Since starting university, there’s been a lot of talk about sex and sexual health especially as a lot of students are sexually active. With being sexually active it is important to take precautions against pregnancy and STIs into your own hands – it’s your responsibility. Re-read that, your sexual health is your responsibility. It’s not your sexual partners responsibility, not your parents or your doctors. IT. IS. YOURS.
I decided to look into contraceptives and explore options I would consider for myself. Discussing what contraceptives my friends use it is clear that the majority of them are on the pill and use condoms when they are having sex. According to the NHS website: There are 15 different methods of contraception currently available in the UK. It is likely to be different in every country so it’s important that you read up on what’s available to you.
Personally I would not consider a permanent contraceptive (sterilisation) at my age because I want to keep the option for children open even if it’s not something I see in the foreseeable future. Once you make the decision to be sterilised, reversal is extremely rare so you have be confident in your decision. I also didn’t consider getting the contraceptive injection every 8-12 weeks. I’m terrified of needles and will do anything to avoid them because they send my anxiety into overdrive. The injection does have 99% effectiveness if always used correctly (which means getting done at the right time and not forgetting the important doctor’s appointment).
Some of my friends have opted for the implant which is better for those forgetful people but arguably still as painful. The implant is a little tube that’s implanted under the skin in your arm and it stops your ovaries from releasing an egg by releasing a synthetic hormone called progestogen. It last up to 3 years but I’ve heard some horror stories about the removal of this tiny tube. This is definitely not me trying to put you off this method because for some people it is a dream and they find it so easy but, with my low pain tolerance and more squeamish demeanor, removing the tiny tube once bound to the muscle is a big no-no. Numbed or not, it’s not my cup of tea.
There are actually contraceptives that are not as effective as others even if you used them correctly. Four to eight women out of 100 get pregnant when using the diaphragm or cap with spermicide which is high compared to the one out of hundred with most other contraceptives. Both the cap and the diaphragm are inserted into your vagina and placed over the cervix to prevent sperm from entering your uterus and you need to leave them in six hours after sex. Spermicides need to be used with them to kill the sperm. These have to be used every time you have sex! I previously hadn’t heard of two more unconventional contraceptives that are 99% effective: the vaginal ring and the contraceptive patch. The vaginal ring has to be renewed once a month and the patch has to be renewed each week for three weeks in a month. I don’t know how comfortable I’d feel about placing something in my vagina every time I have sex, but then again I use tampons so it’s a difficult decision to make.
If I felt comfortable enough to place contraceptives inside my vagina, would I be comfortable with a doctor placing the coil in my uterus? Another two options require this: the IUS (intrauterine system) and IUD (intrauterine device). The insertion and removal is quick and painless and if you can bear the doctor placing it in your vagina then you don’t need it renewed for five to ten years. I’d have to weigh up the brief embarrassment with long term pregnancy prevention.
Most of my friends take the pill everyday for three weeks in a month. After research and asking around, I found out that there are two types of the pill: the combined pill and the progestogen-only pill. However you do need to take the pill at roughly the same time everyday and I would lose my head if it wasn’t screwed on. The pill is 99% effective but it drops to 95% if you don’t take it properly everyday and this isn’t the best thing for a forgetful person like me.
Aside from all of these clinical contraceptives, there is another option – symptothermal method of natural family planning. This entails the daily monitoring of body temperatures and cervical mucus (sounds ew, right?). While it is a proven contraceptive (if the proper teaching instructions are followed), I prefer the clinical methods that need less effort. And now I sound like a pill-popper but I often have a million things on my plate and monitoring my bodily functions seems like an unnecessary hassle.
Contraception does not always protect you from STIs just prevents pregnancy. Wear a condom kiddos! Condoms are the only type of contraception that will protect you from STIs and helps prevent pregnancy. You do have to use a condom every time you have sex. There are two types of condom: a female condom and a male condom – it is up to the consenting couple to decide what they prefer.
What you need to take from this is that there are many different types of contraception and the type you choose is up to you. It is important that you take responsibility for your birth control and protection against STIs. Don’t depend on your sexual/relationship partner but do openly and comfortably discuss it.
*Special thanks to Katie Graham for the photo I used for the featured image*