“BUT I thought you were on the pill!” is not an uncommon expression among soon-to-be dads, because sadly, it's not until a woman misses a period that many men become curious about birth control.
Many women don't mind that the men don't know how these this things work because they know that there will be no further questions when they want to avoid sex because it's that time of the month for the third time this month, when there is a not-so-accidental pregnancy in the mix, or when they are trying to tailor a 'jacket' to fit an unsuspecting man.
Knowledge is power, though, so while you may not go to the extreme of tracking her cycle with a period calendar app on your phone, you can save yourself some money, some deception, and some children by knowing how the different birth control methods work. Besides, what's sexier than knowing all about your sex life?
Dr Jordan Hardie is a man who knows more about birth control than most women, and from his experience as a consultant obstetrician-gynaecologist (OBGYN), he says that when many men hear the term 'birth control' the first thing that comes to their mind is the pill. He clarifies that this is but one of the many birth control options available locally, and tells men what they need to know about all of them.
How it works: “The combined oral contraceptive pill works by preventing ovulation (an egg being released by the ovary), preventing the Fallopian tubes from picking up eggs, thickening cervical mucus, which prevents sperm from going up into the uterus, and causing thinning of the lining of the womb,” the doctor explains. When the lining of the womb is thin an egg cannot embed itself to it to become fertilised and cause pregnancy.
Effectiveness: Once the woman takes the pill as recommended, which is usually one pill per day for 21 days followed by a seven-day break during which she might have a period, it is 99.7 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy, even if she has sex during the seven-day window.
The injection, implant and the patch
How they work: The (depo provera) injection, the sub-dermal implants (small rods infused with hormones placed under the skin) and the patch all work similarly to the pill, but they have a higher dose of hormones and so offer long-term contraception. The patch lasts a week and the injection 12 weeks, while the implant last for three years. “They cause thinning of the lining of the womb, preventing implantation and inhibiting ovulation,” Dr Hardie says.
Effectiveness: All these methods are more than 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy once administered correctly.
The intra-uterine device (IUD)
How they work: These are small devices that are inserted into the uterus to prevent implantation. Some have hormones like those in the methods listed above, so they work similarly, while others such as the copper T don't.
Effectiveness: IUDs are among the most reliable forms of contraceptives, and can even prevent pregnancy if inserted five days after intercourse. One IUD can last for five to 10 years.
A diaphragm is a small flexible 'cup' that is inserted in the vagina before sex to cover the cervix so that sperm cannot get past it. This is often used with a spermicide, which stops sperm cells from moving.
Effectiveness: When used correctly this method is about 94 per cent effective.
While they vary among women, hormonal methods have common side effects including, but not limited to, a decrease in libido and vaginal bleeding, Dr Hardie says. They may also cause some weight gain, mood swings, nausea and upset stomach.
On the other hand, these methods can improve some conditions such as irregular periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, acne and chronic pelvic pain.