Sharing moments Menopause Young adults Bye bye Hotel Mum How you feel at home Semester abroad Language course abroad or work as an au pair? Be prepared for military training Grassrooted Pack smarter, travel better Make an impression Contraception Vegan diet Bye bye Hotel Mum – hello shared flat Big trip, small budget Finanzielle Vorsorge Planning a family Tracking fertility The right time? How men can help Fertility and diet Medical check-up What you need to know about ovulation What to do if you don’t conceive straight away Three electronic fertility and cycle trackers in comparison Planning a family and partnership Pregnancy Examinations during pregnancy Diet and nutrition Is my pregnancy progressing normally? Tips for daily life Important points for travel and holidays Is my pregnancy progressing normally? What items do I need for my baby? Where and how do I want to give birth? What do I need to pack for the hospital? How should I prepare my home for my child? Is my pregnancy progressing normally? How can I best prepare for my baby? How can I best prepare for the birth? Nutrition Parent-child relationship Preparing for breastfeeding | Sanitas Magazine Insurance Stretch marks Sleep Rupture of membranes Baby blues High-risk pregnancy Braxton Hicks & false labour Formalitites Morning sickness Family rooms Signs of a premature birth Our baby Bathing baby – what you need to know How babies hear Infant first-aid kit Baby care Is my baby developing normally? Month-to-month overview of baby development Is my baby developing normally? Baby’s development: Months 3 and 4 Baby care Breastfeeding When does a baby start eating? Weight Baby growth spurts Toys Sun protection for baby skin Teething Milk teeth: what to do in case of accident Baby’s development: Months 5 and 6 Pelvic floor exercises after birth Babyschlaf Celebrating and enjoyment Christmas and New Year’s Eve with a twist A philosophical take on pleasure Pleasure can also be found in the soup kitchen in Zurich Tips for a peaceful and stress-free Christmas Living better with cardiac insufficiency Alejandro Iglesias Hana Disch Patrizio Orlando Vaccinations and travel first-aid kit Hay fever In pursuit of happiness Seven tips for a happier daily life Kids in lockdown Online addiction Women's hearts Decisions Decision-making tips Report from the hospital Donating a kidney Life decisions Emigrating to South America Geocaching Sexuality Erectile dysfunction Young people and sexuality Queer pastor Drag queen Paprika Sexually transmitted infections What does LGBTQIA+ stand for? Gender medicine HPV Medically assisted suicide Be active Active during pregnancy Sport and exercise during pregnancy Antenatal exercise classes Standing properly Healthy eating Green smoothies Vitamin D Good eggs, bad eggs Diet plan Healthy fats Feed your muscles How much sugar should we eat a day? How much fat should we eat a day? Lactose intolerance Healthy diet, strong immune system Low Carb E-numbers and other additives in food Personalised diet Vegan meat substitutes Healthy heart Interview with Christophe Wyss Heart-friendly sports How the mind affects the heart Taking blood pressure correctly High blood pressure: what you need to know Healthy teeth Home remedies: relief for sore gums A dentist explains Brushing up on brushing Changing habits Interview Stortpsychologie 10-step guide to changing habits Try, try, try again Fitnessmotivation Running coaching Running ABC Race in Sarnen Factors affecting condition Weekly planner Running shoes Strengthening exercises Running nutrition Complementary sport Warm-up Stretching Functional clothing Fitness tracker Shopping – sportswear Running tips for women Relaxation technique Recovery New lease of life thanks to Sanitas running coaching Sport after childbirth Postnatal exercise Taking the strain off your shoulders Kangatraining Workout while walking Expert tips Stress and relaxation Moving air Fight stress with yoga What is stress Learn how to relax Dealing with stress What is burnout? “The first step was to create boundaries” Juggling family and a career Reduce stress Stressor factors The most beautiful Swiss saunas Sweating in the sauna Breathing exercises for relaxation The right rest & recovery: