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Everything you need to know about contraceptive methods.

Everything you need to know about contraceptive methods.

Pill, patch, IUD... It can sometimes be difficult to understand the jargon of contraceptive methods. So, to clearly explain all these contraceptives (their forms, their functions, their actions...), here's a brief overview of the existing solutions.

Published July 19, 2021, updated on February 6, 2024, by Stéphanie, Doctorate in Life and Health Sciences — 3 min read

How does the contraceptive pill work?

Although various techniques exist to prevent unwanted pregnancy, the combined oestrogen-progestogen pill remains one of the most common methods. Indeed, about 4 in 10 women use this form of contraception in France.

The contraceptive activity of these pills is attributable to two molecules: synthetic oestrogen and progestogen. This type of pill should be taken every day at the same time for 21 days, followed by a 7-day break. It is during this week that menstruation occurs, or rather withdrawal bleeding, which is less heavy than "real periods". Indeed, here, the bleeding is due to the sudden drop in hormones when the pill intake is stopped. If you take the pill correctly, you will be protected throughout the month, even during the break week! There are four safeguards to ensure its effectiveness:

  1. The progestin thickens the mucus in the cervix, which hinders the passage of sperm.

  2. Estrogens prevent the growth of the follicle.

  3. The two types of hormones inhibit ovulation.

  4. The progestin makes the uterine lining unsuitable for receiving a fertilised egg.

There are several generations of contraceptive pills, those of the 2nd generation are the ones that present the least risk of venous thrombosis, therefore they are to be preferred.

Other methods of contraception.

However, the pill is not the only contraceptive method: there are now a large number of alternatives. Some work through hormones, much like the pill:

  • The hormonal IUD : This is a T-shaped device placed in the uterus that releases hormones.

  • Thevaginal ring : This refers to a ring placed deep within the vagina that contains hormones.

  • The patch : It adheres to the skin and releases hormones into it.

  • Thehormonal implant : This refers to a small rod placed under the skin that releases hormones.

  • The pill containing only progestin is taken continuously, thus there are no more periods.

Others act mechanically:

  • Male and female condoms : They prevent the passage of sperm. This is the only contraceptive method that protects against sexually transmitted diseases.

  • The copper IUD : The copper component of this device renders the sperm inactive.

  • The Diaphragm : This membrane is positioned at the base of the vagina and prevents the passage of sperm.

If you are unsure about which method would be most suitable for you, do not hesitate to consult with health professionals and family planning and education centres, who will be able to advise you.


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