Birth Control 101

Being a woman isn’t easy. That sentence could very well be the whole article and people would be like “yeah, I agree”, but I’m here to share my newly found knowledge of a magical little pill and all its benefits. Because yes, it has MANY benefits, not only preventing pregnancy. I’ll also briefly mention the side effects that no one likes to endure and some other popular methods of birth control.

    The first time I heard about birth control or contraceptives was in high school by some friends, never by my parents. The only adults who spoke to me about them were my health teacher in 11th grade, and by then, a lot of girls were already pregnant. Why is there so much shame around anything remotely sex oriented? Oh! And of course, I was only told it prevented pregnancy and nothing else. I had to do my own research and ask some embarrassing questions to my gynecologist in my early 20’s. The first thing I learned is that birth control comes in many ways. The most commonly used one being what people refer to as “the pill”. The pill is usually a 28-day pack of tiny pills with different levels of hormones, a mix of progestin, which is the man-made version of progesterone, estrogen and a row of placebo pills with no hormones to bring on your period every month. 

“Most work by releasing hormones that keep your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place” (Bedsider, 2019). It also makes the walls of your uterus very thin so that in a weird case there is an egg and gets fertilized, it won’t get attached and just flushes out. A downside is you  need to take these pills every single day at the same hour for them to work. 

That’s a very important rule to follow! If used perfectly, less than 1 woman out of 100 will accidentally get pregnant during the first year, making this pill more than 99% effective. But we’re not perfect so the effectiveness drops down to 91%, which means 9 out of 100 women will get accidentally pregnant during the first year.

Other popular methods of birth control are; spermicide, withdrawal method, sterilization (that’s permanent!), condoms, “the patch” which, as the name suggests, is just a small sticky patch you stick on every week, emergency contraception (Plan B), IUD’s (those can be non-hormonal if you want a more ‘natural’ approach to birth control), Implants and,of course, abstinence. 

The IUD and the Implant are some of the most effective ways to prevent pregnancy. Once they’re inside, you don’t have to worry about sticking to a schedule or anything, they just do their job. Implants are the size of a match and your doctor places them inside your forearm. Side effects of the Implant usually outweigh the benefits. Most women bleed for at least an entire month after placing the device inside and gain around 30 lbs. The heavy mood swings and migraines also make this choice one that you must be very committed to. Intrauterine Devices (IUD) are roughly the same thing but placed inside your uterus and there is a copper non-hormonal version that doesn’t have those awful side effects. 

Now, my favorite by far is the pill, which is also used to control acne! If you suffer from acne, taking a low dosage combination pill can help clear your skin, who doesn’t want that? The pill can help with irregular periods. Taking it can regulate them since there’s a specific week of ‘placebo’ pills used to trigger your body into having a period each month, or you could decide to skip your period altogether. It also helps with cramps. According to the Latin Agency of Medical News and Public Health, around 50,000 Puerto Rican women suffer from endometriosis and it’s super painful. Birth control pills can help alleviate some of the menstrual pain as well as some of the ovulation pains. 

The pill is also used to prevent and treat cysts. Every woman or owner of a vagina will eventually get a cyst in their reproductive organs at least once in their lifetime and it’s totally normal; most won’t even notice it. When it becomes a regular painful thing, that’s when it’s a problem. The pill helps by preventing the formation of cysts, isn’t that cool? 

Along with all the good it does, we have the side effects. The most common ones are breast sensitivity, pelvic pain, headaches, nausea, mood swings, discharge, weight gain and even depression. Yikes! Most of those side effects sound like pregnancy symptoms and trust me, that’s a lot of anxiety, but take a breather, if you’re active while on the pill, you’re most likely not pregnant. Remember, the pill is over 99% effective when taken correctly and 91% effective when not, that’s still pretty good odds. Sometimes side effects can show up a month or even 3 months after starting the pill, it all depends on how your body reacts to these hormones, but they usually don’t last very long.

I think it’s safe to say these tiny, but mighty pills are really cool. They do more than just prevent pregnancy and most medical plans cover them. Some centers, like Planned Parenthood, even offer them at a little or no cost to the patient if they qualify. Let’s be clear though, I’m not a doctor and you should always ask professionals before starting any new medicine. Birth control, except condoms, spermicide and obviously abstinence, are not available over the counter, this means you need to consult your local gynecologist and if they see it’s right for you, they will give you a prescription. 

I hope now you know more about these popular contraceptive methods and know that there’s nothing wrong with taking them for whatever reason it may be. It’s your body, your rules.

 

References: 

“Birth Control.” Options for Sexual Health, 2019, www.optionsforsexualhealth.org/birth-control-pregnancy/birth-control-opt....

Flores, Idhaliz. “50 Mil Mujeres Puertorriqueñas Sufren De Endometriosis.” Medicina y Salud Pública, 1 Mar. 2018, medicinaysaludpublica.com/50-mil-mujeres-puertorriquenas-sufren-de-endometriosis-2/.

“The Pill – Birth Control Method.” Bedsider, 2019, www.bedsider.org/methods/the_pill.

“What Are the Disadvantages of the Birth Control Implant?” Planned Parenthood, 2019, www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-implant-impl....