Short-acting contraceptive methods are a type of birth control methods that are used in protecting you against unplanned pregnancies.

They may be used in short time intervals i.e. single-use, daily intake or 3 monthly injectables. Here are more details on some of these methods and how they work.

1.Everyday Pills

How it works?

These are birth control pills that come in a pack and 1 pill is taken per day. The pills come in three forms: estrogen only, progestin-only, and the combined pill.

Progestin-only pills prevent pregnancy by thickening cervical mucus to make sperm movement difficult and prevent implantation of the fertilized egg on the uterus by thinning the uterus lining. 

Estrogen only pills, on the other hand, prevent ovulation which means there’s no egg hanging around for sperm to fertilize, so pregnancy can’t happen.

How long should you take the pills?

One pill per day for as long as you want to be protected from pregnancy.

How safe are family planning pills?

The pill is 91% effective. It should be used only if you are certain that you will follow the strict schedule of taking the pill on the same day and your medical history taken by your doctor shows that you are at no risk of suffering from blood disorders or cancers and the pill won’t cause adverse reactions if used alongside other medications you may be using.

2. Combined Pills

How combined pills work?

Combined pills have both progestin and estrogen hormones. They offer double protection against unplanned pregnancies.

First, they prevent your body from ovulating. This means that your ovaries don’t release an egg each month.

Second, these pills cause your body to thicken your cervical mucus. This mucus is fluid around your cervix that helps sperm travel to your uterus so it can fertilize an egg. The thickened mucus helps prevent sperm from reaching the uterus.

How long should you take the pills?

One pill per day for as long as you want to be protected from pregnancy

They come in different packs:

28-day packs pills

These common birth control pills come packaged in a thin case. The case contains 21 active pills and 7 inactive pills. To remind you to take your pill every day, the pill packs are marked with the days of the week. Some pills have no non-hormonal birth control pills (placebo) or only two.

21-day packs pills

Twenty-one-day pill packs contain 21 active pills. If you’re planning on using these pills, take one pill every day for 21 days. Then, for seven days, don’t take any. This is when you’ll get your period. 

91-day packs pills

The 91-day packs are extended-cycle pills. They are used in 13-week cycles where you take active pills for 12 weeks. During the last week, you take the placebo pills (or low-dose estrogen pills) and have your period.  Women who take these have their period only three to four times in a year.

Safety of the pills?

The combined pill is 91% effective. Like with all medications, the pills can have risks and side effects. Smoking and birth control pills don’t always mix. If you’re over 35 and a smoker, you shouldn’t use the combination pill or any other kind of birth control that contains the hormone estrogen. 

3. Every day pills with Iron

How it works?

The everyday pills containing iron are combined pills whose 4 inactive pills taken during the fourth week each have low iron levels. The inactive pills do not contain any hormones and are meant to help you keep the habit of taking the pill daily.

How long to take the pills?

One pill per day for as long as you want to be protected from pregnancy.

Safety of the pills?

This method is 91% effective and should only be used if you do not have a history of breast or liver cancer in your family and are not on medication for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis among other conditions.

4. Patch

How it works?

The birth control patch prevents pregnancy releasing the hormones estrogen and progestin to prevent fertilization.

You wear the patch on certain parts of your body, and the hormones are absorbed through your skin. The hormones prevent ovulation and thicken cervical mucus to prevent pregnancies.

How long should you wear the patch?

The patch can be worn on the skin of your belly, upper arm, butt, or back. Put a new patch every week for 3 weeks and then you get a week off before you repeat the cycle.

Safety of the patch?

The patch is 91% effective. Avoid using the patch if you are over 35 and a smoker, and if you’ve had any of these health problems:

  • migraine headaches with aura (seeing flashing, zigzag lines)
  • breast cancer
  • heart attack, stroke, angina, or other serious heart problems
  • very bad diabetes or liver disease
  • uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • blood clots, an inherited blood-clotting disorder, or vein inflammation

5. Condoms

How condom works?

A condom is a type of barrier contraception that prevents semen from being released into the reproductive tract of the woman.

Condoms are the only form of contraception that protect you from STIs and STDs

How to use condoms

Roll the condom on when your penis is erect, but BEFORE it touches your partner’s genital area and wear it the whole time you’re having sex.

This helps protect you from STDs that are transmitted through skin-to-skin touching. It also prevents contact with pre-ejaculate, which can have STD causing agents and may rarely contain sperm that can cause pregnancy.

  1. Condoms last a long time, but you should always check the expiration date printed on the wrapper or box. Open condoms carefully so you don’t damage them — don’t use your teeth or scissors.
  2. Make sure the condoms are ready to roll on the right way: the rim should be on the outside so it looks like a little hat, and it will unroll easily. You can unroll it a little bit before putting it on to make sure it’s right-side out. If you accidentally put a condom on inside out, do NOT flip it around and reuse it,  get a new one.
  3. Pinch the tip of the condom and place it on the head of your penis. Leave a little bit of space at the top to collect semen. If you’re uncircumcised, it might be more comfortable to pull your foreskin back before placing the condom on the tip of your penis and rolling it down.
  4. Unroll the condom down the shaft of your penis to the base.
  5. Have sex!
  6. After you ejaculate, hold onto the rim of the condom and pull your penis out of your partner’s body. Do this BEFORE your penis goes soft, so the condom doesn’t get too loose and let semen out.
  7. Carefully take off the condom away from your partner so you don’t accidentally spill semen on them. Throw the condom away in the garbage. Don’t flush it down the toilet!

How long should you use a condom?

  • Use a new condom every time you have sex.
  • 1 condom at a time. Never use 2 condoms together, whether that’s 2 male condoms or a female and a male condom. They’ll rub against each other, and this friction can weaken them and make them more likely to break or fail.
  • Check the expiry date on the packaging, as condoms don’t last forever and maybe past the point at which they work.

Safety of using condoms?

If they are used perfectly each time you have sex, it is effective at 98% at preventing pregnancy.

To choose the method that’s most suitable for you it is important to consider factors including your lifestyle and health.

What’s your experience with short-term family planning methods?