Make birth control a priority in your sex life
The only way to guarantee that you won’t get pregnant or contract an STD is to practice abstinence. However, if you’re like the majority of students, you’ll be having your share of sex during your time in college, probably with multiple partners. Thus, it’s vital that you learn to use contraception effectively. Which contraceptive method you choose is a matter of personal taste, and the information here can help you make the decision that’s right for you. Talk to your sexual partner about contraception before things get hot and heavy. The responsibility shouldn’t lie solely on either partner; rather, it should be shared.
Condoms and The Pill
The two most popular birth control methods among college students are latex prophylactics and oral contraceptives. For more information, please visit our guide to condoms and the pill.
Emergency contraceptives are the only form of contraception that can be used post-intercourse. Despite your best planning, there may be times when you have unprotected sex. In the event that a condom tears or a rape occurs, emergency contraceptives may be the best strategy to prevent a pregnancy. An emergency contraceptive can be obtained via a prescription from your family doctor, a walk-in clinic or an on-campus sexual health clinic.
Emergency contraceptives come in pill form and are believed to have a success rate of 99 percent when used properly (although it’s worth noting that this figure is inflated because many women who use an emergency contraceptive following unprotected sex wouldn’t have become pregnant anyhow). Emergency contraceptives alter the cervix so that it becomes inhospitable for sperm. They also work to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg into the lining of the uterus. In the event that an emergency contraceptive fails, it doesn’t cause any harm to a developing fetus. Side effects may include nausea or vomiting.
Never rely on an emergency contraceptive as your only birth control method. It’s not as effective as normal contraceptive methods, and it doesn’t offer any protection against STDs.
These contraceptive methods may not be as popular as condoms or the birth control pill, but they’re still worth mentioning. They include:
- The patch. This performs essentially the same function as the pill, but via a patch on the skin rather than a pill.
- Injection. A hormone that prevents ovulation is injected into the blood every three months. Not recommended unless you cannot use other methods of contraception.
- Vaginal ring. A plastic ring held inside the vagina slowly releases hormones that prevent ovulation.
- Intra-uterine device (IUD). A small copper device is placed inside the uterus. It changes the inner chemistry and kills sperm. It remains inside for up to five years.
- The sponge. A disposable sponge containing spermicide is placed inside the vagina.
- Diaphragm or cervical cap. A latex or silicone dam that covers the cervix and prevents sperm from entering. Often used alongside spermicide.
- The rhythm method. This strategy involves only having sex at times when the woman is believed to not be ovulating. It is not advisable for college students to rely on this method. Ovulation is affected by a number of factors, including stress, exercise and illness, each of which is highly variable in the lives of college students. Thus, college-aged women rarely have stable ovulation cycles.
- Withdrawal. Also called “coitus interruptus,” this barely qualifies as a contraceptive method. It involves a man pulling his penis out of the vagina before ejaculation. It’s better than nothing, but has a very low success rate (only around 80 percent) when compared to other contraceptive methods.