Feb 052013

Author: Allison LeCain

As college students, it may seem like we can’t get enough safe-sex education. The fact of the matter is, most people at this stage in life are trying to prevent pregnancy.


With Valentine’s Day approaching, now is as good of a time as ever to make sure that young love stays just that – young. College is stressful enough without having to worry about unplanned pregnancies, and everyone can play a part at prevention.


With so many types of birth control to choose from, it’s important to go to a doctor to talk through the health risks and benefits of each prevention plan, according to Sharon Kennedy, a nurse practitioner at Hartshorn Health Center. Here College Avenue has laid out the contraceptive options to help people choose.


The Pill


The pill must be taken every day at the same time to be the most effective. It is easy to get with a prescription and can be as


Different kinds of birth control pills.

Different kinds of birth control pills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


cheap as $10 a month. The pill is taken by females and contains hormones already found in the body – estrogen and progesterone. The regulation of these hormones keeps eggs from leaving the ovaries and also makes cervical mucus thicker, making it harder for sperm to swim through. The pill is one of the most common forms of birth control and is extremely effective.


“I know it’s over 99 percent effective, unlike condoms,” said Tiffany Martinez, junior graphic design student. “I feel like anything can happen with a condom, so I trust the pill.”


While this birth control is 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy if taken correctly, but about 9 out of 100 women on the pill get pregnant due to not taking as directed. It’s important to be aware that some medicines, such as antibiotics and anti-seizure medication, make the pill less effective. There are some side effects to the pill, but there are so many different kinds of dosages to choose from if negative effects occur.


“I think the pill is popular with a lot of women because there are a variety of pills on the market. So if one doesn’t work we can usually fix whatever side-effect they’re having and find a pill that does work for them,” Kennedy said.




This is a small ring that is self-inserted into the vagina once a month that stays in for three weeks at a time. It is left out for a


Image of vaginal birth control device NuvaRing

NuvaRing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


week, and then a new one is inserted. You can get it with a prescription and the cost ranges from $15 to $80 a month. It works the same way as the pill and is just as effective. The ring is good for people who can’t remember to take a pill at the same time every day.


Kennedy explains that it is very easy to take in and out yourself and doesn’t require a doctor’s help like an IUD does.


“You can’t put it in wrong. I have women take a tampon out of the applicator, put the ring in the applicator, and just stick it in like a tampon,” Kennedy said. “It doesn’t matter where it is in your vagina. If you can’t feel it, it’s in right.”




This is a small plastic patch that sticks to your skin. It can be put on the abdomen, hip, arm, or lower back. It is best to put it somewhere with little fat because then the estrogen and progesterone are easily absorbed. They cost $15 to $80 a month with a prescription and need to be changed every week for three weeks and left off for an additional week before restarting the cycle. It is also 99 percent effective if used correctly.




The implant is a match-sized rod that is placed inside the arm, just under the skin. It’s inserted by a doctor and can be left in up to three years. At that time a new one can be put in if desired. While it costs $400 to $800, it’s a one-time fee instead of a monthly cost. This birth control only contains progesterone, so it is good for people who have negative reactions to estrogen birth control. It’s 99 percent effective. One of its benefits is that you never have to worry about taking something every day, every week, or even every month for pregnancy prevention.


One of the downsides to the implant is that women may experience a lot of irregular bleeding.


“Some will not long have periods, some women will have monthly periods, and some are more irregular,” Kennedy said.




This is made of foam containing spermicide. It is inserted into the vagina before intercourse and should remain in for a few hours after to be effective. It’s about two inches in diameter and has a loop attached for removal. A pack of three is $10 and can be bought without a prescription. The sponge prevents pregnancy by preventing the sperm to get to the egg by covering up the cervix, blocking the uterus and releasing a spermicide that keeps sperm from moving. When always using the sponge correctly it is about 91 percent effective. When used incorrectly it’s only 88 percent effective, so following the directions is very important.


“It’s just like a condom or any kind of spermicide barrier you use – you can’t put it on after you’ve had sexual contact,” Kennedy said. “Even if I was advising somebody about using the sponge I would still advise them to use a condom as well.”


Cervical cap


This is a silicone cup that’s inserted in the vagina and must be used with spermicide gel to be effective. It lasts up to two years, costing between $60 and $75. It works by blocking the opening of the uterus and releases spermicide to stop sperm from moving. Although it helps to preventing pregnancy, it is not as effective as other methods. When using the cap, 14 out of 100 women will still get pregnant.


Withdrawal (pulling out)


In this method, the man will pull his penis out of the vagina before ejaculation. While the idea of this may seem sound, it is not a very effective use of birth control as there is semen in pre-ejaculation fluids that can get a woman pregnant. Even though it’s not very effective, Kennedy said that almost everyone has used this as a form of birth control at least once in their life.


“It isn’t 100 percent effective, but unfortunately people still use it,” Kennedy said. “It’s not very effective. Around here we call those people ‘parents’.”




Abstinence is the most effective form of birth control. People who abstain from having sexual intercourse have zero risk of pregnancy. There is no cost associated with this method and no medical side-effects.


Prezerwatywa, z angielskiej wiki

Condom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Male Condom


Condoms are the only birth control method that protects against sexually transmitted diseases for sexually active individuals. Latex condoms are worn by men to collect pre-ejaculate and semen when a man ejaculates. As long as people are not allergic to latex, condoms are safe for everyone to use; plastic condoms are a good alternative for those who are allergic. Condoms are 98 percent effective when used correctly, but that number can increase if used with other birth control methods.


