Finding the right birth control method for you is not as easy as it may seem. Judging from the numerous side effects, lack of accessibility and negative past experiences, only sixty percent of reproductive age women participate in safe sex.
Although not all birth control methods work the same for every woman, when used correctly, present-day contraceptives methods have proven to be very effective! Seventy-two percent of women who practice in safe sex report to using nonpermanent, hormonal, types of birth control.
The Pill is the most common type of birth control among never-married women in their teens and twenties—10.7 million U.S., women used the oral contraceptive during 2006-2008.
Although the Pill has been the most commonly used birth control method since 1982, there are several hormonal (and non-hormonal) birth control methods that are available to you ladies! Options such as an IUD, a vaginal ring, the Patch, an implant, the Shot, good old condoms, and emergency contraceptives are among some of the most common birth control methods used by women ages 15-44.
Many hormonal birth control methods are often associated with side effects such as weight gain, changes in skin and ovulation cycles, as well as variations in mood swings and headaches. For example, the Pill might reduce acne in some women and worsen the skin quality in others. It takes time and effort to find the right match for you!
Women that report to using non-hormonal methods, such as the copper IUD, often complain of severe pain during insertion as well as continuous heavy bleeding and increased menstrual cramps during the first few months.
However, non-hormonal birth control methods are not all that bad! The copper IUD eliminates other side effects such as weight gain and blood clots, which are often associated with hormonal contraceptives. The copper IUD can also remain inside a woman for up to ten years and be used as an emergency contraceptive if inserted five days after unprotected sex.
Now that all the statistics have been laid out on the table, we talked to a few college women on their experience with various types of birth control methods!
1. The Pill
The Pill remains the most common method of birth control among women in their teens and twenties to this day. When going on the Pill, if you start the pack within the first five days of the start of your period, pregnancy protection begins right away. However, if you start at any other point in your menstrual cycle, pregnancy protection begins after seven days.
There are two types of birth control pills out there: combination pills and mini pills.
Combination pills contain two types of hormones, estrogen, and progestin. Whereas mini pills only contain the progestin hormone. The combination pill might not be the right fit for you if you are prone to headaches and nausea. The main difference between the two is that every pill within the mini pill pack is active — there are no placebo/ sugar pills.
"I've been on the Pill for about a year now and I've had no issues with it other than occasional breakouts here and there. It was really hard to get used to taking it at the same time every day, but once I got the hang of it it was relatively easy to keep track of. I set up daily alarms on my phone as reminders and have yet to miss a pill."
Although the Pill is the most common type of birth control, there are other options out there —NuvaRing being one of them!
"My gynecologist suggested that I start using the NuvaRing the summer before my freshmen year of college. He explained that the ring is the size of a hair-tie and is not as weird or difficult to use as people often think. I was told to insert the ring vaginally and leave it in for three weeks. You take the ring out at the start of the fourth week, two days later you get your period. At the end of the fourth week, your period is done and you put in a new ring to start the process over. I haven't felt any negative side effects of using the ring and find it really easy to track. My periods are also so much lighter and I no longer get horrible stomach and back pains."
Many women, myself included, often fear the thought of using a vaginal contraceptive like the NuvaRing. Although it may work for some, being a college student that often forgets to sleep due to high stress and tightly packed schedule, changing out the Ring on time doesn't seem like a plausible idea.
This leaves many college women wondering what less time-consuming birth control options are available to them. The Shot is one of many.
3. The Shot
"After a couple years of being on the Pill, I realized it wasn't for me. I could never remember to take it at the same time each day and even when I set alarms as reminders, I would just instinctively turn them off and ignore them. When I told my doctor, she suggested I start getting the Depo Provera shot. Basically, its a shot of hormones that you get every three months. But alas, the Shot was not all glitz and glam. When I first got it, I legitimately had a thirty day period and even though it was light the entire time, it was still alarming. My gynecologist told me this was normal and that it will work itself out. When I got the second shot all was A-OK! I didn't get my period for the rest of the time I was on the Shot which was nice, however, it made me think I was pregnant all the time. I read articles online that said if you get too many of the Depo Provera shots it can affect your bone health so ultimately, I made the decision to stop. I'm back to using the Pill now. However, the scary thing is I have been off the shot for six months now and my period is yet to return to its normal cycle."
