by Wan Ting Koh
IS IT any surprise that the only contraceptives most women know about are the condom and the pill? They might even know the varieties of condoms available since they are sold openly on the counter, and even the brands of birth control pills.
But a vaginal ring? It sounds more sexually erotic than procreation-prohibiting. Only 31.7 per cent of 259 women surveyed were aware of this contraceptive, according to a study conducted between 2013 and 2014 by National University Hospital doctors.
MSM has the results of the study, but doesn’t say much more about such non-traditional contraceptives apart from how some of them work. A vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring a woman inserts into her vagina to prevent pregnancy. It releases the hormones, progestin and estrogen into the body, which prevents the ovaries from producing mature eggs. Once in place, the vaginal ring is left alone for three weeks and taken out in the last week of the month.
Apart from gynaecologists, the ring, popularly known as the NuvaRing, can be found at Mount Elizabeth’s (Mount Elizabeth Road) pharmacy and costs $43.14 per box. Each box contains one ring. Now compare that to a minimum of $8 for a box of 12 condoms. Ladies, wouldn’t you rather get the guy to buy himself the cap than get you a ring?
The study also looked at women’s awareness of seven other contraceptives to ascertain the level of awareness and knowledge of contraception among women in Singapore, and to see if current measures to educate women on contraception are effective. All the women, who were between 21 and 49 years old, know of the condom, and 89.2 per cent were aware of oral contraceptives.
However, less than half were aware of five of the newer methods available. These five are: birth control patches, implants, hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), injectable contraceptives, and, yes, vaginal rings. Awareness of hormonal IUDs ranked at the bottom, with only 24.3 per cent being aware of them. Women ought to be aware of alternatives other than the pill and condoms, because they might be more suitable for their bodies, or even more effective.
|Condoms||100 per cent|
|Oral contraceptive pills||89.2 per cent|
|Tubal ligation||73 per cent|
|Copper IUD||72.2 per cent|
|Implant||48.3 per cent|
|Injectable contraceptive||46.7 per cent|
|Patch||40.9 per cent|
|Vaginal ring||31.7 per cent|
|Hormonal IUD||24.3 per cent|
Here are the seven contraceptives (apart from condoms and the NuvaRing) available in Singapore, and where you might get them. Note though, that all require a prescription from, or a consultation with, a doctor.
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1. Oral contraceptives
These come in the form of pills which contain a combination of hormones, estrogen and progestin, in your body when ingested. These hormones prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation.
Oral contraceptives are available at pharmacies and some GP clinics for a range of prices. You can buy these contraceptives after visiting a doctor for a prescription at certain Watsons, Guardian and Unity pharmacies. Pills cost between $6 and $50.
Birth control implants are devices that release a hormone which prevents pregnancy. They come in the form of plastic rods the size of matchsticks, and are placed under a woman’s skin – usually her upper arm. Implants are probably not available over-the-countertop at pharmacies, as they require doctors to inject them.
However, they should be available at gynaecologists or specialist clinics. GynaeMD Women’s Clinic provides Implanon, a type of implant, for $823, including the consultation fee and the device itself. Consultations range between $120 and $135. The implant should last for three years.
3. Copper IUDs
In case you’re wondering what they are, IUDs, are T- or U-shaped plastic devices that are inserted into a woman’s uterus by a doctor. The copper IUD is wrapped with a copper wire and makes the uterus and fallopian tubes produce fluid that kills sperm.
The IUD device has a plastic string tied to its end, which hangs down through the cervix into the vagina. The doctor uses this string to remove it. IUDs are a long-term birth control method that can last up to five years.
Copper IUDs are available at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy for around $40. You can visit a gynaecologist to have the copper IUDs inserted as well. A procedure at Judy Wong Clinic for Women would cost $420, not including consultation fee and GST.
4. Hormonal IUDs
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy has Mirena, a brand of hormonal IUD, for around $350. A procedure at Judy Wong Clinic for Women would cost $680, not including consultation fee and GST.
5. Birth control patch
The birth control patch is a small, square patch that looks like a plastic bandage. The woman sticks it to her skin, and it releases hormones into her body to prevent pregnancy. One patch can last a week. The more popular brand of patches in Singapore is Evra, which is stocked at certain Unity, Guardian, and Watsons pharmacies.
Unity pharmacies sell a box of Evra, which comes with three patches, for $43.15. Guardian sells it for $40 per box, while Watsons sells it for $35.70. Not all branches of the pharmacies stock the patches though – it is recommended that you call the branch before making a trip. KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy also sells Evra for $36 per box. These require a prescription too.
6. Injectable contraceptives
The contraceptive injection is a shot that contains hormones which stop a woman’s body from releasing eggs and thickens the mucus at the cervix. Shots are needed either once a month, or once every three months, and are administered by doctors.
Dr Tan & Partners clinics provide injectable contraceptives for $45, not including consultation fees. Its consultation fee for its branch at Robertson Quay is about $60 to $80. Judy Wong Clinic for Women provides the shot for $40, not including the consultation fee.
7. Tubal ligation
This is a permanent form of birth control that involves severing the fallopian tubes so that the eggs cannot reach the uterus. The equivalent procedure for a man would be a vasectomy, where the vas deferens from each testicle is clamped. This prevents sperm from mixing with the semen that is ejaculated from the penis.
Tubal ligations are surgical procedures that are subjected to hospital and doctor rates. You can approach gynaecologists and specialist clinics for them.
Featured image by Najeer Yusof.
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