Contraception is a practice taken by a man, woman or couple to avoid pregnancy.
Traditionally this role has been left to the woman in the relationship to worry about but fortunately that is changing and we now often see men taking the lead.
If we leave aside abstinence and the “rhythm method” (pulling out) the contraceptive options for men are really limited to vasectomy (permanent) and condoms.
For women the options are greater:
a. Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus)– generally reserved for women with other issues such as fibroids, cancer or endometriosis. A hysterectomy is not usually performed solely for contraception
b. Tubal Ligation – Often referred to “getting the tubes tied” tubal ligation a surgical procedure where clips are placed on the fallopian tubes to cause sterilisation. Sometimes the tubes are removed completely. Tubal ligation is major surgery and is performed under a general anaesthetic in a hospital or day surgery
The disadvantage of both of these forms of sterilisation is that it involves surgery and they are not a simple procedure that can be completed in your GPs rooms. Recovery time is greater and there are more significant potential complications than vasectomy.
2. Hormonal contraception
All hormonal contraception for women has the same goal – to turn off a woman’s ability to make eggs (ovulate) capable of fertilising with sperm to make a baby.
a. Long acting contraception– this includes devices placed in the uterus (Mirena) or under the skin (Implanon), or a needle given every 3 months called a “depot”. These slowly release hormones to stop ovulation.
b. Short acting contraception – the pill. The pill is taken every day and is either a combination of estrogen and progesterone, or progesterone on its own (the ‘mini pill’).
This downside to hormonal contraception is really all about the potential side effects. While a lot of women will have no issues, some will experience:
– Increase bleeding
– Mood changes
– weight gain
3. Barrier Contraception
– Cervical Cap
Its important when you consider having a vasectomy you are fully informed of the alternatives available to you and your partner for contraception.
Vasectomy, while not 100% risk free, does offer advantages over other forms of contraception given it is :
– a simple procedure that can be performed in your doctor’s office
– it does not involve any hormonal changes ie. it does not affect testosterone levels
– men will still produce sperm – it just won’t end up in the ejaculate