Birth control: because you don’t want to get pregnant. Okay, so that was a brash generalization because as most of us know, birth control can be used for purposes other than baby prevention.
Once you’ve decided to go on birth control, the next step is picking your method. There’s pills, patches, needles, condoms, IUDs, abstinence and more. Maybe you have not yet chosen what kind of birth control is right for you, and in that case this article might help you. There are so many options out there that it can feel overwhelming, but I want to talk to you about two of the most popular and asked about birth control methods out there – birth control pills and IUDs (Intrauterine Devices).
So why these two? From my experience as a woman in her early 20s, these are two of the most common forms of birth control I see being used by my friends and peers. Of course, in addition to condoms. We already know about condoms and how they protect us from STIs, as well as pregnancy, so it’s good to keep using them, but birth control and IUDs can be a bit more complicated. So what’s the deal with them? Let’s start with…
BIRTH CONTROL PILLS:
You have heard of them before and you might be on them already. Birth control pills are hormonal pills you take daily to stop a sperm from meeting your egg after sex. Essentially, preventing what is called fertilization. Due to the hormones in the pill, your monthly ovulation is halted and this means that there is no egg available to fertilize. Preventing the eventual outcome of pregnancy. This is new and exciting to my knowledge – the hormones in the pill actually thickens your cervical mucus making it more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg! Cool huh?
So you know how it works, but does the pill work for you? Well, there are two types of pills to consider- combination (estrogen and progestin) and progestin only pills. The latter kind has fewer side effects but is also proven to be less effective. There are many health reasons women opt for the latter so it’s important to talk to your practitioner about this before deciding on the type of pill for you.
Birth control pills do not prevent STIs nor are they effective if you forget to take them daily. This is an issue many people run into and something to consider when deciding if the pill is right for you. I personally find it easy to take my pill daily and on time because I set an alarm on my phone. Simple as that.
I know for a fact that I haven’t gotten pregnant yet (knock on wood), but what else does the pill do? For one thing, my skin has certainly improved from taking the pill and my boobs have gotten bigger. But this does not happen for everyone, nor was this my purpose for taking the pill. I know I was hoping my PMS would lessen but again, this only happens for some women taking the pill. What I mean to say is, the pill has different effects on everyone. Sometimes you have to try a few to find the right one, in fact be open to it. Also be open to the fact that the first month on the pill can be a little moody, spotty and annoying, but hang in there.
Just like the pills, there are two different types of IUDs that you can choose from. One is a copper IUD, it’s not fully copper but just in the right places. Unbeknownst to me, sperm does not “like” copper so you cannot get pregnant when it’s inside your uterus. AKA- that sperm ain’t gonna make it to your egg if copper’s there to defend. Better yet, a copper IUD can be used for up to 12 years!
The other kind of IUD uses the magic of hormones to prevent pregnancy, but again not STIs or little boob disease. A hormonal IUD thickens cervical mucus, which works to block and trap the sperm (sounds intense!). It can also stop ovulation, meaning there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize. Either way, it works and can be used anywhere from 3-6 years depending on the brand you go for. The IUD is simply removed without surgery.
Unlike birth control pills, IUDs are 99 per cent effective in stopping pregnancy 24/7 and require little to no maintenance. They can even be used as an emergency contraceptive. The copper IUD is most effective. If inserted within 5 days (or 120 hours) after unprotected sex it is 99.9 per cent effective in preventing that pregnancy.
If you are the kind of person that hates taking pills, can’t do it consistently or flat out do not like the idea of stuffing your body with hormones – then the IUD is something to consider. Especially the copper one!
Similar to how it is when you start the pill, the IUD can cause cramping, spotting and irregular periods. With the pill, if these symptoms occur, they are only likely to last up to 6 weeks. With the IUDs this can last up to 6 months, but it is not to say it will for everyone.
WHERE CAN I ACCESS THESE WONDERFUL INVENTIONS?
If you are covered by insurance, visiting your family doctor is a good place to start. They will help you find the best option for you, hopefully at a decent price.
If you are uninsured and on a budget (like me) then you have to use community resources. One of the best resources in Toronto and across North America that I can wholeheartedly vouch for is Planned Parenthood. They provide sexual health treatment and other resources for ANYONE between the ages of 13-29. Birth control and IUDs are available at a much more affordable price when prescribed by a doctor there. IUDs and birth control are investments, but of different kinds. Birth control may be cheaper month to month, but over the years will end up costing the same or more as one IUD.
So it’s your body and your choice. Is the IUD better than birth control pills? It’s up to you. The pills work for me, so I am sticking with that…for now. I urge you to do the research and seek out what your community has to offer because you may be surprised to see what there is available. You might just find all you need for your physical and mental health, for free!