College-friendly contraception: choosing what works for you

Hopefully Thanksgiving break left us feeling thankful for at least a couple of things. A loving family, good friends and no unwanted pregnancies topped my list this year. Considering the fact that according to the Guttmacher Institute 51 percent of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, it’s no joke to be thankful for being baby-free. While there are tons of methods out there to prevent pregnancy, there are some that are more suited to collegiate life than others.

When learning about efficacy rates of contraceptives it’s important to distinguish between perfect use and typical use. Perfect use of a contraceptive method means the method was used both consistently and correctly. Typical use refers to the effectiveness experienced among all couples who use the method, including inconsistent and incorrect use.

Condoms (Insertive or Male Condoms)

How does it work?

Condoms are a barrier method that work by blocking sperm.

How effective is it?

According to Bedsider.org, insertive condoms are 98 percent effective with perfect use, but with typical use they are 82 percent effective.

How much does it cost?

Condoms are one of the most affordable contraceptive options out there, making them perfect for a college student’s budget. Basic condoms with no added sensations can be found for around $1, while condoms with added sensations are a bit pricier. All U.S. condoms are held to FDA standards, which means paying more for a name brand (cough, cough, Trojan) won’t keep one any less pregnant or more protected against STIs. Lucky for us Badgers, Sex Out Loud provides oodles and oodles of condoms of all different types, sizes, sensations, colors etc. for free every day at 333 East Campus Mall.

What are the benefits?

Condoms are a great method for college students because they are very portable and easy to use. They are also one of the only contraceptive methods that help provide STI protection—especially for STIs that are passed along through fluids. Another pro is the availability of condoms; they can be found in almost any drugstore and no prescription is required.

What are the drawbacks?

Users have to remember to stop in the heat of the moment to put it on. Also, to insure efficacy condoms should not be stored in wallets or other places susceptible to lots of temperature change. Another complaint condom users have is that there can be a decrease in sensation—this can be somewhat remedied by buying condoms with extra sensation or adding lube.

The Pill

I have included the pill not because I think it’s one of the best options for college students, but because it is so widely used. Personally, I think hormonal birth control pills would be a better fit for a soccer-mom-with-two-kids type of gal, but that doesn’t mean a ramen-eating college student can’t use it very effectively.

How does it work?

The user takes one pill daily that contains hormones which prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation.

How effective is it?

When used perfectly, hormonal birth control pills are 99 percent effective and with typical use they are 92 percent effective.

How much does it cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans are required to cover the cost of birth control pills. For uninsured folks, the pill can cost anywhere from $10 to $50 per month.

What are the benefits?

The pill is highly effective, fairly easy to get and available at little to no cost. Also, if taken effectively, the user shouldn’t have to do anything in the moment, yippee! Since it has been around for so long, it is pretty easy to find a pill to fit specific needs such as aiding with acne, reducing nausea or cramping etc.

What are the drawbacks?

It requires the user to take the pill around the same time every day, which is tricky for college students. Taking antibiotics can also reduce the efficacy of the pill.

IUD (Intrauterine Device)

How does it work?

To quote a trusted colleague, “you stick it up the pussy and the pussy doesn’t like sperm anymore.” In the more technical terms used by Planned Parenhood, both hormonal and copper IUDs work by affecting the way sperm move so that they can’t join with the egg.

How effective is it?

Both the perfect use and typical use efficacy rates for the IUD are over 99 percent! This is because once the IUD is implanted in the uterus the user doesn’t have to do anything for between three and 12 years depending on the type of IUD.

How much does it cost?

There is both good news and bad news here. The bad news is that IUDs range anywhere from $500 to $1000 dollars depending on the type. The good news is that they are often covered under insurance or can be greatly discounted by going through a low-cost clinic.

What are the benefits?

IUDs are hella effective because once they are inserted there is pretty much no user error. Also, they last for years but can be taken out at any time if the user wishes to become pregnant. Many users report lighter or shorter periods while using an IUD.

What are the drawbacks?

Many women report the insertion process to be quite painful (especially for women who have not had children). There is also an adjustment period that can last anywhere from a week or two to a couple of months. This adjustment period can be fairly painful and include intense cramping for some while it can be fairly mild for others.

The Ring (NuvaRing)

How does it work?

The ring is a small, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina to prevent pregnancy. It works by thickening cervical mucus and by releasing hormones that stop ovulation. The ring is inserted, left in place for three weeks, then removed for a week

How effective is it?

When used perfectly, the ring is 99 percent effective, and with typical use it is 91 percent effective. Slip-ups usually happen when it comes to remembering when to take it out or put it back in.

How much does it cost?

The ring is covered under most insurance plans, otherwise it costs between $30 to $75. Low-cost clinics can also help cover the cost of the ring.

What are the benefits?

The ring stays in during sex so there’s no risk of “ruining the moment.” It can also lead to shorter and lighter periods, hooray! Some people also report improvements in problems with acne or menstrual cramps.

What are the drawbacks?

Some ring users reported issues with spotting or bleeding between periods and/or breast tenderness. Remembering to take the ring out and put it back in at the right time can be problematic—especially for college students with crazy schedules.

The Implant (Nexplanon)

How does it work?

The implant is a rod smaller than a matchstick that gets inserted into the upper arm via a tiny incision and works by releasing hormones which thicken cervical mucus and prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs.

How effective is it?

Similarly to the IUD, the implant requires no upkeep after insertion so both the typical use and perfect use rates are over 99 percent!

How much does it cost?

As with each of the previous methods the implant is covered under most insurance plans, but unfortunately it is pretty pricy on its own. The implant ranges from $450 to $800, but cost can be reduced at low-cost clinics.

What are the benefits?

After insertion one is good to go for three years and doesn’t have to remember any extra steps in the heat of the moment. Many women also experience lighter periods or sometimes no periods at all.

What are the drawbacks?

Some gal pals experience the exact opposite of lighter periods, meaning irregular or constant periods. These women usually decide the implant is not for them and try a different method.

What do I do with all this information?

When it comes to contraception there is no “one-size fits all.” Deciding which option is best is a personal process that requires a lot of weighing of possibilities and options. Being realistic about the level of responsibility certain methods require is important to ensure the highest possible efficacy rates. If one doesn’t want to be gifted with an STI or bundle of joy this year, it’s time to make a list and check it twice to determine what type of contraception is best.

Need reassurance that your grandmother was wrong about IUDs being the devil’s work? Email Anna at sex@dailycardinal.com to talk it out.

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