basically tailor-make your birth control.

If you've ever found yourself wondering what lies on the other side, we've broken down six common anti-Pill options, and why you should (or shouldn't) give 'em a go.

But if you're seriously considering switching sides, don't forget to pay your doctor a friendly visit. In the meantime, step inside, and shop around.

1. The Injection

What is it? A little needle injected every three months, most commonly called by its brand name, Depo Provera.

How does it work? You get a shot into your arm or bum every three months. This tells the ovaries to stop with the egg-releasing business and changes the cervix so the sperm can't meet-up with the egg (and you know what that means). It's works similarly to the Pill.

How effective is it? 99.8 percent effective

What are the benefits?

- You don't have to remember (and inevitably forget) to take the Pill daily.

- The shot has a low failure rate. Hooray!

- It is known to relieve period pain.

- It is also likely to cause some reduction in risk of ovarian cancer, endometrial (uterine) cancer, endometriosis and possibly pelvic infection.

What's the catch?

- You really shouldn't use it for more than two years in a row, because it can cause a loss of bone density.

- You have to get a needle. Every three months. Eek!

- Basically, once you receive the needle, you've committed and can't go back. You'll just have to patiently wait until it wears off.

- In some women it can take six to twelve months for your period to return to normal.

2. The pull-out method

What is it? This 'method' is as old fashioned as they get - modern medicine means you don't have to rely on it anymore. It basically involves a man 'pulling out' before ejaculating.

How does it work? 
Look, it's less than scientific. One study suggests that, while it's growing in popularity, one in three women between the ages of 15 and 25 use this method, and that about 21 percent of them became unintentionally pregnant. Oops.

What are the benefits?

- No messing around with hormones, condoms, or injections.

- Umm. . . it's free?

What's the catch?

- Basically, everything. One researcher, Dr Annie Dude from Duke University, said: "Our study showed that use of withdrawal for contraception is very common, but it doesn't work as well as other methods." That's reason enough to steer clear.

3. The vaginal ring

What is it? A thin, flexible ring that you squeeze between your thumb and index finger to insert in your vagina, and leave in place for three weeks. It's removed for one week to allow you to get your period, and then replaced with a new ring. You might know it as NuvaRing, the brand name.

How does it work? Hormones, baby. The ring contains the same two hormones that are in some types of the Pill.

How effective is it? It is 99.7 percent effective if it is used perfectly.

What are the benefits?

- Unlike IUDs, you can insert yourself, and remove yourself. No doctors, minimal discomfort.

What's the catch?

- They increase the risk of dangerous blood clots that could form after giving birth. So best to avoid if you've recently had a baby.

- This is a big catch: because it is not always used perfectly, nearly one in 10 women who choose this method still get pregnant.

4. The male condom

What is it? Don't play dumb now, we're talking about the classic condom, a fine rubber (latex) or synthetic sheath that is worn on an erect penis.

How does it work? It acts as a barrier, preventing the sperm from entering your body.

How effective is it? Let's be frank here: condoms are 98 percent effective with perfect use. But about two in 10 women who use condoms will still get pregnant, and that's usually because they aren't being used properly. So consider a back-up.

What are the benefits?

- You don't have to worry about the side-effects of a hormone-based method. 

- It's relatively inexpensive.

- As a "barrier method" to contraceptive, it will protect you from STIs.

- It's easy to buy over the counter.

What's the catch?

- Some people have allergies to the latex, but apart from that, it's pretty safe. 

- If you 'forget' to put it on, you're not covered. Literally.

5. The Copper IUD (Inter Uterine Device)

What is it? While it hasn't earned the rock-star status of the Pill, the IUD has been around for years. It's basically a small, plastic device with copper wire wrapped around the stem that is inserted vaginally. When it's inserted, a small string comes through the cervix, so you can check it's in place. Don't worry, no one else will know it's there.

How does it work? The IUD impedes sperm movement and survival in the uterus, so it can't reach the egg. It also changes the lining of the uterus so it's not suitable for pregnancy.

How effective is it? 99.8 percent effective

What are the benefits? 

- It can last up to five year.

- You don't have to worry about remembering it, like the Pill.

- It's cheaper in the long run.

- You can try for pregnancy (if you want) as soon as it is removed.

- It's a completely non-hormonal form of contraception.

What's the catch?

- Although unlikely, it can expel itself from the uterus.

- It's rare, but if you do become pregnant and the IUD isn't removed immediately, it will increase your chance of miscarriage.

- You run a small risk of infection for a few weeks following insertion.

- It comes with a heavy up-front price-tag (though this definitely balances out in the long-term).

- It needs to be inserted.

- It could perforate the wall of the uterus.

- After it's inserted, you may have a few weeks of irregular bleeding between periods. After this time, your periods could be heavier and more painful.

6. The Hormone IUD

What is it? Never heard of it? You might know the hormone IUD as its brand name, Mirena.

The key difference between this and the copper IUD is that it contains progestogen, a synethic version of the naturally-occuring hormone progesterone. Like its copper cousin, a fine nylon string attached at the end makes it easy to check whether it's still in place. Again, don't sweat it: he won't be able to tell it's there.

How does it work? In a nutshell, it controls the release of progestogen into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

How effective is it? It's more than 99 percent effective.

What are the benefits? 

- It can last up to five years.

- You don't have to worry about remembering it, like the Pill.

- It's cheaper in the long run.

- You can try for pregnancy (if you want) as soon as it is removed.

What's the catch?

- If you have issues with the hormones in the Pill, you could still have issues with this method.

- After it's inserted, you could experience a few months of frequent and irregular bleeding between periods, which is pretty crap.

However, after this, your periods might be shorter, lighter, and less painful. Some women (up to 50 percent!) stop bleeding completely. Imagine never having to worry about your period again!

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