debunking myths Mindfulness Sleep Trend sports Fitness boxing Slackline Bouldering Fascia training Stand Up Paddling Keeping fit efficiently Swing with a smile! Vertical workout Hiking Altitude sickness Seven stroller-friendly hikes Needed: a hiking-friendly pushchair There goes the other sole! Tips on hiking with a baby Mountain lakes Winter walks Planning a family: Fertility and exercise Stair climbing Pumptrack Kids’ back Back exercises Sitting properly at work Forest fun Playing for life Promoting health and fitness Motivation Sledging Curling glossary What do you get if you cross a kite with snow? Snowshoeing Preventing falls Inline skating Swimming Swimming Wings for Life Stretching Bike tips Stretching exercises for cyclists koerper-und-kaelte Healthy teeth thanks to dental hygiene and preventive care Putting wishes into practice Tips for healthy teeth Hometraining Investigating teeth-related myths 10 tips to ease anxiety Hand care How our body regenerates The best abdominal exercises in five minutes Keeping fit on holiday Swim training aids Wie viel Sport ist gesund Gathering mushrooms – the right way | Sanitas Magazine Check-ups Five-minute stretching routine Gehirntraining Rückenschmerzen Licht Yogastile Ayurveda-Morgenroutine Tips for doing sport outside in winter Cross-country skiing for beginners Home remedies against dandruff Home remedies Home remedies for bladder infections Home remedies for a sore throat Home remedies for migraines Home remedies against excessive sweating Home remedies for a sun allergy Healthy feet, healthy back core exercises for mountain bikers Symptoms Check Sport after Corona HIIT: quick and efficient exercises Sore muscles: debunking myths Debunking swimming myths strength training for young people Exercise videos Whole-body workout Fascia training Lack of exercise Sun protection Strong mind How to be mentally strong Mental strength Psychosomatics Resilience Tips against feeling down Sleep hygiene and mental well-being Depression Panic attacks Prescription drug addiction ADHD: Symptoms in children and adults Mental illness: help for friends and family Living with autism Pressure to perform Alcoholism Blood: myths and facts Hormones Complementary medicine: the most common treatments Complementary medicine Training in line with your menstrual cycle Living together today Digital life Online addiction Digital temptation Children and digital media Smartphone neck Digital responsibility and solidarity Our brains love habit Change my habits? You’re joking! Planning a family: Difficulties trying to have a baby Planning a family: Myth vs fact Solidarity study Newcomers Living together tomorrow Digital nomads Giesserei multi-generation house The blind film director Help instead of rent Working on the move Medical practices of the future Our skin – layer by layer Generational discussion: wishes for life Hausarzt und Corona Safe return to work Corona crisis: singing together Corona crisis: Working in intensive care Corona crisis: working in a nursing home Rest and recovery: learning from children Corona crisis: voluntary work for the needy Second opinion Relationships and children Three questions that keep us awake at night Outing The nature of lying Vorsorge Finding sound health-related information online Impfstoffe entwickeln Tipps für Jugendliche in der Corona-Krise Becoming parents Diagnose: Kind im Haus Long Covid Take it easy in your free time YouTuber Aditotoro on the coronavirus pandemic Minimalism for a happy life Thanks to corona: more time for family Back to life after a paragliding accident Decluttering: the answer to chaos Living and loving with autism Synaesthesia Talking to doctors Non-verbal communication Developments for the future App check Aqualert SRC blood donor Codecheck Forest Freedom Freeletics Moment Three sleep apps reviewed PeakFinder Findery Six fitness apps reviewed Internet use High-tech trousers Prostheses Hospital of the future New skin for burns victims Online-Therapien How drugs are developed Generics A vision of the future: How we will live in 30 years Onward Overcoming erectile dysfunction Family medicine practices of the future Personalised medicine A voice for Clara Sanitas newsletter
Dossier: Young adults

