Choosing the right birth control for you
By Mercedes Deutscher, Staff Writer
As a college student, there is never a better time than now to discover. Discover the world, discover your dreams, and discover relationships and friendships more meaningful than those of the past. But what many college students aren’t ready to discover is parenthood.
Let’s be honest, while starting a family may be one of the most important events to occur in one’s life (if they want one), not many college students are ready to take on parenthood for the next 18 years.
Our society is changing. Women are placing more importance on their education and careers and less on getting married and starting a family. According to Statistics Canada, in 1975 Canadian women got married at an average age of 22 and had children at an age of 26. Today, that has increased to an age of 29 for both marriage and first childbirth. The largest contribution to these changes in family planning is the widespread use of birth control.
People must ask themselves important questions when choosing a form of contraception. How will the birth control affect my body? Do I wish to start a family one day? How far away is that time? If I decide to stop taking birth control, how easy would it be?
Birth control comes in many intake methods and affects women and men alike. All these methods are different because they affect each individual differently and come in diverse strengths to best fit with a woman and a couple’s plans.
The most common choice in hormonal birth control is the pill. Pills allow for a regulated menstrual cycle and have a relatively low impact on the body. However, they must be taken around the same time every day. If a day is missed, the effectiveness of the pill is hugely compromised.
For women who have difficulty sticking to a routine, other options are available.
A vaginal ring (like NuvaRing) can be taken once a month. The user inserts the ring into her vagina and leaves it there for three weeks. It should be taken out the fourth week (when the user will usually get her period).
The Depo-Provera shot is an injection that a woman can receive every 12 weeks. While it is inexpensive and doesn’t need to be taken often, it usually causes the user’s period to disappear.
For those planning not to have children for a long time, better options include: a rod-shaped implant can be inserted into the user’s arm—effective for up to three years; or copper and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs) which can be inserted into the uterus—effective for up to five years.
Longer lasting forms of contraception should be thoroughly thought-out before use as they may be expensive to remove.
Lastly, for those not wishing to have children at all, some irreversible and permanent solutions are available. Men and women can be sterilized with both surgical and non-surgical procedures.
All of the aforementioned methods of hormonal birth control should be properly researched and discussed with a doctor before beginning use. Although they all are 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy (when used properly), they all come with side effects. Many cause the loss of the menstrual cycle. Other common and unwanted side effects include weight gain, changes in appetite, a lower sex drive, headaches, depression, and nausea.
When choosing to stop take hormonal birth control, it will usually take the body several months to return to the way it was before.
With longer lasting birth controls, once the user decides to stop taking the birth control, it may take a while (usually four months or more) for the body to start having the menstrual cycle again. Couples who stop using hormonal birth control in order to conceive may find themselves waiting and disappointed, since it can take a couple of years for a woman to ovulate properly again.
That is not to say that hormonal birth control will bring only negative side effects. It can provide relief for severe pre-menstrual symptoms, may help with acne and skin problems, and help regulate otherwise irregular menstrual symptoms. Some women even take hormonal birth control not to just prevent pregnancy, but also to improve and stabilize the aforementioned circumstances.
However, for those who may not desire hormonal birth control for whatever reason, non-hormonal methods are available.
The most common form of non-hormonal birth control is the use of condoms. Though male condoms are the typically used variety, female condoms are also available. The greatest advantage of condoms is that they not only protect against unwanted pregnancy, but also protect against STIs. Unfortunately, condoms are still not as effective as their hormonal counterparts. Condoms may be put on improperly or may break. To prevent breakage, condoms should be used with some sort of lubricant. A person using a condom must know the proper procedure to put a condom on. If either partner is allergic to latex, polyurethane condoms, are available (although not as effective). Condoms should always be used with another type of birth control to be the most effective.
Another form of non-hormonal birth control is spermicide. Spermicide is a jelly-like substance that a woman inserts in her vagina, and it helps prevent sperm from reaching the uterus.
Knowing the different options, what questions to ask, how they affect the user, and how the user would like to plan (or not plan) a family are important considerations when choosing a birth control. Many people will switch what kind of birth control they use over time to better suit their needs. Birth control is as unique as the individual, and must be treated as such.