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Women's Health 2020

A guide to contraception

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Dr Caitríona Henchion

Medical Director Irish Family Planning Association

Access to contraception is key to health and wellbeing: it enables people to have a satisfying, safe sex life and plan if and when to have children. When women can control their fertility, they can plan their lives.


Which method should I use?

Not every contraceptive suits everyone, and the same contraception won’t suit every woman throughout her life. Many women switch contraceptive methods as their needs and priorities change. Fortunately, there have never been so many contraceptive options.

  • Barrier methods (diaphragms and condoms).
  • Short-acting, hormonal contraceptives (combined pill, mini pill, vaginal ring, patch):these work by stopping the ovaries producing eggs.
  • Long-acting, reversible contraceptives (hormonal coil, copper coil, implant, injection):these highly effective, long-lasting contraceptives last anywhere from three months to ten years.
  • Emergency contraception (emergency contraceptive pill, copper coil):effective for up to five days after unprotected sex, this post-coital contraception prevents pregnancy when regular contraception has failed or wasn’t used.
  • Permanent methods (vasectomy, tubal occlusion): for those whose family is complete or decide they don’t want to have children.
  • Fertility awareness methods (natural family planning) involves tracking ovulation. These are much less reliable for pregnancy prevention than modern methods.

Is contraception free?

Contraception is not free yet! Last year, health minister Simon Harris announced that contraception would be free in 2021. But, for now, most people in Ireland must pay. The most effective long-acting reversible methods can be out of reach for many women, because of the high upfront cost of purchasing the device and having it inserted. But over the time a woman has one, the total cost is much less than for oral contraceptive pills.

If we want a society where women can participate in education, employment, in their communities and in politics, removing cost and providing universal free access to contraception will take us a step further towards that goal.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing guidelines, the IFPA has had to cut back on some of our services: appointments for some contraception consultations may not be immediately available. However, we are providing phone consultations for contraceptive pills. Be extra careful to avoid unintended pregnancy during the crisis. Check our social media and website for details of all our current reproductive health services: www.ifpa.ie And why not add a contraception consultation to your post-COVID-19 to-do list?

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