Hands down, the two most important things about sex for college women (and for everyone else) are consent and safety.
Consent can be a big, messy issue, but we don’t normally think about safety being so complicated. Use condoms, always, unless MAYBE you’re 100% sure that you and your partner are both monogamous and have been tested for STIs… and if you’re super concerned about getting pregnant, take the pill, too. But did you know that with typical use, out of every 100 couples who use male condoms for a year, there are 13 pregnancies??
Yeah, neither did I, until I started reconsidering my birth control. I don’t know about you, but that scares the crap out of me. That friendly 98% effective rate is only for PERFECT use. And the Pill? 8 of 100 couples with typical use get pregnant within a year. And ladies, let’s be real. Between our classes, clubs, the gym, friends, homework, and everything else going on in our lives, how many of us can realistically take the pill within 30 minutes of the same time every day? I know I’ve never been able to pull that off. The Patch and the Ring can be more effective than the Pill when used perfectly, but typically, they’re only as effective as typical Pill usage. Not to mention all the weight gain, moodiness, nausea, boob size explosion (ahem, C to DD in a month in my case), and other possible side effects estrogen can have for us. Though they’re non-hormonal, female condoms and pulling out are even less effective than male condoms. And of course, nothing protects you from STIs except condoms, and condoms don’t even protect you from ALL of them.
After learning all this for the first time as a senior in college (thanks, insufficient public school sex ed!), I was really freaking out. The 8 out of 100 chance of pregnancy that I was getting from the Pill is really just not okay with me. I mean, I have classes, a life plan, friendships, a relationship, and so much more going on in my life that don’t leave an inch of room in my life for the stress of a pregnancy, much less a child. So I started looking for things that were more effective, and I found the Shot and IUDs (intrauterine devices). But shots and I are not friends, so I was left with IUDs. They have a 98-99% effectiveness in typical usage, which makes them as effective as getting your tubes tied, and each one can last 5-10 years, but they’re reversible and can be non-hormonal.
I went to my friendly neighborhood gyno and asked her what she thought. She told me it seemed like a great idea for me, since I’m in a committed, monogamous relationship, and I might be traveling after graduation. For me, the IUD is an easy way to not have to worry about prescriptions, taking pills at the right time each day, or the relative uncertainty of condoms. Plus, I’m not sure about my post-college employment, which means I’m not sure about my health insurance… and even though Obama enabled us to stay on our parents’ insurance longer, not all of our parents have health insurance to extend to us. The once-in-5-to-10-years aspect of IUDs can be really great for those of us with uncertain futures.
I don’t think every girl should think about IUDs, since every girl has different preferences and demands of their birth control methods. But even if you’re happy with your current method, I think you should check out more detailed information about its effectiveness and how to use it perfectly. And it’s never a bad idea to double up condoms with another kind of birth control (but do NOT use more than one condom at once). After all, we can never be too careful, and we can never be 100% sure of our partners’ monogamy.
So get informed—I love Planned Parenthood’s website, which was the source of my information in this article—and learn to use your birth control PERFECTLY every time. It can make a huge difference.
Photo credit: http://montifer.tumblr.com/page/46