Last year when I started writing for Mmm Ya Ya, I posted about some birth control methods and common misconceptions. Lately, I have felt like it might be a good topic to revisit. It continues to amaze and concern me how many young women not so different from myself still have so many ill-informed perceptions about different types of birth control. Perhaps if our nation implemented comprehensive sex education in all public schools, this wouldn’t be such a problem… But I digress. When life (or the education system) gives you lemons, you better try your hardest to make some damn good birth control lemonade. Hopefully this post will clear up any pulpy misconceptions you may have!
Condoms: I won’t spend much time here because I think this is the only type of birth control that gets any real face time in most sex ed classes. With an effectiveness rate of ~85-98%, condoms are a pretty good bet, although there are many types of birth control that have greater effectiveness. However, condoms are readily available (check out the Wellness Center for some freebies!) and therefore valuable, especially in those moments where you maybe weren’t expecting to get down and dirty.
The Pill: Probably the most popular birth control option next to condoms, the Pill contains hormones which, when taken each day, prevent ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus, making it difficult for any little swimmers to make it very far. The Pill comes in a 28-day pack: 21 active (hormonal) pills and 7 inactive; however, it is possible to continually take active pills, which can prevent you from having a period. If this interests you, talk to you doctor about the types of pills available to you. The Pill is generally thought to be about 91-99% effective; they are more effective when taken correctly, which means setting an alarm and taking them at the same time every day.
The Ring: The NuvaRing is another hormonal device, similar to the Pill in how it prevents pregnancy. The NuvaRing is a clear loop approximately the size of a hair binder which is inserted into the vagina. Whereas the Pill gives your system a large boost of hormones each day, the NuvaRing continuously excretes hormones into your system, which more effectively balances your hormone levels. The NuvaRing is left in the vagina for three weeks and then removed during the week of your period. Like the Pill, the NuvaRing is ~95-99% effective – the only thing you really have to worry about is that it doesn’t fall out, especially after sex!
Implanon, or the Implant: This form of birth control is also hormonal, and involves a small rod shaped device which is implanted in the upper arm. The benefits of Implanon are that it can be used by women who can’t take estrogen (NuvaRing and many forms of the pill contain estrogen) and it can last up to three years! A healthcare professional is required to insert this form of birth control, and it generally can cost upwards of $700-800. Some insurance providers may cover this expense, however, so if this interests you check to see if you can get it covered!
IUD: IUDs, or intrauterine devices, are the most effective and long-lasting form of birth control currently on the market. IUDs are T-shaped devices which are inserted into the uterus by a healthcare professional. Two main types of IUD currently exist: the hormonal IUD, Mirena, which lasts approximately 5 years; and the traditional copper IUD, Paragard, which is effective for up to 12 years. The effectiveness of IUDs is greater than 99%. The reason for such high effectiveness is that IUDs essentially make the uterus an inhospitable environment for a pregnancy. Like Implanon, getting an IUD can be a bit pricey: Planned Parenthood estimates the cost is between $500-1,000. Again, check with your insurance company to see if this procedure could be covered. Also, just a note: I have heard many rumors from people that IUDs are only for women who have already had children. This is false. While it is easier to insert an IUD into a woman who has had children (because her cervix is looser), it is completely safe for those of us who have not had kids.
Personally, I am coming up on my sixth year of taking birth control pills; however, I am thinking about checking to see if my insurance will cover Implanon or an IUD. It would be nice to not have to worry about taking that little yellow Pill each day!
Stay sexy and safe, St. Olaf,