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Introduction to Birth Control

With the transfer of power to a new president being less than seven weeks away, it’s time to stop being in denial about what that transfer will mean for women’s bodies. The new regime, I mean administration, is suggesting significant and almost outrageous changes to policy that will impact things like birth control and access to (or legality of) abortion services as well as their affordability for lower income women who may or may not also be losing healthcare coverage when our new dictator, I mean president, is sworn into office.

Along with this change in American life, we’ve also seen a rise in the circulation of fake news. Scholars and journalists have found that more people are relying on results from Google searches than they are on accredited news sources. One thing people have been faux researching as of late is birth control. I decided to give that a try myself. When Googling birth control, the first result shown is a table by the American Sexual Health Association that claims abstinence is a 100% effective method of STI and pregnancy prevention. In theory, something like that is fool proof. In practice, abstinence only solves half the problem in the grand scheme of sexual health. If you’ve chosen to remain abstinent, you are definitely not going to get pregnant or have to manage STIs. You may have also decided that because you are abstinent, you don’t have to take it upon yourself to learn about sexual health and reproduction. You’re walking around safe but blind.

If you are, indeed, sexually active then you need to be proactive when it comes to sexual safety. This includes knowing your options for contraception at all times. Therefore, it behooves me to shout from the rooftops the importance of going to see a doctor and going over possible options BEFORE there are any serious changes made to women’s healthcare. If this is your first time having such a conversation with your doctor, consider this a rough introduction to a whole new world of not getting pregnant.

The Pill

Although it’s referred to as the pill, there are, in fact, a litany of pills to choose from. Your doctor determines this based on your menstruation cycle and the symptoms you experience. You CANNOT determine your own pill needs by looking at WebMD or a Wikipedia page. You MUST consult with your doctor.

The biggest downfall of the pill is human error.

The pill is a form of hormonal contraception and usually comes in a monthly package of daily pills and an informational leaflet. It is 99.99% effective when used properly, but it does not protect against STDs, STIs, or HIV.

For the most part, pills prevent ovulation, thus, leaving your womb nice and barren for as long as you desire.

The biggest downfall of the pill is human error. Countless women have misused the pill and had unexpected reactions because they either forgot to take their pills or overcompensated on forgotten pill days. If you think you might be this person, try setting an alarm or keeping your pills somewhere visible at all times.

Intra-uterine Device (IUDs)

IUDs, like their name, are tiny devices that are placed into your uterus and can act as a long-term, effective birth control method. IUDs can either be copper (Paragard) or hormonal (Skyla, etc.). You cannot pick up an IUD from the local pharmacy so – lets say it together – talk to your doctor about this option. The nice thing about an IUD is that it is a long term solution to the I don’t want to have a baby conundrum. IUDs are implanted once by a trained professional and last in your system anywhere from 3-12 years, depending on the kind you and your doctor choose. If, within that timespan, you decide you want to have a child, you can place a call to your doctor and have the IUD removed.

YOU CANNOT REMOVE AN IUD ON YOUR OWN. Always consult a doctor when it comes to the IUD. Some women experience pain and long periods of bleeding after implantation. Any and all side-effects should be brought to the attention of your doctor and not your BFF whose friend’s cousin’s sister had an IUD three years ago and is an ‘expert.’

Also, to make it clear, the IUD does not protect against STIs, STDs, HIV, or HPV.

The Condom

Never was there an invention so simple, so under-appreciated as the condom. The condom is a protective covering that not only prevents pregnancy (up to 99%), but it also safeguards against STDs and STIs when used properly. It is of the utmost importance to actually know how to put on a condom. The images below illustrate how to appropriately use a male condom. Female condoms are also a thing and you can learn more about that here.

The most common mistake when using a male condom is whether it is inside out or not. You determine this by the positioning of the condom’s rim or base as illustrated below.

malecondom2--01.png

The bell portion of the condom is then pinched between the thumb and forefinger to hold in place while the base of the condom is rolled down the shaft of the penis. It is very important to make sure that there are no holes or tears in the condom BEFORE participating in sex. Any sort of perforation in a condom completely defeats the purpose of wearing a condom. A great way to circumvent this problem is for sexually active women to carry around their own condoms as opposed to trusting a condom produced by a gentleman who may or may not be ill-intentioned. I know these things happen – I saw it on an episode of Law and Order.

malecondom2--03.png     malecondom2--04.png

Having a rudimentary understanding of safe sexual practices is the foundation for enjoying your sex life. But knowledge of the laws and restrictions around your reproductive rights is an even more significant cornerstone to creating a healthy and happy future for yourself. No matter how difficult or soul-sucking it can be, you MUST stay informed and, at times, you must fight for your basic rights as a woman who has the ability to bring life into this world.

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