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Reversible contraceptive methods are safe


Dear Doctor,
I’m looking around for a short term contraceptive, perhaps for a year or so prior to my wedding. I’m however worried about the effects of contraceptives. Will I struggle to have a baby after say two years on the pill? I’m 28. Noni

Many women have some initial anxieties about the use of contraceptives. Most of such anxieties are however based on inadequate information, or even from biased anecdotes. The safety of reversible contraceptives is not in question. Not only do they prevent unwanted pregnancies, but contraceptives are also linked to a multitude of other health benefits.

There is quite a varied mix of reversible contraceptives. You have a choice between short-term and longterm methods. The oral contraceptive pill, commonly known as ‘the pill’, is fairly familiar to most women. All you need is to take a tablet daily, without fail, and you will be protected against an unplanned pregnancy. Once the pill is stopped, your potential to conceive returns immediately. Patches are also available as short-term choices, you simply select a discreet part on your body and stick one every week. Patches are more user friendly as you only need to remember to change once a week. There are also injectables, the common one is called Depo Provera, given every 3 months.

Barrier methods can also be termed as short-term contraceptive choices. Condoms are readily available, and confer additional protection against sexual infections especially for those with multiple sexual partners. The effectiveness of condoms in preventing pregnancy is somewhat lower than the hormonal methods. There are other less known methods, like placement of a barrier on the cervix, called a cervical cup. You will obviously conceive as soon as you stop any use of barrier methods. Even though you are looking for a short-term method, you should not completely discount the use of longterm reversible contraceptives. Longterm contraceptives include the intra-uterine contraceptive device (IUCD), simply known as ‘the coil’; and the implants. The coil is usually placed inside the uterus, whilst implants are placed under the skin on your upper arm. Longterm methods are very effective in preventing pregnancy. You don’t need to remember to take or do anything for several years, whilst remaining protected. Again, your potential to conceive returns as soon as the longterm method is withdrawn.

As you are young, and presumably healthy, you could choose any contraceptive method that appeals to you. However, visiting a family planning clinic avails the opportunity for a detailed discussion on your chosen method, and clarification of your anxieties. Such a visit also doubles up as an opportunity to update your health screening, and confirm suitability of your contraceptive choices. Rest assured that the use of a reversible contraceptive will not jeopardize your future fertility potential. Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist. amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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