What method of contraception's best for me?

These days young people want contraception to be safe and as natural as possible. But how realistic is this expectation? What choices are available?

Text: Katharina Rilling; Fotos: Unsplash

Your first crush, your first kiss, your first sex: so many new experiences, and so many butterflies in your stomach, is what makes becoming an adult so exciting. You also have to start thinking about the right method of contraception. So what is the best contraceptive now available? "That can vary from woman to woman," explains Irène Dingeldein, president of the Swiss Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics. "The most important thing is to choose a method that's safe, easy to use, doesn't have major side effects, and matches your lifestyle."

Consultation with a gynaecologist: not just for women

To find out the best type of contraceptive for you it's crucial to get advice from a gynaecologist. Most young women are aged between 14 and 17 when they first visit a gynaecologist. "Often they go because of pain or discomfort during their period, or when they have their first boyfriend," says Dingeldein. "In the consultation we talk about the young woman's lifestyle, whether they smoke or take medication. I ask whether the family has any history of disease, for example thrombosis, lung embolism, heart attack, high blood pressure or cancer."– This influences the choice of recommended contraception.

"I'm glad when a girl's mother comes with her and supports her," adds Dingeldein. "And of course also if her boyfriend is with her too. After all, contraception also affects him." Nobody has to be examined during the consultation,  unless they opt for an IUD: "This has to be placed in the uterus. So I first examine the woman and show her how it all works."

Preference for natural contraception

At the moment gynaecologist Irène Dingeldein is noticing a trend to natural contraceptives: "More and more young adults are interested in a copper IUD. They'd prefer not to take hormones and avoid affecting their body or the environment," says Dingeldein. Ruth Drahts at the Buchenhof women's practice in Sursee observes the same development: "I also hear a growing number of women say they don't want to take hormones. But when I explain all the pros and cons they often end up choosing the pill after all. It's often the best solution, at least as their first contraceptive," she explains. It's important to realise that "there's no such thing as a completely natural –safe contraceptive. You're always interfering with nature." 

Drahts also points out that there aren't actually that many alternatives to choose from. Either you suppress ovulation, –which is very reliable but affects the woman's body, or you prevent pregnancy mechanically or chemically, for example using a copper IUD.– This isn't completely free of risks and side-effects either.

How safe are cycle tracking, the temperature method, and so on?

The gynaecologist doesn't recommend young women to rely completely on tracking their cycle, for example by monitoring temperature or using an app to calculate ovulation. "It's supposed to work out your fertile days. But that's very unreliable and requires a lot of discipline. A woman has to abstain from sex or use a condom around ovulation, the very time she most want it. So it's not an actual method of contraception."

The other options aren't likely to change any time soon either: "There's research being done into preparations which have even fewer hormones, or other forms of the coil. But there's no real prospect of really new methods, for example contraceptives that put more of the onus on the man," says Drahts. "But if you take the time you'll find a good, safe contraceptive to suit you."


Three contraceptive options

1. Combined hormonal birth control: pill, patch and ring

These forms of contraception contain a combination of oestrogen and progesterone. These synthetic hormones suppress the woman's cycle and come with some desirable side-effects: they can reduce acne, heavy bleeding and pain during her period. They can also bring about improvements in benign conditions of the uterus such as myoma.

But they do slightly raise the risk of thrombosis. This option is not suitable for seriously obese women, those with a family history or an underlying condition such as thrombosis, epilepsy or diabetes, and smokers. It's also important to realise that antibiotics, diarrhoeal disorders and vomiting render the contraceptive less effective. "Some women also gain weight and feel that the hormones are causing a physical change. They can trigger depression in those with a predisposition. On the other hand the hormones can also help reduce mood swings," says Dingeldein.

The combined pill

The daily pill inhibits ovulation, prevents the lining of the uterus from building up, and keeps sperm away from the uterus by thickening the mucus at the cervix. Irène Dingeldein: "There's no need to worry about thrombosis. But you have to remember the pill's a drug, not candy.»

Reliability: very high
Pros: may postpone menstruation
Cons: has to be taken daily; slightly increases the risk of thrombosis

Hormone patch

The hormone patch is stuck to the skin on the buttocks or stomach, the outside of the upper arm or the upper body. You have to change the patch every week, and after three weeks you take one week's break. The hormones are absorbed via the skin.

Reliability: high
Pros: vomiting and diarrhoea don't reduce efficacy, may postpone menstruation, doesn't have to be taken every day
Cons: can irritate skin, is visible and can come off, slightly increased risk of thrombosis

Vaginal ring

The soft plastic ring, five centimetres in diameter, can be inserted in the vagina yourself. It remains there, releasing hormones, for three weeks. If the ring interferes with sex you can remove it for up to three hours.

