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What Are The Best Contraceptive Options For Women Over 40?

Posted in Personal Health 30 Jan, 2015

Your 40th birthday is a time to evaluate and reflect on every aspect of your life. From your family to your career, chances are you will be assessing the journey that has lead to where you are today.

You might be wondering where your life is going and deciding whether, if you haven't already, to have children with your partner. Either way, knowing what your contraception options are can help you to make the right choice for your lifestyle and circumstances. Yes, fertility does decline with age, but recent research from the USA shows the birth rate is increasing among the over 40s while declining for every other age group.

For this reason it's important to protect yourself from both sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy. Condoms are the only method of birth control that protect against STIs, but there are several options available for contraception.

Hormonal contraceptives

These include the contraceptive pill, the implant, injection and skin patch. These are available by prescription and usually contain a combination of estrogen and progestin. The most common form is the oral contraceptive pill (birth control pill) that needs to be taken daily to be effective. Birth control pills work by preventing the ovary from releasing an egg and because no egg is released, the fertilization process cannot occur. It also creates thick cervical mucus, preventing the sperm from entering the uterus and causing a pregnancy.

Birth control pills, while effective, can have temporary side effects such as headaches, breakthrough bleeding, nausea, vomiting and breast tenderness. Some women are also concerned that hormonal contraceptives cause weight gain but studies don't show a direct link between the two. There are additional benefits to taking the contraceptive pill including reduced menstrual pain and bleeding, improved cyclical regularity and fewer hot flushes.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped device made from plastic that is inserted into the uterus. It starts working immediately, until it is removed. The effectiveness of an IUD is close to 100% and it works by using copper as the active part of the contraceptive to prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg. The Intrauterine System (IUS) works in a similar way to the IUD, except it releases the hormone progesterone, similar to the hormone that women naturally produce in their ovaries.

An IUS makes the uterus lining thinner and less likely for an egg to be fertilized. The IUS works for five years and while the IUD can make periods more painful and longer lasting, the IUS can make them lighter, shorter and less painful. As fertility returns to normal once it's removed, it's also a good option to consider if you are looking to become pregnant again, but not for several years.

Cervical cap

This is a latex cup that can be fitted over the cervix and used with a spermicidal cream or a gel. The cervical cap must be kept in the vagina for 8 hours following intercourse and should be replaced every 1-2 years. The cap is available by prescription and a pelvic examination is required before it is fitted by a healthcare provider.

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