Did you know that less than half of all fertile Malaysian women use contraception? This shockingly low usage rate is what doctors say is responsible for women dying from too many pregnancies and for the more horrific act of baby-dumping.
But if you need contraception in Malaysia, what are your options? How do you know what’s best for you, how to get it, and for much?
Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
These pills contain synthetic hormones to stop your body from releasing an egg during ovulation. No egg means no baby. The hormones also cause your cervical mucus to thicken, forming a physical barrier that stops sperm from getting any further. Hormonal birth control has an success rating of 99% and all you need to do is take one pill every day at the same time.
Is it for me?
The pill is the easiest birth control to take and doesn’t interrupt sex, as long as you can remember to take the pill each day. But like all hormonal birth control, the pill can have a range of side-effects ranging from good to not so great. You might see changes in your mood, skin, body, and sex drive. Thankfully, there are a lot of different pills with different hormone concentrations and combinations to choose from. If these undesirable effects don’t go away after 3 months, go back to see your doctor to change your pills. Here’s a comprehensive list of what brands are available in Malaysia.
Where to get it: Your usual clinic for a consultation, and then you’ll be able to pick them up from any pharmacy.
Price: RM 10 – 40 per month, depending on brand. All prices are taken from LPPKN, so you might expect higher prices from a private clinic.
An implant is a tiny rod inserted under the skin of your arm. Like the birth control pill, the implant releases a synthetic hormone called progestin to prevent pregnancy. Unlike the pill however, once it’s inserted, you don’t have to do anything. The implant covers you for 3 years, after which it must be replaced with a new implant.
Is it for me?
If you want hormonal birth control, but without the trickiness of remembering to take a pill everyday and replenishing your prescription each month. The implant is convenient if you’re forgetful or if you’ll be travelling a lot. And if you decide you want to get pregnant, just remove the implant and you’ll be fertile the next day. A third of women stop getting their period completely with the implant, so that’s a plus or minus for you depending on how you feel about it. You’ll have to pay a lot more upfront for the implant than other birth control methods.
Where to get it: The implant must be inserted by a healthcare professional, so talk to your usual clinic doctor or make an appointment with a gynaecologist.
Price: Starts at RM 500 for insertion, RM 100 for removal
Like the birth control pill and implant, this injection contains a dose of progestin hormones that stop ovulation and thicken cervical mucus. Each injection covers you for 3 months.
Is it for me?
If you don’t want to deal with pills, but aren’t ready to commit to the 3 years of an implant, you might like the injection. However, you must remember to go back every 3 months for the next dose! Also if you decide you want to get pregnant, you’ll have to wait for the current dose to wear off and your fertility may take up to 10 months to return.
Where to get it: Your usual clinic should be able to do give you the shot, but call ahead to check. Alternatively, schedule an appointment with a gynaecologist.
Price: RM 18 – 36 per injection
The Intrauterine Device (IUD) is a small plastic device that is inserted into your womb. Like the implant and injection, the hormonal IUD releases progestin to prevent pregnancy. After insertion, the hormonal IUD will protect you for 3 – 6 years, depending on the brand. You’ll be able to check if the IUD is still in place by yourself.
Is it for me?
IUDs are one of the longest-lasting forms of birth control. They are also reversible; your fertility returns as soon as you remove it. Insertion and removal must be done by a healthcare professional, and some women can find it very painful. Doctors sometimes do not recommend inserting it into women who have not had children as their cervices tend to be tighter. In actual fact, cervix size varies with every woman, regardless of past pregnancies.
Where to get it: The IUD must be inserted by a healthcare professional, so talk to your usual clinic doctor or make an appointment with a gynae.
Price: RM 80 – 110 per insertion, RM 20 per removal
5. IUD (Copper)
The IUD also comes in non-hormonal form. Instead of hormones, the copper IUD releases copper ions into your womb to prevent fertilisation and implantation. One copper IUD will protect you for up to 10 years, though a checkup every few years is recommended to ensure it is still in place.
Is it for me?
The copper IUD is the only birth control that doesn’t use synthetic hormones or barriers. This is fantastic for women who don’t like the effects of hormones, or interrupting sex. Insertion and removal is the same as that of the hormonal IUD. However, some women report heavier periods and spotting.
Where to get it: The IUD must be inserted by a healthcare professional, so talk to your usual clinic doctor or make an appointment with a gynaecologist. Copper IUDs are less common than hormonal ones in Malaysia, and may cost more or be harder to find.
Price: RM 600 per insertion at a specialist center
6. Barrier Methods
These are physical devices used before or during sex. Condoms are the most common and easiest to get, but you’ll have to put them on during sex, which can interrupt the mood. Others may find they don’t feel as good. (But you know what else interrupts the mood and doesn’t feel good? Unwanted pregnancies. So use birth control.)
For women, diaphragms and cervical caps block the entrance to your uterus, and can be inserted hours before sex so there’ll be no interruption during sex. They also can’t be felt during sex. You must use these with spermicide gel, which can irritate the vagina, and must be removed in 48 hours after. Cervical caps are smaller than diaphragms and can be left in for longer. You’ll also need to make an appointment with your doctor to get one, and learn how to insert it.
Is it for me?
If you don’t want hormonal birth control or a copper IUD. Barrier methods are also the only way to protect against STDs. Using them requires planning ahead and can interrupt sex, but you only need to use them when you’re having sex.
Where to get it? Condoms at all pharmacies and sundry shops; diaphragms and cervical caps from your usual clinic or gynaecologist.
Price: Varies with brand
6. Emergency Contraception (Morning After Pill)
This is not a regular form of birth control, but it is a good option if you have had unsafe sex. Each dose of emergency contraception comes in the form of one or two pills. The pills contain up to 20 times the amount of hormones found in a single birth control pill, which stops and prevents ovulation immediately. These are effective up until 5 days after unprotected sex, although they work best when used within 3 days.
Is it for me?
Almost certainly yes, if you’ve had sex without any form of protection. No other contraceptive can prevent pregnancy after sex, except for installation of a copper IUD within five days after sex. While these pills are not harmful, they are not recommended as a replacement to other birth control methods as they are more expensive and less effective.
Where to get it? Over the counter at all pharmacies. You do not need a prescription from a doctor.
Price: RM 5 – 16, depending on brand.
You have so many options when it comes to protecting yourself against unwanted pregnancies. Sit down with your doctor to determine which one is right for you!
For more information on female reproductive health in Malaysia, we highly recommend these sources: Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia, the National Population and Family Development Board, Hospital Wanita Metro