Reliability: high
Pros: vomiting and diarrhoea don't reduce efficacy, may postpone menstruation, doesn't have to be taken every day
Cons: the ring may be rejected and feel like a foreign body; slightly increases the risk of thrombosis

2. Oestrogen-free contraception: Minipill, hormone implant, hormone IUD and hormone injection

These contraceptives only contain the hormon progesterone. The main advantage is that they don't increase the risk of thrombosis. "These methods are getting more and more popular. Taking them long term often substantially or completely reduces menstrual bleeding and pain. The downside is that it can lead to a less clear complexion and recurring mid-cycle bleedings," explains Ruth Drahts. Unlike combined methods, its efficacy isn't affected by diarrhoea, vomiting, medication, jet lag or wrong application.

Progesterone-only pill

The progesterone-only pill is suitable for women who can't or don't want to take oestrogen. Like the combined pill, it suppresses ovulation. "The lining of the uterus isn't built up but remains flat. If you don't want to get pregnant, it doesn't have to be built up again," explains Dingeldein.

Reliability: very high
Pros: can be used by women who don't tolerate oestrogen
Cons: has to be taken every day, can lead to irregular bleeding

Hormone implant

A hormone implant is a small plastic rod placed under the skin in your upper arm by your doctor. It can remain there for up to three years.

Reliability: very high
Pros: long-term birth control, suitable for women who can't tolerate oestrogen, vomiting and diarrhoea don't impair efficacy, don't need to take a daily pill
Cons: involves minor surgical intervention by gynaecologist, frequent mid-cycle bleeding

Hormonal IUD

The hormonal IUD is placed in the uterus by a gynaecologist. It can remain in place for three to five years.

Reliability: very high
Pros: long-term birth control, suitable for women who can't tolerate oestrogen, works right at the scene of the action, efficacy not impaired by vomiting or diarrhoea
Cons: has to be inserted by gynaecologist

Hormone injection

Administered by your gynaecologist, a hormone injection prevents pregnancy for three months.

Reliability: very high
Pros: can be used by women who can't tolerate oestrogen, efficacy not impaired by vomiting or diarrhoea
Cons: requires regular injections, only become fertile again after several weeks or months

3. Hormone-free contraceptives: copper IUD, condom, diaphragm, sterilisation

Non-hormonal birth control methods rely on mechanical or chemical contraception.

Copper IUD

The copper IUD is placed in the uterus by a gynaecologist, where it can remain for up to ten years (depending on the model). Copper impedes the mobility of sperm cells and produces an inflammatory reaction that prevents the implantation of fertilised eggs. "I think this method is over-hyped. I can't actually recommend the copper IUD as a young woman's first contraceptive," says Drahts.

Reliability: very high
Pros: long-term birth control, hormone-free, suitable for women who can't tolerate oestrogen, works right at the scene of the action, efficacy not impaired by vomiting or diarrhoea
Cons: has to be inserted by gynaecologist; painful, severe bleeding or pelvic inflammation can occur


A condom is a sheer sheath rolled over the man's erect penis to prevent semen from entering the woman's body. However, there is a risk of mishaps and using it incorrectly. "I advise young women to always use a condom in addition to other methods of contraception. It prevents the spread of sexually transmitted diseases," explains Dingeldein.

Reliability: medium
Pros: protects against sexually transmitted diseases, only used when needed, hormone-free, few side-effects
Cons: can trigger allergic reactions; must be used immediately before sex; can tear

Diaphragm, etc. (= female condom)

Women can insert the diaphragm in their vagina themselves. It blocks sperm from the uterus. But it only works if it's the right size and fits perfectly. For better protection it can be used with spermicidal cream.

Reliability: medium
Pros: latex and hormone-free
Cons: tricky to use

Chemical contraceptives

These contain substances that kill sperm and are available as creams, gels, vaginal suppositories, vaginal film and foam. They're not very reliable and should only be used in conjunction with mechanical contraceptives such as condoms and diaphragms.


This is only suitable for people who are absolutely sure they don't want (more) children. The decision usually can't be reversed. Both men and women can have the operation.