For anyone who has struggled with condom laziness or the pill’s nasty side effects, alternatives like the male pill seem like an exciting prospect, but it’s still a long way away and women carry on shouldering the burden of contraception. As the world’s first contraception app is officially approved, we asked seven women what methods they use to avoid getting pregnant.
Katherine, consultant, 40
I know my body and have very regular periods, and I can feel when I'm ovulating, so I just don't have sex during that time. I also use a period tracker app. I had the coil fitted a few months back, but it made me anxious and gave me palpitations, so I literally took it out myself because I couldn't get an appointment quickly enough. My partner has offered to have the snip; he'll probably get it later this year. He said I've done my bit by carrying and having our kids, and we definitely don't want any more. It's not that easy to get pregnant though – there's just 48 hours in a month, max. As long as you know that and pay close attention to your body, you really don't need to take anything else.
Penelope, full-time mum, 37
I use the NuvaRing; you wear it for three weeks and then take it out when you get a period. In the past, I've used the pill, condoms and just nothing. I used to suffer from ovarian cysts until I started taking the pill. I once spent the weekend of the Grand National in the gyno ward of St Mary's in Paddington because a cyst had exploded and basically incapacitated me. The pill and now NuvaRing have been a lifesaver. I'm sure my partner doesn't even consider birth control at this point. If I got pregnant now though, I'd probably have an abortion – two kids is plenty.
Adrienne, trainer, 28
I was put on the pill at 16, no questions asked. By university, I was a hormonal wreck, perpetually in tears and plagued by migraines. After a long bout of being single, I came off it entirely and, within about a month, I was human again and never went back. Now, I have a Mirena coil, which is the one with the localised hormones. I've had it for four years, it gets replaced next year and it's been so useful.
We tried to use condoms for a bit, but as they'd never been part of our relationship before, and neither of us particularly like them, we became lazy
Karen, financial advisor, 38
I have only ever used condoms now for such a long time. I assumed, as a teenager, because everyone else was on it, that I should be taking the pill and it was horrific. My body clearly cannot cope with more hormones than it naturally should have. Later on, after using condoms, I remember going to the nurse, absolutely determined that I would come out with a non-invasive, non-hormonal option and I walked out with more pills. Looking back, it's unbelievable – it's as if other methods just did not exist. I think I took about three and the rest went in the bin.
Jenny, think-tank researcher, 30
I use Clue, which is an app to track your period. It means you can see when your fertile window is and plan around that. When we need some for protection, we use condoms. It helps that I usually have very regular periods. When I was at uni, I tried the pill and I got the rage, so I stopped taking it and never tried again. The idea of taking hormones and messing with my natural system really doesn't appeal to me. I'm not a huge fan of condoms, but I don't hate them in the same way some people do. I would rather have one week a month when we have to use them than use hormones all the time.
Nina, project manager, 39
I use the old-school copper coil because I want to enjoy sex and have a carefree attitude, so the last thing I want to be doing is stressing about getting pregnant. When having my second child via C-section, the nurse getting me to sign consent forms just dropped into the conversation the possibility of have my tubes tied. I kind of panicked – I don't want to have another child, but that was far too permanent. A coil is the perfect mid-ground – it means I take no drugs which, for some reason, after the hormonal time of having a baby, is now quite important to me and I don't have to worry about getting pregnant.
Jo, full-time mum, 33
I've used the withdrawal method for about six years now. Previously, I had a Mirena coil and a few brands of the pill, but the bleeding was terrible, so I decided to stop with hormonal contraception altogether. We tried to use condoms for a bit, but as they'd never been part of our relationship before, and neither of us particularly like them, we became lazy. I've been fortunate that I've been in a monogamous long-term relationship where STIs are not a concern, and an unplanned pregnancy wouldn't have been the end of the world, so a risky method of withdrawal has felt OK. My husband says he'd happily take the pill if available for men, but I don't think he would, especially if it affected his mood, weight or made him bleed!