There is a risk of the condom breaking. In the case that this happens, women should look into emergency contraception options. Condoms are one of the few birth controls that is used by men.


“The thing with everything else aside from the condom, is I feel like it’s too much of a responsibility on someone else,” said Niles Hachmeister, sophomore psychology student. “ I would like to take my ownership into my own hands.”


Condoms do not require a prescription and they are relatively inexpensive. Depending on the package size, condoms can cost from a few dollars each to less than a dollar. They can be bought at drugstores, family planning clinics, supermarkets, and some vending machines.


Morning-After Pill


If a woman did not use any birth control or her birth control method failed (condom broke, diaphragm slipped out of place, partner didn’t pull out in time), an emergency contraceptive is a smart option. Up to five days after unprotected sex, the woman can take the morning-after pill.


The morning-after pill is not an abortion pill, but instead it is a progestin pill that works by keeping a woman from ovulating. The sooner the pill is taken after unprotected intercourse, the more effective it is. It does not protect against STDs. Women can get the morning-after pill without a prescription as long as they are over the age of 17. The pill can cost anywhere from $10 to $70.




An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a “t-shaped” device inserted into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of IUDs: Mirena, which is made of plastic and is effective for five years, and ParaGard, which contains copper and is effective for 12 years. Mirena affect the sperm’s access to the egg either by thickening a woman’s cervical mucus, blocking the sperm’s movement. ParaGard is hormone-free; copper, acting as spermicide, is released continuously into the body to prevent pregnancy.


Less than one out of 100 women get pregnant when using an IUD and the ParaGard IUD can even be used as emergency birth control (reducing risk of pregnancy by 99.9 percent) as long as it is inserted within five days after unprotected intercourse.


Most women are able to use IUDs, but women should talk to their health care provider to determine if an IUD is safe for them. IUDs do not protect against STDs and there is a risk of the device falling out, so it is important to check every few days for the first few months. IUDs also must be inserted by a health care provider.


“It is a misconception that only women who have gone through childbirth are eligible for an IUD,” said the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ Quality Management Team. “IUDs represent one of the safest, most reliable and cost effective forms of reversible birth control on the market.” The price is a one-time cost averaging $500 to $1000, which includes the cost for the medical exam, the IUD, the insertion of the device, and follow-up visits to your doctor.




This shallow, silicone cup is inserted into the vagina to block the opening to the uterus, preventing pregnancy. The effectiveness of the diaphragm is dependent on correct usage. If women always use the diaphragm as directed, only six out of 100 women will get pregnant annually. Effectiveness can also be increased by making sure that the cervix is covered before you have sex.


It is recommended to use spermicide in conjunction with a diaphragm as birth control. Some benefits include immediate effectiveness, no effect on female hormones, and it can be inserted hours ahead of time. Because the woman inserts it herself, it is convenient. Be careful though; the diaphragm can be difficult to insert, pushed out of placed and it must be inserted each time a woman has intercourse.


To get a diaphragm, women must visit a health care provider to get a prescription. An examination costs between $50 and $200, but the diaphragm itself only costs $15 to $75.




For those not afraid of needles, the birth control shot may be a good option. The shot is an injection of the hormone progestin into the body. The shots are effective against pregnancy for three months and if a woman gets the shot within seven days after the start of her period, she will be protected immediately. Less than one woman out of 100 gets pregnant when they use the shot.


“Most patients request that the Depo Provera birth control injection be given to them in their arm, but some patients experience less discomfort receiving the injection in their hip,” said the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ Quality Management Team.


Like any other medication, there are risks. Irregular bleeding is the most common side effect and it does not protect against STDs, but the shot is overall safe and simple. The shot does not contain estrogen and is a good choice for women who cannot take estrogen.


Before getting the injection, women must get a prescription from their doctor or health care provider which costs $35 to $250. After the examination, the shot itself costs between $35 and $100 each visit (keep in mind you must get a shot every three months for it to be effective!




Spermicide is a cheap birth control method that women insert into their vagina. Spermicides are available in different forms (creams, films, foams, gels, etc.), but they all contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving. According to the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ Quality Management Team, spermicide alone or combined with withdrawal is not as effective as other birth control methods; even when women use spermicide as directed, 15 out of 100 will get pregnant annually.


Spermicide does not have an effect on a woman’s hormones and it is very easy to get. It does not require a prescription and applicator kits cost approximately $8. Spermicide is available at family planning clinics, drugstores, and some supermarkets.


Spermicide does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases and women need to wait 10 minutes after insertion to have sex. Spermicide is also only effective for about an hour after it is inserted.


To make an appointment to obtain a birth control prescription or talk with an expert, call the Women’s Clinic at Hartshorn Health Center at 970.491.1754.


  3 Responses to “Contraceptive choices: Your right and responsibility to choose”

  1. IRAC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), a branch of the WHO (World Health Organization), has classified estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives as a Group 1 carcinogen.

    Condoms do NOT prevent herpes or HPV (human papillomavirus) http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Condoms-not-effective-against-HPV-or-herpes-3650285.php

  2. (February 2013: CDC “estimates that there are more than 19.7 million new sexually transmitted infections in the United States each year, and young people ages 15-24 account for half of them”.

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