Monday, November 11, 2013

Birth Control: an Ounce of Prevention

     If you’re a parent or teenager, here’s some good news: The number of adolescents engaging in sexual activity has declined over the past few decades. The bad news: The rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remains high for our young adults.

Abstinence is the only 100-percent effective form of birth control.

     For individuals who choose to be sexually active, here is information on some of the more popular birth control methods:

     One of the most common birth control methods is the birth control pill. It is important to remember that just because birth control pills are frequently used by women, there are still risks involved. Before taking the pill, make sure to weigh the pros and cons.

Advantages:
  • If taken properly, the pill can be 99.9-percent effective in preventing pregnancy
  • Decreased risk of ovarian cancer
  • Keeps a clearer complexion
  • Menstrual cramps may improve
  • Heavy bleeding may subside
  • Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome may improve
  • Periods become shorter and more predictable 
  • A woman can be on birth control up until menopause and not worry about the inability to get pregnant. 

Disadvantages:
  • No protection against STDs
  • Blood clots, stroke and heart attack are a risk (especially in women who smoke!)
  • Periods may become irregular
  • Bloating and breast tenderness are possible
  • Nausea and headache
  • Studies have shown an increased risk of cervical and liver cancer

     It’s important to involve a primary care physician or gynecologist in any discussion involving birth control. Male condoms are the most effective birth control option for preventing STDs.

Advantages:
  • Reduces the risk of STDs
  • Inexpensive and easy to find
  • Normally no side effects (except if you are allergic to latex)
  • No prescription needed

Disadvantages: 
  • Some people think the sensation is not the same 
  • Couples must be consistent when using condoms 
  • According to the American Pregnancy Association, there is a 14-percent failure rate 

     An IUD (Intrauterine Device) is placed inside a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy.

Advantages:
  • Very effective
  • After the device has been placed, maintenance involves a monthly self check to ensure the device is still in place
  • Lasts between five to 10 years

Disadvantages:
  • Must have a prescription
  • Can cause side effects such as cramping, acne, breast tenderness and irregular bleeding
  • May cause an irregular period
  • Will not protect against STDs

     Depo-Provera is an injection of hormones given to a woman by a physician every 11-13 weeks.

Advantages:
  • Highly effective (less than one-percent failure rate)
  • Lighter periods
  • Possibility of no period
  • Protects against ovarian cancers
  • Doesn’t use estrogen

Disadvantages:
  • Will not protect against STDs
  • Fertility may decrease right after ceasing injections
  • Requires a prescription and a doctor’s visit
  • Injections can be painful

     A decision to become sexually active requires a great deal of thought. To prevent unintended pregnancies and STDs, consider all birth control options available to you.

By: Meghan Burket and Anne Gill



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