Contraception Options for Men and Women

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Contraception refers to any measure used to prevent male sperm from meeting up with a female egg, stopping fertilisation of the egg taking place and preventing pregnancy occurring.

There are tales claiming that during intercourse, while standing up, a woman is less likely to become pregnant. This is not true at all. A woman can become pregnant regardless of which position she has sex in.

Remember that if the sperm can get to the egg, then fertilisation can occur.

Understanding the process in which fertilisation occurs and how contraception products work, is very important in helping prevent pregnancy.

When a man's sperm meets and fertilises an egg in the woman's reproductive system (within the fallopian tubes), which then successfully implants in her uterus (womb), then pregnancy occurs.

Women produce an egg cell each month in the average of about 14 days before the start of her next period (this is called ovulation)

The average regular monthly cycle is of 28 days in which the period last between 5-7 days.

The egg has an active life span of only 12-24 hours (sometimes more) in which time it may be fertilised by a sperm.

A man's sperm can survive inside the woman's body for up to 5-7 days (sometimes more).

Basically this means that having sex up to 7 days before ovulation occurs (life span of the sperm) or having sex up to 3-4 days after ovulation has occurred, without using any method of contraception, can result in pregnancy since there is a maximum time of fertility in a woman lasting up to 7-10 days in the middle of her menstrual cycle.

ovulation chart

To get a clearer understanding of the physical factors of both the male and female bodies, it is important to know how they work.

In a man's body, the sperm is produced in the testes, which also secrete male hormones. The sperm is stored in the epididymis (a type of tube) before being released during ejaculation.

Inside the woman's vagina, conditions can be hostile towards the male sperm so the sperm needs to be strong, energetic and correctly shaped in order to reach and penetrate the female egg. There also needs to be enough sperm being produce to survive the acidity inside the vagina and they need to be well nourished by semen.

A woman's body has two ovaries which store thousands of immature eggs that then in each menstrual cycle only one of them matures, producing oestrogen.

The oestrogen stimulates the womb lining to thicken and produce mucus that helps sperm to survive for as long as possible. Once the egg matures, Luteinising Hormone (LH) is released, causing ovulation to occur. This allows for fertilisation to occur and only fully mature eggs can be fertilised.

There are many different methods of contraception and it is really important in order for a healthy, safe, happy sex life, to take the time to find out what those options for contraception are.

The methods of contraception can be permanent or temporary but whichever one you and your partner decide to use, the most important thing is understanding how they work and to take responsibility.

Some types of contraception, if used properly, can also help to protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STI).

Always remember when entering a new relationship, that even if neither you or your partner show any symptoms of infections, you could be carrying an STI and risking infecting each other so be open and honest.

Some types of contraception are easily available over the counter (OTC) in any pharmacy; while other types are only available as prescription only medicines (POM), or have to be fitted by your doctor or general practitioner (GP) or nurse.

Here are some of the methods of contraception used:

For men:

- Male condoms / Spermicides & Lubricants

- Withdrawal

- Sterilisation: Vasectomy

For women:

- Female condoms / Lubricants

- Diaphragm & Cervical caps / Spermicides

- The sponge

- Hormone-based Combined pill (COC)

- Progestogen-only pill (POP)

- Contraceptive patch

- Injectable or implantable contraceptives

- Intrauterine devise (IUD)

- Emergency hormone contraception pill

- Sterilisation: Tubal ligation

- Natural method: Rhythm & Cervical mucus method

Remember that there is only one strategy that can prevent pregnancy with a 100% rate of effectiveness and that is total abstinence from having sex, that is why it is so important to explore the different methods of contraception.

When selecting a method of contraception you must keep in mind all factors such as age, access to medical care, finances, frequency of sexual activity and the number of partners that there will be.

Unfortunately all other options of contraception other that abstinence, leaves an open chance, regardless of how small, of fertilisation of an egg. So therefore, both partners should respect that chance and think carefully about what they would do if their chosen method was to fail.

Hopefully this information will be of some used to all of you.

Enjoy a healthy sex life.

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