Contraception as a teen can be a bit of a minefield. Maybe you’re not too knowledgeable? Or you might feel weird about asking someone? Maybe you think you know, but you’re not too sure? Contraception really isn’t the sort of thing that you should be messing around with because, not to be too dramatic or anything, it can have life changing consequences.Which is why we at missy.ie think that you should be fully informed about all of the options available to you.
The important thing to remember is that you need to use safe and effective contraception every single time. You don’t build up a credit system that allows you a once off, get out of jail free card. It only takes one time to become pregnant or infected with a sexually transmitted disease. If your partner doesn’t respect you enough to use contraception or tries to make reasons or excuses for not using it, you need to stand up for yourself. Having sex without using protection isn’t smart, cool or safe.
Here is everything that you need to know about contraception…
The condom is a barrier method of contraception – it blocks sperm from entering the womb. Condoms are made from very thin latex rubber or a very thin plastic. They are widely available in Pharmacies and Supermarkets. Family Planning clinics and college services often offer them for free. Using a condom should realistically be non-negotiable with your partner when you first become sexually active.
Condoms protect against most sexually transmitted infections, when used correctly that is. Even if you are using another form of contraception, like the Pill, condoms are recommended when you have sex with a new partner, have multiple sexual partners or are unsure of your partner’s sexual history. You need to be careful and ensure that they are properly used and be aware that they can fail by tearing or coming off during sex. Out of date condoms should never be used. If used correctly, condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy.
The contraceptive implant (or The Bar) is a small flexible plastic rod which is placed under your skin (usually your arm). It slowly releases the progesterone hormone and gives contraceptive protection for up to 3 years. It can be removed at any time. The implant is more than 99% effective. It’s a good idea if you want long-term contraception and if you want to avoid having to remember to take the Pill every day. Again it does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
You can get the Implant from a doctor, Family Planning Clinic or Well Woman Clinic. Your doctor will write a prescription for the implant and you then bring this to a Pharmacy where you can buy the implant. The device is then inserted by a doctor; although not all doctors will insert devices they can refer you to someone who does. The implant is available for Medical Card patients.
We already chatted about the Pill before in much more detail. The Pill is a small tablet that you take daily for 21 days. You then take a 7 day “break” which will result in your period. Then you begin another packet for 21 days. The Pill is an effective birth control method only if it is taken correctly. Make sure you follow the packet instructions very carefully because if you miss a pill you may not be fully protected and you could get pregnant. You also need to be careful about taking antibiotics, because they can affect the Pills performance. Also, if you throw up for any reason your Pill may not work. So, you need to be super vigilant when taking it. The Pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections, so we would recommend that you use condoms as well.
Mirena Coil (IUD)
The coil is a T-shaped plastic IUS device that is professionally inserted into endometrial cavity of the uterus. Mirena coils provide long-term birth control that is minimally invasive and very effective. They can also be used to treat a variety of conditions, including heavy periods, endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain and anaemia. It is a reliable long-term option, if you would prefer not to think about birth control on a daily basis. An IUD can be removed at any time, and your fertility will return to normal immediately.
It is an option if you cannot or do not want to use hormones. IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections. You can get a prescription for an IUD from your doctor, Family Planning Clinic or Well Woman Clinic. Your doctor will write a prescription for the implant and you then bring this to a Pharmacy where you can buy the implant. The device is then inserted by a doctor; although not all doctors will insert devices they can refer you to someone who does. The implant is available for Medical Card patients.
Emergency contraception is a method of contraception that can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if your contraception has failed i.e if the condom broke or you realise that you have forgotten to take your Pill.
The 3 day emergency contraceptive pill should be taken as soon as possible and within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected sex. It is more effective the sooner it is taken. There is also a 5 day Pill, but again the sooner you take it the better.
Emergency contraception is available from pharmacies without a prescription or from a doctor. If you go into your pharmacy just ask to speak to the Pharmacist privately. Most Pharmacies have a private consultation room now, so you can chat with them about your options in full confidence. They should be able to provide you with Emergency Contraception in the form of a tablet on the spot.
Emergency contraception is not as effective as regular contraception and should not be consciously used as an alternative to other contraception.
There are other contraceptive options out there, such as the diaphragm, contraceptive patch, vaginal ring, contraceptive injection and spermicide but we thought it would be best to chat through the options that you would be most likely to use. But do be aware that they are there. If you’re not sure which option is best for you have a chat with your GP, or head to your local Well Women Centre or Family Planning Clinic.
- It is your right not to engage in sexual activity.
- It is your right to protect yourself from pregnancy and disease.
Illustration by Carra Sykes