Birth Control Alternatives: No Sex? How About Safe Sex?

 

“If you have sex, you will get pregnant and die!” Many of us recall this memorable quote from Mean Girls. What makes this quote so funny? Well, we know that it’s not true. With the availability of birth control options increasing, some of us understand that safe sex, like most pregnancies, is a decision we make. But how much do you really know about all of those options? And how likely are you to try something other than the very common pill?

Television shows can be great sources of information and there are many programs that have tackled the sex topic. Take, for example, Family Guy who ran an entire episode on a sex education class where characters mentioned that “not only do condoms fail 100 percent of the time, but they are majorly unsafe,” and that “if we have sex in the ear we’re still pure.” Well, not all shows are educational but that’s why there are tons of medical websites like www.WebMD.com and, more importantly, medical institutions that curious individuals can visit to learn more about the following birth control options.

 

The Pill

How it works: Ovulation is prevented through the use of the hormones estrogen and progestin. The hormones keep eggs from leaving the ovaries and make cervical mucus thicker which keeps sperm from getting to the eggs. Depending on the type of pill that is prescribed, users can experience more regular, lighter periods and less cramping. About 9 out of 100 women will get pregnant each year if they don’t take the pill each day and less than 1 out of 100 women will get pregnant each year if they take the pill each day.

Disadvantages: The cost ranges from $15-150 per month and there is no protection against STDs. Some women are advised to not take birth control due to side effects that include breast tenderness, spotting, blood clots and raised blood pressure.

 

Birth Control Implant

How it works: Under the names of Implanon and Nexplanon, the plastic that looks like a cardboard matchstick that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. For up to three years it keeps eggs from leaving the ovaries and it makes cervical mucus thicker. Less than 1 out of 100 women will become pregnant each year if the implant is used correctly.

Disadvantages: Certain medicines can make the implant less effective. It can cause irregular bleeding and changes in sex drive or appetite among the less common side effects. It can cost $400-800 and anywhere between $100 and $300 to get the implant removed.

 

Birth Control Shot

How it works: Also known as Depo-Provera, the shot is an injection that releases the hormone progestin which keeps eggs from leaving the ovaries and makes cervical mucus thicker. The shot is one of the most effective forms of birth control but must be done every three months. About 1 out of every 100 women will get pregnant each year if using the shot as directed and 6 out of 100 for women who do not.

Disadvantages: The shot can cost between $35-100 and there is no protection against STDs. It has similar side effects to those of the shot.

 

Condoms

How they work: Put into place up to 8 hours before sex, the female condom lines the vagina with a thin plastic pouch. There is a flexible, plastic ring at the closed end to guide the condom into position. A female condom provides some protection against STDs and conducts body heat better than a male condom.

Disadvantages: It is less effective than a male condom; 21 percent of users get pregnant compared to 15 percent who rely on male condoms.

 

Diaphragm

How it works: The rubber dome-shaped cup with a flexible ring is used with spermicide to block the opening to the uterus and stop sperm from moving. It can be inserted hours ahead of time and generally cannot be felt by you or your partner. The cervical cap and the sponge work in a similar manner except that the cap is smaller and the sponge is made of foam and does not have to be fitted by a doctor.

Disadvantages: A doctor must fit the diaphragm and it can be difficult to insert. It cannot be used during your period due to a risk of toxic shock syndrome. 6 out of 100 frequent users will become pregnant each year and 12 out of 100 occasional users will become pregnant each year.

 

Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FAMs)

How it works: Also known as “natural family planning,” FAMs are ways to track ovulation. There are several methods: the Temperature Method requires that you take your temperature every morning before you get out of bed, the Cervical Mucus Method requires that you check changes in your cervical mucus every day for the first part of your cycle until you have ovulated, the Calendar Method requires you to chart your cycles on a calendar and the symptothermal method is the combination of all three. The Standard Days Method requires you to track your cycle for several months to be sure that your cycle is between 26 and 32 days long so that you won’t have unprotected vaginal intercourse on days 8 through 19.

Disadvantages: There is no protection against STDs and 24 out of 100 users of the methods will get pregnant each year if they don’t use the methods correctly. It also eliminates spontaneous sex.

 

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

How it works: An IUD is a T-shaped piece of plastic placed inside the uterus by a doctor. There are two types of IUDs in the United States; the ParaGuard IUD is made of copper that lasts up to twelve years and the Mirena IUD releases a small amount of the hormone progestin that is effective for five years. In some cases, menstrual flow is reduced by 90 percent and in others periods stop altogether. Less than 1 out of 100 women will get pregnant each year under the use of an IUD.

Disadvantages: It can cost anywhere between $500 and $1000 up front. The IUD can slip out of place and in rare situations women can develop an infection.

 

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Spermicide

How it works: Whether in the form of a foam, gel, film, cream or suppository, the spermicide blocks the cervix and keeps sperm from moving so they cannot join with an egg. Some types must be placed 30 minutes ahead of time.

Disadvantages: It may increase the risk of STDs. 29 percent of users get pregnant.

 

Tubal Ligation

How it works: This permanent procedure requires surgeons to close off the fallopian tubes, preventing eggs from leaving the ovaries. It is permanent and nearly 100 percent effective.

Disadvantages: It may not be reversible. There is no protection against STDs.

 

Tubal Implants

How it works: Small implants of metal or silicone block the fallopian tubes. This permanent procedure does not require surgery.  It is nearly 100 percent effective.

Disadvantages: It takes a few months to become effective and the risk of pelvic infections increases. There is no protection against STDs. When women become sterilized, about 1 in 3 has a pregnancy that develops in the fallopian tube, also known as an ectopic pregnancy.

 

Abstinence

We’ve all heard this one. Just give it a try and, like magic, all the STD and pregnancy scares will disappear.

 

You can visit Planned Parenthood to learn more about birth control methods like the ring, patch, shots, sterilization and even withdrawal. And in case you were still wondering, it is not possible to have sex in the ear.