Figuring Out the Best Option
By Noa Meister
To help navigate the many options for birth control, The BCC Voice conducted an informal survey through social media, asking women which birth control methods they preferred and why.
There are pros and cons to every variety of birth control, and some are more popular than others. As with any type of medication, there can be complications and side effects that aren’t for everyone. With this in mind, The BCC Voice offers a mix of survey responses from women and girls, information from Planned Parenthood and personal experience to help you figure out the best option for you and your body.
One of the most popular types of birth controls is “the pill.” A hormonal birth control pill is taken orally every day, providing a regular distribution of hormones within a woman’s body. There is a common belief that the pill must be taken at the same time every day or else it will be detrimental to a woman’s body. Ideally, the pill should be taken at the same time every day so that it becomes a habit. If a woman forgets to take her pill one or more days, she can run the risk of having imbalanced hormones or a higher chance of getting pregnant. If a woman has skipped the pill for a day or more, there may be physical complications that can end up making the pill the wrong form of birth control for her. If there isn’t consistency in taking the pill, then there may be a surge in hormones which can cause irregular periods or other physical problems.
Hormonal birth control creates a balance of estrogen and progestin, which prevents the body from ovulating. I have tried two varieties of the pill, Natazia and Lo Loestrin Fe. Natazia helped with my period cramps, but made me break out with acne. That’s why I moved on to Loestrin, which helped with cramps and with acne. However, if I forget to take it, my body reacts negatively. I start bleeding right away and it takes about a week for my body to get back onto a normal hormonal track.
Many women use the pill as a stepping stone for other types of birth control because they don’t want to have to remember to take the pill every day. They would rather have a less mindful process when using birth control.
Some women who took our survey use NuvaRing, a flexible piece of plastic that releases a low dose of hormones to keep them from ovulating. Unlike the pill’s daily regimen, the NuvaRing requires only monthly replacement. According to Planned Parenthood’s website, the NuvaRing “is used for three weeks and then disposed the fourth week. After that, another NuvaRing is re-inserted and the process starts all over again.”
The NuvaRing seems easier to use than the pill, because you don’t have to remember to take it every day. But the NuvaRing intimidates me because of the insertion every three weeks. I would be worried that I would forget or mess it up. Many women aren’t intimidated by this form of birth control, though, and it is a popular option.
Some of the negative side effects of the NuvaRing, according to the women taking the survey, include “major headaches that wouldn’t go away after multiple hours — even with Advil and Tylenol.” One women added that her partner could feel the NuvaRing during sex and it was uncomfortable. If a woman takes out her NuvaRing for sex, it’s recommended by Planned Parenthood that she doesn’t leave it out for more than three hours, although the NuvaRing shouldn’t be taken out before the three-week period is over.
Another popular form of birth control among survey respondents was an implant in the arm. Similar to the NuvaRing and the pill, this form has progestin in it. It is inserted by a doctor and then left in for up to four years. Planned Parenthood has written that “the progestin in the implant keeps the woman from ovulating as well as thickening the mucus in the cervix.” The thickened mucus essentially stops the sperm from meeting the egg and swimming through to make the woman pregnant.
The way the implant is inserted is similar to a shot, in that it feels “as though a needle is being pushed into the arm,” as shared by one survey respondent who has the implant. Many women have the area numbed before they get the implant, which is about the size of a matchstick. The arm may be bruised for about a week or two after insertion, but all in all this form of birth control is one that you wouldn’t have to think much about.
Another popular form of birth control among the women surveyed is an intra-uterine device, or IUD. The IUD is “99 percent effective in terms of stopping pregnancy,” according to Planned Parenthood, but it can start off as the most painful. An IUD is inserted by a doctor and blocks sperm from reaching the uterus. There are multiple accounts of women who have had their periods stop altogether, while other women have said they bled for months after the IUD was inserted. Non-hormonal IUDs, or copper IUDs, can be left in for up to 12 years, whereas hormonal IUDs can be kept in place from three to six years. The IUD kind of looks like a mix between a “T” and a “Y.” There is a tail and two arms sticking out that block sperm from reaching the fallopian tubes.
Once an IUD is inserted, most women don’t have to think about it. However, it can cause a lot of pain during the first two weeks. About half of the women surveyed who use an IUD said they had “bad cramping for a week after the birth control was inserted and it was a very painful process getting the object inserted.” After about a week and a half, they said that the pain went away, and now they don’t even think about their birth control.
While the birth controls presented here are highly effective, they do not protect women from sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) caused by bacteria or yeast, or diseases (STDs) such as HPV, AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes and more. If either partner has an STI or STD, condoms should be used to protect both people from infection. Birth control isn’t just for women. Men should use condoms, which is great birth control that can not only stop pregnancy, but can also prevent disease and infection, and is recommended even when a woman is on birth control. Condoms are available for free in Berkeley City College’s Wellness Center.
At the top: Image courtesy of Welcome Images.