The condom and the pill aren't your only options

Long-Acting Contraception
Short-Acting Contraception
Emergency Contraception
Other Options


I am 33 years old. I have 4 children and we don’t want any more. My husband is not keen on a vasectomy so I was considering sterilisation. Are there any other options I should consider?

One of the options you might consider is the hormonal intrauterine system (IUS). It is a good choice for those who have finished their family. The IUS remains effective for up to 3 or up to 5 years, and if you are happy with it you can replace it with another after that time.  Another long acting reversible contraception (LARC) option is the IUD, which can last for up to 10 years. The hormonal implant is another alternative lasting for up to 3 years.
All of these LARC options offer similar protection against pregnancy as sterilisation, and they can be removed at any time you wish and your fertility (ability to get pregnant) will quickly return to normal.  You are still young so they are a less final option in case you change your mind.  All of the LARC options can be easily fitted by your doctor in the clinic without the need for a general anesthetic or hospital admission
As with all devices some people may experience some side effects – talk to your doctor who will advise you.

I am currently taking the pill and have 7 days every month where I take no pill. I have heard that you can now get a pill that you take everyday? What are the benefits of using such a pill?

In Ireland most contraceptive pill packs contain 21 pills - with 7 pill free days then until the next pack starts. However, some women would prefer to take a pill everyday as when they stop for 7 days they can forget to start into the next pack. Normally you will have your period or bleed during the seven days between pills.
There are pills which have 28 tablets – these are the so called everyday pills. With the everyday pill you take one tablet every day for 28 days (some of these will be placebo pills i.e. contain no hormones) then start a new pack with no break.
Because you are taking more active pills with the everyday pill you may get fewer pre-menstrual related symptoms such as breast tenderness, period pains and pelvic cramps.

I am considering going on the contraceptive pill, but I had very bad acne when I was a teenager and I heard that some pills can make your skin spotty.

Some of the contraceptive pills are considered "skin friendly" so they can be used to treat bad skin as well as being used as a contraceptive. Pills with the progestogen cyproterone acetate are sometimes used to treat acne in women who have moderate to severe acne. In those with milder acne, or a history of acne, pills with the progestogen drospirenone can be used & can have a beneficial effect on the skin as well as having contraceptive effects. Progestogen-only contraception such as the injectable, the implant, the IUS, or the progestogen-only pill can make acne prone skin worse so are best avoided.

Can I use the morning-after-pill more than once a month?

It is not advised that the morning-after-pill be used on a regular basis, as it is not as effective as other forms of hormonal contraception specifically made for regular use - it is only intended as a back-up. Correct use of a regular contraceptive would provide you with more effective protection from pregnancy.
There are occasions when the morning-after pill can be used more than once during the cycle but you must check first with your doctor.
There are a number of contraceptive choices out there that work in different ways and suit different people. If you find yourself in the situation where you need to use the morning-after-pill on a number of occasions per month, you should talk to your Doctor about finding a regular method of contraception that will suit you.

I am 24 years old. I have always been quite sure that I don’t want any children and my partner is in agreement. I have been told that doctors would be very reluctant to sterilise me (tubal ligation) because of my age and because I have had no pregnancies. Is this true?

Most doctors would be reluctant to perform tubal ligation on someone of your age. Options to consider would be LARC methods. LARC stands for Long Acting Reversible Contraception, and is equally as effective as sterilisation. These include the IUS, the IUD, the hormonal injection and the hormonal implant. These are a group of long term contraceptives that are very effective but are generally reversible. It would be advisable to go back to your doctor and talk to them about the options available.

Most women don't actually gain weight on the pill, and many studies have shown this to be true. Occasionally, some women can retain some fluid, and this may be associated with the pill. The pill contains two hormones estrogen and progestogen. For some who do gain weight or experience fluid retention associated with the pill, changing to another pill with a different progestogen may help.

Women who suffer from focal migraine cannot use hormonal contraceptives which contain estrogen because of potential serious side effects. However, you can use progesterone-only contraceptives such as the mini pill, the injection, the implant, or the IUS.

I have just had my second child and am happy now that my family is complete. A friend of mine has recommended the hormonal coil (IUS) to me but I am worried what will happen if I change my mind and want another baby?

The IUS can provide you with effective contraception for up to 3 or up to 5 years, but you can have it removed any time. If you decide next year or the year after that you would like to try for another baby your Doctor can remove the IUS at any time. In the meantime you will have the benefit of not having to worry about your contraception needs.
The big advantage of the IUS is that when it is removed you can go back to your normal fertility straight away. This is true for other LARC (long acting reversible contraception) methods such as the IUD (copper coil), and the hormonal implant. You can have them removed at any time and your fertility will quickly return to normal.

I just started taking the pill and read somewhere that some medicines can affect the reliability of the pill. Is this true?

Yes, it is true. Some medicines, such as some types of antibiotics affect how the pill is absorbed by your body and may reduce your contraceptive cover. You should always tell your doctor you are taking the pill if you are being prescribed other kinds of medicine.

You should also be aware that if you are sick and throw up within three hours of taking a pill or have diarrhea then its reliability may be reduced. In both cases you should take an additional pill as soon as possible and within 12 hours and contact your doctor as soon as possible to check whether emergency contraception is necessary.

I am 34 years old and on the pill. I am a smoker. I have been told by my doctor that if I continue to smoke I must come off the pill at 35. While I would like to give up smoking I’m wondering if there is any form of contraception I can continue on for the moment?

The minipill (or progesterone only pill or POP for short) does not contain estrogen which is the hormone that increases the risk of clotting in smokers. The minipill is taken every day without a pill-free interval. The only disadvantage for some women is that it does not regulate the period, although some women find their periods stop on the minipill. Other progestogen only contraception you might consider are the IUS and the implant.

I have tried several different contraceptive pills but always find I get a headache during the pill free week. This can be severe and taking painkillers has little effect.

This is a recognized side effect in a small number of women taking the pill. It can be unpleasant and sometimes happens due to withdrawal from the estrogen component. This can sometimes be alleviated by reducing the amount of hormone i.e. by reducing to a 20mcg from a 30mcg pill. Alternatively one of the newer pills is packaged so as to only have a 4 day hormone free break and this may reduce symptoms of PMS, such as headache.

I am 19 years old and I am thinking of starting to take the pill but don’t know much about it. Can you please tell me what is in the pill and how it works?

You are right to find out as much you can about your contraceptive choice before you start using it. There are two main types of pill. One type of pill, known as the combined pill, contains two hormones - an estrogen and a progestogen, and the second type contains progestogen only, and is known as the progestogen-only pill or mini pill.
The combined pill works by preventing ovulation, that is, by preventing production of an egg. It does this by controlling the hormone levels and it also thickens the mucus at the neck of the womb which makes it hard for sperm to get through.
The progestogen-only pill (the mini pill) works principally by thickening the mucus at the entrance to the womb, but also has an effect on preventing ovulation. The combined pill is 99.9% effective; the mini pill is equally as effective.

Most forms of hormonal contraception only affect your fertility while you are using them. If you continue using them into your 40s, your fertility will be reduced because of your age, not due to the hormone use. The hormonal injection can however stay in your system and delay your return to fertility for up to 1 year after your last injection. With the pill, IUS (intrauterine system), ring or patch, once you stop using them, you quickly return to your normal level of fertility.