Yikes, that doe not sound too appealing! What if you're scared of shots and don't want to make a trip to your local health clinic every three months? The Implant might be the right fit for you.
Nexaplonon, a thin implant that goes in your arm for up to three years, is one of the most effective birth controls available. The implant is often correlated with light breakouts and ultimately the stop of a monthly period.
"I've had the Implant for over two years now. I've had no issues with this birth control up until now. The process of getting it inserted was a little painful. My doctor first gave me the numbing shot, which was the most painful part of the procedure, followed by the insertion of the implant. The whole procedure took a little over ten minutes to complete. I had a light period for the first week and a half. However, it stopped for the next two years. I have to get the implant out in the next three months and I've noticed the light, continuous spotting from week to week. I've had no issues with Nexaplonon other than the light spotting and occasional breakouts, and would highly recommend it to other women!"
However, just because one woman had a positive experience with a certain type of birth control doesn't mean everyone else will too.
We've heard a lot of horror stories about the implant, from terrible scarring to painful migraines, make sure to talk to your gynecologist about Nexaplonon being the right fit for you!
There are two types of IUDs on the market — copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs. The ParaGard IUD is non-hormonal, it's wrapped in a small amount of copper and protects you from pregnancy for up to twelve years. However, the hormonal IUDs use the hormone progestin to prevent unwanted pregnancies and can last anywhere from three to seven years.
"I decided to get an IUD the summer after my gap year. I got the copper non-hormonal IUD, just because I didn't want to deal with breakouts or possible weight gain. During the insertion, it felt as if I got my life's worth period cramps all at once. The IUD actually ended up falling out a few days later and I had to go in and get a replacement. However, I've had no problems with it ever since."
If you're thinking about getting an IUD, make sure to take ibuprofen to decrease possible pain an hour or so before your scheduled procedure!
Although the Pill is the most commonly used hormonal birth control method among college-aged women, a higher percentage of women report to using condoms throughout their college career. Fifty-five percent of women in their teens and early twenties report to using condoms where as only thirty-five percent report to using the Pill.
Condoms are the only type of birth control that can protect you from getting at STD/STI from your partner! Although we have yet to meet a woman who prefers to use female condoms over the traditional male condoms ourselves, there are women out there that enjoy the protection and control that the female condom offers to them.
"Condoms were my primary method of birth control before I got the implant. I now use condoms if my partner and I are not exclusively seeing each other."
There are various condoms available on the market; some condoms come in different flavors and colors, while others are ribbed and promise to add extra stimulation to the receiving partner.
So, what if the condom breaks and you're not using any backup methods?
7. Plan B
Plan B, often referred to as "the morning after pill", is a pressed pill containing the levonorgestrel hormone that is often used as an emergency contraception method. The common misconception about Plan B is that if you take it too many times it will have a negative effect on your fertility in the long run. There are no safety concerns about using emergency contraceptive pills more than once. Plan B should be taken within 5 days of unprotected sex and can reduce the risk of pregnancy up to eighty nine percent, however it is more effective the sooner you take it!
"I've used Plan B twice in my life and have had no issues with it aside from minor side effects. I obviously wouldn't recommend using Plan B regularly, but I still think it is a good contraceptive option for when other contraceptive methods fail. The pill is easily-accessible — you can get it at CVS or if you don't want to pay the big bucks, sometimes your school health center will offer it for less. Once you take it, you will get VERY nauseous but it is critical that you don't throw up for a couple of hours. Aside from that, the only other side effects I had were an irregular period and mood swings. I think plan B is a great second option and I will absolutely take the minor side effects over an accidental pregnancy. That being said, I do have friends that have had horrible experiences with plan B: one of my friends ended up in the hospital after having a bad reaction to the pill."
That being said, relying on emergency contraceptives as your primary method of birth control is not as effective as using a birth control before or while having sex.
So there you have it — here is everything you need to know about the most commonly used birth control methods by college women!