“No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” — Margaret Sanger

One of the greatest inventions of mankind is the ability to enjoy safe sex without the worry of either pregnancy or infections. And there is such a selection out there!

From the pill to the IUD, the humble condom or the advanced injections, we have a lot of choice. Now show me the male pill…..

The Pill and the Mini Pill

What is it?

A hormonal pill you take every day for around 21 days with a break of 7 days days for you to bleed. Some pills do need a break and you can always ‘tie’ packs together if you wish to avoid a period (check with your doctor before you do this). There are varying types such as the Combined Pill and the Mini Pill (POP).  There are around 21 different types of pill to chose from, each containing different amounts of hormone and combinations of hormones.

You need a prescription from your GP of GUM clinic for any kind of contraceptive pill.

How does it work?

The combined pill contains a mix of the hormones estrogen and progesterone which prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulating). They also make it difficult for sperm to reach an egg, or for an egg to implant itself in the lining of the womb. It can also be used to treat painful and/or heavy periods, PMS and endometriosis.

The Pop contains the hormone progestogen only. You need to take the progestogen-only pill at or around the same time every day. The progestogen-only pill thickens the mucus in the cervix, which stops sperm reaching an egg. In can also stop ovulation, depending on the type of progestogen-only pill you take.

Is it safe?

In the main, yes. The pill has been linked to higher blood pressure, blood clots and breast cancer but these risks are considered minimal. Your doctor will always check your health before issuing you with pills and you should be seeing your doctor or nurse for check ups every 6 months or so.

If you don’t get on with a pill you don’t need to stick with it. There is increased pressure on women to ‘put up’ with adverse side effects. We’re not cars; all of us are different so the standard first pill may not suit you in the same way that it suits Jane Average.

If you’re not getting on with your pill after taking it for 3 months go to your doctor and explain what the issues are. They should sit down with you to go over a better pill. Do your research! Maybe you know of a pill which has side effects that you’re more comfortable with. Don’t expect your GP (who is most likely willing to help but wildly overworked) to magically know what will suit you. Be a clever cnt. Do your research!

Do I have periods?

Not exactly. You actually have a breakthrough bleed which isn’t technically a period but can be of a similar volume.  Some pills such as the mini pill you may not have periods at all.

 How affective is it?

If taken properly over 99% effective. Some pills need to be taken at the same time every day. Always read the instructions!  You’re highly unlikely to get pregnant on the pill if you take it properly.

Will it stop STDs?

Nope! Always use a barrier method like a condom if you’re having sex with someone for the first few months and always get both of you tested before you stop using them. Seriously girls. Seriously.

How soon can I get pregnant after taking it?

It really does depend. Some women get pregnant straight off the pill. Others take a little longer. You’ll go back to your pre-pill cycle length as well so be prepared to give it a few months to settle or go for it straight away. Just be patient if you’re tracking for your body to settle into its groove.

Recent studies have confirmed that taking the pill for a long period of time will not delay you getting pregnant.

The Coil – IUD/IUS

What is it?

An IUD/IUS is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s inserted into your uterus by a specially trained doctor or nurse. You need to be referred by your GP or a special sexual health nurse. Once it’s in place you don’t need to worry about it for 5-10 years depending on the type.


The Copper IUD has been proven to have an adverse effect on sperm (I kid you not – camel drivers in Egypt used it on their female camels hundreds of years ago).For more information please click this link. It can also be used as an emergency contraceptive.

An IUS is of a similar shape but contains a progestogen hormone which it releases into the womb.

How does it work?

The copper IUD stops the sperm and egg from surviving in the womb or fallopian tubes. It may also prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb.

The IUS thickens the mucus from your cervix (remember the sticky stuff sperm can’t swim through?)making it difficult for sperm to move through and reach an egg. It also thins the womb lining so that it’s less likely to accept a fertilised egg. It may also stop ovulation for some women.

Do I have periods?

Yes, and I’m afraid with the IUD that in the main they will be heavier and you will possibly have more pain. But no two women are the same and many women actually have lighter periods. One side effect of copper is that it thins the uteral lining which can have an effect on your period.

The IUS does tend to shorten and lighten periods. Some women will find they won’t have periods at all.

How affective is it?

Very! The NHS have proven that both methods are over 99% effective. In fact, if you’re in a long term relationship and you know you don’t want children for 3+ years it’s a fantastic method of contraception. You pop it in and you forget about it.

There is a small risk of the IUD/IUS puncturing the womb lining but statistics of this happening are very small (frewer than 1 in 1000 insertions according to the NHS). There is also a small risk of infection which you should keep an eye on.

Note – it’s worth bearing in mind that if you do have the coil inserted, take the afternoon off work and stock on painkiller. Our uterus doesn’t like having a metal T in it and it will cramp! Just be prepared to take a few paracetamol and ibuprofen an hour before, after and the day after.

Will it stop STDs?

Nope! Always use a barrier method like a condom if you’re having sex with someone for the first few months and always get both of you tested before you stop using them. Seriously girls. Seriously.

How soon will I get pregnant after taking it?

It really does depend. The IUD and IUS merit themselves for their ‘whip it out and get going’ attitude towards conception. However several women, myself included, found that conception time was a lengthy process than I would have liked, and many women have anecdotally reported that their periods have been very different to how they were prior to the coil and don’t return to normal for a few months or even years.

Most doctors would disagree with me but my entirely anecdotal advice is to have your coil removed 6 months before you want to start trying for children if you’re in a hurry to give your body time to settle and use barrier methods until then.

Many women get pregnant a month or several months after having it removed – however all of us are different and more research is warranted on this. One Chinese study did correlate their research to find that the average time for couples TTC after having the copper IUD removed was 11 months average. Other studies find there is no evidence to suggest that the coil affects conception time.