As you transition to college, so many aspects of your life become your responsibility. One of those things you might forget about, but shouldn’t? Your reproductive health. Reproductive health encompasses more than preventing unwanted pregnancy. If you’ve been on the fence about which type of birth control could work best for you, you’re not alone. That’s why we interviewed our local girl gang about their experiences with their birth control methods of choice. In this guide, you’ll find definitions of each type of birth control from Planned Parenthood’s website along with a group of college women’s anonymously recorded responses. With testimonies and facts in hand, you should have the info you need to ask your doctor or health professional questions — and to help you choose your perfect birth control method.
IUD: Intra Uterine Device, a tiny device that’s put into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. It’s long-term, reversible, and one of the most effective birth control methods out there. Both women interviewed use Skyla.
This type of birth control lasts from 3-12 years and can be removed at any time. It’s popular because you don’t have to do anything once it’s placed, and it lasts for a really long time.
Why did you make the switch from hormonal birth control pills to an IUD?
Angie*: “I started using it when I realized that hormonal birth control pills were making me depressed and anxious. I literally used to cry every day when I was on them, and I knew that wasn’t like me. With the IUD, I only get emotional maybe 2-3 days of the month around my period, if I even get it (some IUDs will slow/stop your period).”
Is insertion actually as bad as it sounds?
Maria*: “I’m not going to lie, getting the IUD inserted was extremely painful, and the first three months I had pretty bad cramps when I was ovulating. But since then, I rarely ever get cramps – maybe 1 day a month.”
Based on your experience with an IUD, would you recommend it to other girls? If so, who?
Angie*: “Girls who suffer from depression or anxiety because of birth control they use that contains estrogen.”
Maria*: “Any girl considering birth control. Not only does it help prevent unwanted pregnancy, but it even helps with things like hair growth in certain circumstances.”
The Pill: a type of birth control that is hormonal and taken by mouth every day at a specific time. The women interviewed use Tri-Lo Sprintec and Aviene.
The pill is the most common type of birth control. It’s often the first type that women use, which makes it a popular choice, but it might not be for you if you won’t be able to remember to take it every day.
Why did you start taking the pill?
Lexi*: “My periods became extremely irregular and many times they thought I was pregnant due to my hormone levels and missed periods. When my period would come it was BAD. I wouldn’t be able to go to school or work because my cramps were so bad and the flow was so heavy and lasted like a week and a half. So, my doctor decided to put me on birth control to regulate my hormones and my periods. Honestly in like two months it changed my life. I was getting my period regularly and it lasted like 5-7 days and was SUPER light compared to before.”
Catherine*: “My main reason for starting birth control was to be safe sexually, especially since I was only 17 at the time. I decided that even if I wouldn’t be doing anything, I wanted to be on it just in case. It really is always better to be safe than sorry. A bonus of birth control was extremely regular periods that are also considerably lighter. It may be TMI, but now there’s always a specific Tuesday that it will start and it’s fantastic.”
Have you experienced any short-term or long-term issues with the pill?
Lexi*: “In the very beginning my pill made me so nauseous I couldn’t stand, and it gave me splitting headaches for hours at a time. I stayed with it for three painful months before I switched brands and voila! All of my problems were gone. I’m not sure whether I naturally grew used to the pill or if the changed helped, but I haven’t had problems with it since.”
Catherine*: “My skin got super bad when I first started it, like BAD. There was like 2 months that I had to get an ultrasound and I couldn’t get another refill until I got the ultrasound and the appointment was like super hard to get so I wasn’t on the pill for like two months and my skin got dramatically better and the weight like stayed the same kinda but then like I upped my fitness routine and then fixed my eating habits and I lost the weight.”
Arm Implant: a tiny, thin rod about the size of a matchstick. The implant releases hormones into your body that prevent you from getting pregnant. There is only one on the market, Nexplanon.
This type of birth control is less common, but has a 99% effectiveness just like an IUD. This method is perfect for girls who won’t remember to take a pill, but don’t want to go through the pain of having an IUD inserted.
How long have you been using the Arm implant as your main source of birth control?
Elle*: “For three years. I got it to help with acne and regulate my period. Now that I’m a little older, I can reap the benefits of having safer sex and preventing unwanted pregnancy.”
What’s it like having Nexplanon inserted?
Elle*: “It’s basically this flexible plastic rod that gets inserted just under the skin of the bicep on your non-dominant arm. You get a numbing shot before it’s inserted which honestly hurts a lot! I try to remind myself that a shot and a new rod every three years will hurt a whole lot less than giving birth. The rod is in a little pen-type device, and your OBGYN just clicks it in and it shoots into your arm. After the numbing shot, you can’t feel a thing! It was swollen for about a week and left a bruise, but afterward there’s no real visible sign that it’s there.”
How would you rate your experience on Nexplanon?
Elle*: “When I started, I definitely noticed that my young teen body got a little curvier, but I wasn’t mad at it! I filled out my bras and my jeans better, which totally boosted my self-esteem. I love using this birth control method because I’m one of those girls who can’t be bothered with remembering to take a pill every day at a specific time. Because it’s in my arm for three years, it has a 99% success rate with preventing pregnancy, which helps me sleep at night. I also just had to get mine switched out because I had used it for 3 years already, and the removal and reinsertion process was super simple.”
Whether you’re interested in using birth control to manage your periods, prevent pregnancy or get rid of those stubborn hormonal breakouts, there are a variety of options on the market. Always be sure to consult a medical professional to weigh your options aside from reading our advice and before you make a decision. We hope this guide helps you feel empowered about your reproductive health!
*Note: Names have been changed to protect interviewees’ privacy.