As college students, we’re way past the point of being sat down by our parents to unpack the mystery of how babies are made. But since the topic is continuously relevant, let’s talk about contraception options. It’s pretty common for people to have the misconception that there are only a few viable choices, or feel that anything beyond condoms is too unfamiliar and intimidating to consider. Not to mention that one horror story from your friend’s mom’s cousin! I’m here to clear up these cliches and break down the options for you.
Although there are tons of options out there, for this article I will just stick to the pill, IUD, and the shot. These seem to be the most well-known, although there is also little information about the latter among the general public.
We’re all pretty familiar with birth control pills. What one may not be familiar with is that there are two types: combination pills and progestin-only pills. If you’re already on this type of birth control, it is most likely that you are taking combination pills since they are the most frequently prescribed. With these types, you will be protected from pregnancy as long as you ensure that you are taking this pill once a day, no matter the time. Progestin-Only pills differ in the sense that they have to be taken in the same three hour period every day to ensure this prevention. This difference is due to the distinct amount of hormones present in the combination versus progestin-only pills. The last few pills in the common 28-day pack of combination-pills are placebos. This means they do not have hormones in them and you may get your period while taking them. Meanwhile, the other weeks of this pack contain the hormones progestin and estrogen. On the other hand, the 28-day packs of progestin-only have hormones in each pill. Due to how common it is for those who take birth control pills to miss a pill, it’s around 91% efficient in pregnancy prevention, but, if taken perfectly this number jumps up to 99% (Planned Parenthood).
Let’s talk about IUD’s, also known as intrauterine devices. This is my personal recommendation, although I am not a medical advisor of any sort and I may be a little biased. They are over 99% effective and are very low maintenance. There are two types of IUD’s: copper and hormonal. The copper IUD, called the Paragard, has no hormones. Thus, any side effects common with hormonal birth control need not be considered and it can work for up to 12 years (Planned Parenthood). The hormonal IUDs, on the other hand, include progestin to protect from pregnancy. They are called Mirena and Lileta, which both protect for up to seven years. Kyleena does so for up to five years, while Skyla works up to three (Planned Parenthood). For most people, the insertion is the most daunting part of this birth control method. Although it may be painful, the process only takes a few minutes and the sting is even shorter. Everyone’s body is different and reacts in different ways, so this may not be a problem for you. Most gynecologists will recommend you take a pain medicine, such as Ibuprofen, prior to insertion. However, after the fact, the implications of the IUD over the next few years are what make the process worthwhile.
- The Shot
The birth control shot is one of the lesser-known methods. They have a few different names, from Depo-Provera, DMPA, or the Depo shot. It contains the hormone progestin in order to stop ovulation. In order to ensure maximum efficiency for this method, one must get a new shot every 12 or13 weeks, making it less high-maintenance than the pill. If you are two weeks (or longer) late to getting it, you may be at risk of pregnancy. It’s about 94% efficient, with some common side effects being a longer period than usual or lack thereof, as well as nausea, weight gain, depression, and more (Planned Parenthood). These tend to clear after a few months of the shot, once the body becomes accustomed to the new hormones. It is also important to acknowledge that some people do not get any side effects at all.
Now you know! Maybe you’re planning to stick with what you already have, or maybe you are going to look into one of the above options. Either way, widespread knowledge about all these options are not as common as they should be. I can tell you from personal experience that getting the Kyleena IUD was one of the best decisions I’ve made. The most important thing to take away from this is something you most likely already know: while they do not prevent STD’s, practicing safe sex is one of the most important habits to have in your early adult life.
Information via Planned Parenthood
Cover photo by: Magdalena Saliba (The Crescent Graphic Design Team)