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Sex + Relationships

Let’s Talk about Birth Control: A Guide to Navigating your Options!

Navigating the world of birth control can seem daunting. There are so many factors to consider that can make finding the right birth control option for your body an extremely confusing process. Luckily, this article is here to help you navigate your options by providing some basic information on a variety of different methods. 

Before we dive in, it’s important to consider why birth control is so useful. Obviously, it protects against pregnancy and, some, against HIV and STIs. However, there are other advantages to be aware of. For example, some methods can reduce cramping during periods, help regulate irregular periods, and improve acne. So, even if your main concern is not protecting against pregnancy and STIs, it is worth your time to educate yourself on your different options. 

 

The Pill

By far the most popular form of birth control, the pill is a safe, affordable, and effective birth control option. The pill is a hormonal method that comes as either a combination pill or a progestin-only pill and is taken once daily at the same time. If taken perfectly, the pill is 99% effective. However, it is easy to forget or miss a pill so the realistic effectiveness of this method is about 91%.  It is also important to note that it does not protect against STIs, therefore other birth control methods may need to be used in conjunction with the pill for full protection. Some positive side effects of the pill include regular periods, less PMS, acne treatment, lower risk of ovarian cancer, and managing endometriosis!


oral contraception
Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition from Unsplash

 

The Condom 

Condoms are effective for both STI and pregnancy prevention. Condoms are fairly cheap and easily accessible as they are often offered for free (or for a low cost) on college campuses and sold at local pharmacies. With typical use, a condom is 85% effective at preventing pregnancy. The best way to prevent the transmission of STIs is to use a male or female condom when engaging in penatrative sex. In the case of oral sex, the male condom is also effective for men and a dental dam is effective for females. 


male condom beside female condom
Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition from Unsplash

The IUD

The IUD is one of the best ways to prevent pregnancy long-term as they are more than 99% effective. IUD stands for Intrauterine Device and is a small piece of plastic shaped like a T that sits inside your uterus. The non-hormonal IUD uses copper and lasts for up to 12 years! The copper IUD is the ideal option for those who prefer non-hormonal birth control, or can’t use hormones due to medical reasons. On the other hand, the hormonal IUD releases a small amount of the hormone progestin into your body over 3-7 years. In addition to preventing pregnancy, the hormonal IUD is known to help treat heavy periods, endometriosis, and PCOS. 


copper intrauterine device
Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition from Unsplash

The Fertility Awareness Method

The fertility awareness method is a natural birth control strategy that can be used to prevent pregnancy. Some common strategies implemented in fertility awareness are the calendar rhythm method, temperature method, and cervical mucus method. This method involves tracking your natural fertility cycle and your menstrual cycle. While fertility awareness is the least reliable form of pregnancy prevention and does not protect against STIs, it can be a good choice for those who are self-aware of their body’s natural cycles. 

 

The Emergency Contraception Pill

Commonly nicknamed the “morning after pill”, Plan B is an emergency contraceptive pill to be taken after engaing in unprotected sex. The hormone in the pill called levonorgestrel is more effective the sooner you take it and comes in one dose. It is recommended to take the pill up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. However, Plan B may be effective up to 5 days following unprotected sex. In Quebec, you will need a prescription from your pharmacist to buy Plan B, so they will need to ask you a few questions before giving you the pill. Additionally, Plan B can be expensive: the average price in Quebec is around $40-50 CAD. Emergency contraception should not be used as a routine method of birth control as there can be side effects such as nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, menstrual changes, and vomiting. While it should not be used often, this method is useful in emergency situations. 


morning after pill
Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition from Unsplash

While this article hopes to help you navigate your birth control decision by providing a general overview of some popular choices, it is important to consult your doctor to decide on the method that best suits you and your body’s needs. Being comfortable with your method of birth control is the number one priority, so take your time to learn about all of your possible options and make an informed decision. 

Information obtained from: 

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/condom/how-effecti….

https://www.healthline.com/health/birth-control-iud

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/how-effective-contraception/

 

 

Olivia Smith

McGill '22

Olivia Smith is a U2 student at McGill University studying Sociology, Marketing, and Communication Studies. Her passions include reading, writing, traveling, and finding new vegetarian recipes! She hopes to write on topics such as sustainability in the fashion industry, women’s health, reproductive health rights, and social activism.
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