Birth Control Options Essay, Research Paper
Hannah Lager P.E.
Teen Health Issues
BIRTH CONTROL OPTIONS
Over the years, birth control has evolved into an integral part of our society. Millions of women all over the world use some form of birth control, and it is growing more popular. There are many different kinds of birth control and it is important to be informed of your choices.
In the past twenty years the number of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases has grown dramatically. Alaska has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the United States, and the number continues to grow. Sexually transmitted diseases are running rampant throughout our society, and it is vital to keep abreast of the latest news.
Condoms are the only guaranteed way, short of abstinence, to prevent both pregnancy and infection. They are one of the most common and accessible contraceptives on the market today, and are safe and effective when used properly.
There are two main kinds of condoms. Male condoms, the most popular of the two, and female condoms. Male condoms are made of latex, plastic, or natural membranes. They look like long, thin, deflated balloons. Male condoms stop body fluids from mixing during intercourse, and when used correctly are about 97% effective. Condoms are generally safe, though some people may have allergic reactions to latex. Spermicides, such as Nonoxynol-9, can also cause allergic reactions in some individuals.
Female condoms are made of polyurethane, a thin plastic, and are safe for people who are allergic to latex. The condom is used inside the woman’s vagina and is 95% effective when used correctly. Many users of the female condom have lauded it’s benefits, such as an added feeling of control, the ease in purchasing the condom (female condoms are available over the counter), and the low failure rate. Other consumers, however, have complained that the condom is difficult to insert, harder to find because not as many stores carry female condoms, and is more expensive than its male counterpart.
Although both types of condoms have many advantages, such as stopping the spread of diseases and preventing pregnancy, there are disadvantages. Condoms break easily and holes can form almost instantly when oil-based lubricants, such as Vaseline, suntan oil or whipped cream, are used. Some men find it difficult to maintain an erection with a condom on or complain of a loss of sensation while using a condom. Skin condoms are an alternative to latex for preventing pregnancy, but do not stop diseases from spreading. Polyurethane condoms are a better choice than skin condoms, since they prevent infection as well as pregnancy. Both male and female condoms come in colored, flavored and textured varieties.
Oral contraceptives are also widely used. Over seven women take them daily, and they are safe to use with other forms of birth control (i.e. condoms). There are two types of oral contraceptives: combined (”the Pill”), and progestin-only (”the Mini-Pill”). Pills are the most requested form of birth control, partly because of their lack of major side affects. Combined pills contain two hormones, estrogen and progestin, and prevent pregnancy by stopping the body from ovulating (releasing an egg). The “Mini-Pill” contains only progestin. It works by thickening the cervical mucus so that the sperm cannot reach the egg. Combined pills are 99.9% effective, and the “Mini-Pills” are 99.5%. Neither pill protects the user from sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
Although pills are popular, there is some speculation as to their long-term effects on the body. Doctors who prescribe pills are required to inform the potential users of the risks. 1 in 14,000 users between the ages of 30 and 39 will experience heart attacks, and stokes occur five times more frequently among pill users (1 in 2,700). The risks for smokers are higher. Blood clots and high blood pressure are also possibilites.
There are currently studies underway that are researching the long-term effects of oral contraceptives. The CDC and the NICHD are co-sponsoring a long-term project to analyze the pill’s relationship to cancer of the reproductive tract and breast cancer. Many people are also concerned about cervical cancer. Yearly Pap smears and breast exams are strongly recommended to check for the appearance of these diseases.
Oral contraceptives can both help and hurt some women with depression. Pills with more estrogen are usually linked to pill-related depression, but the more popular pills that have lower doses of estrogen have not been proven to either alleviate or worsen depression.
Depo-Provera injections are another commonly used type of female birth control. Depo-Provera is a shot containing a hormone similar to progesterone. It stops the woman from ovulating, and can provide other contraceptive and physical benefits. The shot must be administered every three months or thirteen weeks. The shot may eliminate menstruation, and can improve both PMS and depression. The Depo-Provera shot is 99.7% effective in preventing pregnancy.
The diaphragm and the cervical cap are slightly less popular than the above stated methods of birth control, but they are both effective. The diaphragm is a rubber disk that is inserted into the vagina and covers the cervix. It blocks the semen from entering the cervix, and has a higher success rate when used in combination with spermicide. When used correctly, it is 94% effective. Diaphragms are only available by prescription.
There are serious disadvantages and medical risks associated with the diaphragm. Use increases the risk of urinary tract infections, and if the diaphragm is inserted incorrectly it can slip out of place during sex. If the diaphragm is left in for more than 48 hours the risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome is increased.
The cervical cap is made of soft rubber. The user fills the cap with spermicide, then places the cap on her cervix. Suction keeps the cap in place. The caps come in four sizes, and, like diaphragms, are only available by prescription. The cap can be put in an hour before sex, and will work for 48 hours. The cervical cap can help prevent messy sex during menstruation, and is about 91% effective.
The cervical cap has disadvantages as well. The cap can increase the risk of inflammation of the surface of the cervix and can also increase the risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome. If the cap is improperly inserted, it can slip out of position during sex. The latex can cause irritation or an allergic reaction, and a new fitting is necessary after having a baby, a miscarriage, an abortion, or gaining fifteen pounds. Doctors recommend replacing the cap every year.
Many religious groups promote abstinence as a form of birth control. Abstinence is defined as avoiding sex. It is 100% effective in stopping the spread of disease, and 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. Abstinence can be a good option for some, but circumstances can change suddenly, and being prepared is important. When abstinence is combined with another form of contraception, such as condoms or spermicide, it is a realistically workable plan for birth control.
Birth control is an important personal decision. The type of birth control you choose and its effectiveness can play a major part in the rest of your life. It is vital to make the proper decision, and educating oneself about the kinds of birth control available is essential to making that choice.
Abstinence. http://www.emory.edu/whsc/med/famplan/abstinence.html. May 11, 2001.
Cervical Cap. http://www.emory.edu/whsc/med/famplan/cervicalcap.html. May 11, 2001.
Combined Oral Contraceptives. http://www.emory.edu/whsc/med/famplan/pills.html.
May 11, 2001.
Condoms. http://www.emory.edu/whsc/med/famplan/condom.html. May 11, 2001.
Depo-Provera Injections. http://www.emory.edu/whsc/med/famplan/depo.html. May 11, 2001.
Diaphragm. http://www.emory.edu/whsc/med/famplan/diaphragm.html. May 11, 2001.
Medroxyprogesterone. http://health.yahoo.com/health/drugs_tree/medication_or_drug /0840/index2.html. May 11, 2001.
Progestin-Only Pills. http://www.emory.edu/whsc/med/famplan/minipills.html. May 11, 2001.
Reality Female Condom. http://www.emory.edu/whsc/med/famplan/reality.html. May 11, 2001.