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Delaying childbirth and contraception

Posted in Personal Health 07 Dec, 2012

Women are waiting longer to have children. According to recent NHS statistics, the number of women choosing to have babies in their 40s has significantly increased, rising by more than 15% within the last five years. Figures showed that up to 25,600 women in their early and late 40s had given birth, thus according to researchers there are a number of reasons which have contributed towards women opting to delay motherhood. Waiting for the right partner or taking time beforehand to establish and cement their careers were thought to be decisive factors in their decision to postpone having children.

Although I agree that such factors today play a key role in a woman's decision to postpone motherhood, I also believe that the study missed one essential reason that has significantly contributed to a woman choosing to have a child at a later age - contraception. Over the last few years, more contraceptive devices have emerged, providing more women with more choice.

The pill

Perhaps the most popular form of contraception chosen by women is the hormonal contraceptive pill, otherwise known as the pill. This oral contraceptive combines sythnetic versions of both female sex hormones, oestrogen and progestogen, which work together to prevent a women from becoming pregnant. Working in three stages, it prevents a women from ouvluating (releasing an egg), makes it difficult for sperm to reach an egg, and while making it more challenging for sperm to implant itself to the lining of the womb. In general the combined pill should be taken for 21 consecutive days, followed by a seven day break, and resumed on the eighth day. During the break you will have a bleed similar to a period. When used correctly, the combined pill has proven to be almost 100% effective in preventing a woman from becoming pregnant.

The mini pill

Also known as the progestogen-only pill (POP), in contrast to the combined pill, the mini-pill contains only synthentic progestogen. This oral contraceptive works by thickening the mucus in the cervix, making it more difficult for the sperm to reach the womb. It also works by making the womb lining thinner, so in the unlikely event that an egg is fertilised, it will not implant itself in the wall of of the womb to grow. Generally this pill is taken for 21 days, followed by a seven day break, in which you will still be protected from pregnancy. The mini pill is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy if used correctly. Usually women who are sensitive to oetrogen opt for the mini pill in order to prevent side effects.

The implant

The contraceptive implant is a small flexible rod that contains progestogen and is inserted into your arm. From there, the hormone is steadily released into your bloodstream and works in the same way as other hormonal contraceptives like the pill and the mini pill. Like these contraceptives it provides you with 99% effective cover in preventing pregnancy.

The patch

Similar in appearance to a nicotine patch, this hormonal contraceptive is applied to any flat service of your skin (usually the arm, leg, abdomen or buttocks) for three weeks, working in the same way as other contraceptives by releasing the sythentic hormones oestrogen and progestogen, which work by preventing an egg from being released into the ovaries.

The ring

Compared to other contraceptives, the contraceptive ring is regarded as one of the newer contraceptives. Roughly a 5cm wide plastic soft ring, it is inserted into the vagina. Like the combined contraceptive pill, the ring uses the sythentic hormones oestrogen and progestogen to prevent the process of ouvulation. Left in the vagina for 21 days and replaced monthly, this device is not only effective in preventing pregnancy but is also ideal for women who lead busy lives and as such may find it difficult to remember to take a pill.

Contraception: Providing a choice

Today there are 15 different birth control options that all effectively help today’s woman choose when she is personally ready for motherhood. Likewise it has been 40 years since the introduction of the contraceptive pill. Not only has it played a large part in women’s liberation rights, but it has allowed millions of women from all over the world to have the choice to choose whether they want to have children, and by recent statistics the choice of when they want children.

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