Making the Smart Choice: Contraceptives

Almost everyone I know is sexually active … or has had sex at some point in their lifetime thus far. We all know the risks involved in having sex … so I won’t repeat to you what you have already learned in ninth grade (and tenth, and eleventh, and twelfth, etcetera, etcetera…). Even though having sex can mean a possibility of getting pregnant, catching a STD, and even less noticeable things like emotional distress, studies show that 80 percent of college-aged men and women still get down and dirty despite the risks, according to If you are going to have sex, do it the right way, because no one wants to have babies crawling around and STDs spreading like wild-fire on their college campus. Furthermore, there is no reason why smart, future-focused people (like you!) should be stupid about sex. I am not saying not to have sex, however, I am saying that you should learn about all of your options (and I’m not just talking to the girls…) about how to protect yourself, your partner, and your future. We all know that abstinence is the best way to avoid getting (or getting someone else) pregnant and/or catching an STD. It is actually proven that people who don’t have sex won’t get pregnant (surprise!) However, it is difficult to hang out with a hot guy or girl and not want to do something physical. So, if you decide to run to home base, be prepared.The following are a list of contraception options for both males and females. And for those of you who are homosexual or bisexual, it is still important to find out how you can protect yourself from getting an STD, even though there is no risk of pregnancy. The most common contraception method used by sexually active people is … drumroll please … CONDOMS! Condoms are great because they are highly effective in protecting both you and your partner (gay or straight couples … ) from pregnancy and dangerous STDs such as HIV (which causes AIDS) when used correctly. Even though males wear the condom, it is important for you females out there to understand how the condom works, and be sure that your man is using it correctly. (It is as much your responsibility as his, girlies!) The most effective condoms are latex (because they are the kind that protect against STDs … and who wants to wear a condom made out of skin, eww). Condoms should be stored at room temperature (hence … not in your wallet or pocket against your butt), and they should also be used before their expiration date. When used correctly, condoms have 98-99 percent protection and most STDs. And … they also come in fun flavors, colors, textures, and sizes … just like lollipops and gumdrops. One drawback of condoms is that they DO NOT protect against some STDs that can be carried on the skin, such as herpes, chlamydia, crabs, and syphilis. Even when using a condom (or any other form of protection) be sure to talk to your partner first and ask if they have any of these scary things.Female condoms work about the same way as male condoms, but they are placed inside the female part, instead of around the male part (you know … ). There are also latex “shields” that can be used to cover female areas during oral sex. All of these great latex products are inexpensive and easy to obtain. To research more about them (and even order them online), visit said about condoms …Another common form of contraception is the pill. The pill contains progesterone and estrogen (female hormones) as well as some other hormones, which work by “tricking” the female body into thinking she is pregnant, and will thus stop her from releasing more eggs. Because she will not be releasing more eggs, there is a good chance she will not get pregnant. There are some catches, however. For this type of contraceptive, the female is solely responsible for taking her pill each day. Missed pills can result in decreased effectiveness. Also, the pill DOES NOT protect against ANY STDs. The pill is recommended as contraception (or “birth control”) only for people who are in established, honest, monogamous relationships, in which getting an STD is a small worry. There are also some side-effects to taking the pill … long-term studies have not been done extensively because the pill has only been around since the 1960s. Some women experience weight gain when on the pill. Note: Women who smoke should not take the pill, because combining smoking and the hormones that are in the pill will increase the woman’s risk of heart attack and other deadly health conditions.However, studies show that the pill can lessen the effects of PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) … meaning less painful cramps, less bloating, less moodiness, and lighter periods. Birth control injections (Depo-Provera and Norplant) basically work in the same way that birth control pills work. They release progesterone into the body and suppressing egg release from the ovary. Depo-Provera is a shot taken every 3 months, and Norplant is a system of six, progesterone-containing capsules that are put into the upper arm. Norplant works for five years, so it is not usually an option that older college students like to take because they must wait for it to “wear off” to have children. In any case, all of these methods have excellent efficacy rates.There is another relatively common procedure that involves temporary placement of a copper device into the uterus. These are called IUDs (or … Intrauterine Devices). In this case, the female will release an egg. However, the IUD will “cause sperm immobilization” because it “builds the female body up” for foreign invaders. The copper device cannot be “killed,” but spermies can! This device (and a similar one which involves progesterone release) are considered excellent birth control devices, however, they do not protect against any STDs. Another downside to the IUD: it involves getting it changed each year by a medical practitioner. One more downside: it is expensive.Many people choose to use a different kind of device that can be inserted into the female at home, before having sex. These are called diaphragms (not the kind in your body) and cervical caps (not the kind you wear on your head). Diaphragms and cervical caps are flexible rubber barriers that block sperm as it moves towards the forbidden zone … the uterus. Diaphragms must be taken out after use, but cervical caps can be left in for a longer time … so you can have sex ten times in a row if you want.Diaphragms and cervical caps must be inserted before sex and can be confusing … so they could definitely ruin the mood and be really difficult to do correctly if you are coming back boozed-up from a night on the town. Like IUDs, they could also cause an increased risk in the female for developing yeast and urinary tract infections. Also, they are noted as having a “fair” efficacy rate and only protect against fluid-bound STDs. Components of birth control can be added to any of the previous contraceptives. These are called spermicides. Spermicides come in the form of a cream, foam or gel (like a lubricant…how fun!) and contain nonoxynol-9, which kills sperm and bacteria. Spermicides are usually placed inside the female before intercourse. I know that spermicides sound awesome, but DON’T use them alone. They have only a “fair to poor” effectiveness rating, and should be used in addition to condoms or other contraceptive methods of your choice. They also don’t do a good job of hunting down any STDs.For more information about different contraceptives, the morning-after pill, and STDs, pick up a pamphlet in the health center, or visit Remember, if you are in school, you are obviously working hard and spending lots of time and money … you’re smart about everything else, so be smart about your sexual health as well. Have a wonderful, sexually safe weekend!