An aspirin is the
best form of birth control?
by Jenny Lundahl, associate editor
According to Kaiser Health Clinic reports, HPU students need
to be better informed about contraceptive choices and safe
sex practices. According to Jill Williams, PA, some HPU students
think that the body is less damaged by abortion than by preventing
an unwanted pregnancy with birth control pills or other contraceptive
Since abortion is neither an appropriate nor effective birth
control method, and since it is also no protection against
sexually transmitted diseases, Kalamalama begins a series
of articles explaining how students can protect themselves
from STDs and unwanted pregnancies as well as cut their health
care costs. Even though it seems obvious that birth control
is cheaper and healthier than abortion, Williams reports that,
in comparison with national averages, more HPU students use
abortion as a substitute for birth control. This series begins
by examining the different birth control choices and their
effectiveness. Birth control is the responsibility of both
partners in a relationship, and its simplest form, after abstinence,
which is probably unrealistic, is the condom.
The Condom The condom is the only protection that is
made for the penis; however, both partners should always keep
condoms in a convenient location – just in case. Condoms are
98 percent effective and would be 100 percent effective if kept
on throughout intercourse. This of course does not count the
rare occasion when one breaks. Condoms are made from latex,
plastic, or animal tissue – a variety that makes condoms a good
option for people with allergies.
Condoms are easily accessible in drug stores for 25 cents
and up, and some health clinics and family planning centers
provide them for free. Except for occasional breakage, the
only disadvantages of condoms are that, according to some
men, they can inhibit sensation. While there are only a few
ways for men to protect themselves from unexpected parenthood
– condoms, vasectomies and withdrawal – women have several
different ways of preventing pregnancy. Women can choose from
the pill, the shot, the diaphragm, the female condom, and
last but not the least, emergency contraception, also called
the-morning-after-pill. Each of these has different advantages,
disadvantages, costs, and of course different levels of effectiveness.
The Pill The birth control pill is the most common contraceptive
device and provides 95-99.9 percent effectiveness. Various kinds
of pills are available, and women need only visit a health clinic
to see an M.D., PA or nurse practitioner to receive a prescription.
Pills are taken once a day for a 28-day period followed by a
seven-day break, which forces menstruation to take place at
the end of the cycle. This is especially good for women who
didn’t have a regular period before.
The different hormones included in the pills prevent pregnancy
in three ways: They prevent the ovary from releasing the egg;
they prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg by thickening the
cervical mucus; and they prevent fertilized eggs from implanting
in the uterus. The advantages of the pill include reduction
of pre-menstrual tension, menstrual cramping, flow, etc.
The pill is also known to provide protection against several
severe diseases including ovarian and endometrial cancers, pelvic
inflammatory disease, non-cancerous growths of the breasts,
ovarian cysts, and osteoporosis. Except that some women find
it a hassle to remember to take the pill on a daily basis, disadvantages
– side effects – are rare.
In individual cases, these might include weight gain or loss,
mood swings, breast tenderness, and other minor discomforts.
Occasionally, some women experience more serious problems such
as blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. However, these side
effects are more common amongst women over the age of 35 who
smoke cigarettes. The pill is not the problem – smoking is.
The cost for pills is $15-$25 per monthly pack.The-morning-after-pill
must be taken within 72 hours and it is only 72 percent effective
in preventing preganancies.
The Shot The shot, known as Depo-Provera, is becoming
popular for several reasons in addition to its 99.7 percent
effectiveness. Very similar to the pill, the shot contains the
same hormones, which work the same way by preventing the egg
from being released and so on. While it needs to be injected
in the arm or buttock – a disadvantage for women who don’t like
needles, it protects against pregnancy for 12 weeks.
One of the major side effects of the shot – and a reason for
its growing propularity – is the fact that for most women the
menstrual period will eventually stop. Other possible side effects
are similar to the pill’s, except for the possibility after
stopping the shots a woman might experience a delay in conception.
The shot costs $30-$75 per injection, which works out to be
the same as the monthly cost for the pill. Students with Kaiser
insurance pay only $21 for the quarterly shot, according to
The Diaphragm or the Cervical Cap The diaphragm and
the cervical cap are devices made from latex that are placed
inside the vagina immediately before intercourse. Both are cup-shaped,
but the cervical cup is deeper. A clinician will assist individuals
in finding the right size (four sizes only) and will provide
instruction on how and where to place the device in order to
prevent pregnancy. The effectiveness of the diaphragm varies
from 80-94 percent while the cap varies from 60-90 percent depending
on previous pregnancies. Both devices increase in effectiveness
when used together with a spermicide.
The advantages of these two contraception possibilities are
that they pose no major health concerns and they can last several
years. However, some women find them messy and difficult to
handle, and some develop allergies to latex or spermicide. Also,
neither the diaphragm nor the cap can be used during menstruation
or vaginal infections. A known disadvantage of the diaphragm
is that it can increase the risk of a bladder infection. The
cost for diaphragm or cap is $13-$25 each, and $4-$8 for supplies
of spermicide jelly or cream.
The Female Condom or Spermicide The female condom is
a protective device to be inserted deep in the vagina before
intercourse. It has 79-95 percent effectiveness and is also
the only effective female protection against sexually transmitted
diseases. Spermicide comes in different forms including contraceptive
foam, jelly, film, or suppository. It is inserted deep into
the vagina shortly before intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
Spermicide immobilizes the sperm, and keeps it from joining
the egg, and it has an effectiveness of 72-94 percent. However,
spermicide is very short-lived, since it dissolves inside the
The advantages of the female condom include the fact that it
is not made from latex, which helps women with allergies. Both
female condom and spermicides are easily accessible in regular
drug stores. Possible problems that some women find with these
two contraception options are that they can be messy; the spermicide
can cause allergies and irritation for both partners, and the
female condom can be difficult to insert. The cost for a female
condom is $2.50 plus $8 for applicator kits of foam and gel;
refills are usually a bit cheaper.
A final note on effectiveness: to insure 100 percent effectiveness,
all contraception should be used together with condoms during
intercourse. All the lovers out there need to remember that
protection is necessary and that it is everyone’s responsibility
to avoid unwanted pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted
diseases. It takes two to make a baby. With all the birth control
options available to couples today, there is no excuse for using
abortion merely to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
In its next issue, Kalamalama will examine STDs and their prevention.
By the way, about that aspirin – you have to hold it firmly
between the knees.
Source: The information in this article is from Kaiser
Health Clinic and “Facts for Life,” a Planned Parenthood brochure.
Pills for men?
by Vivian Chung, staff writer
All the hoopla surrounding abortion
and family planning should not persuade men that women
are the only ones who should know about and practice
birth control methods.
There are currently 13 contraceptive
methods available, and, until now, men could only
use three: condoms, withdrawal, and vasectomies. But,
while it’s too early for champagne, there is hope
on the horizon.
Research conducted in the last few years
has proven that a male birth control pill is possible
and 100 percent effective. Dutch pharmaceutical company
Organon has started full-scale clinical trials. David
Kinniburgh, of the Center for Reproductive Biology
at the University of Edinburgh predicts that a male
version of the “Pill” will hit shelves sometime after
The male version of the pill, which
contains desogestrel, a synthetic hormone that is
the main component of the female pill, stops the production
of sperm in much the same manner it prevents ovulation
In tests, the contraceptive showed no
harmful side effects and maintained normal levels
of testosterone in the body for sex drive. After discontinuing
the pill, sperm concentration of all men tested returned
to pre-study levels within 16 weeks.
Skeptics are concerned mostly about
how the idea of a male contraceptive will appeal to
men. Some men are sensitive about their sexuality
and thus may fear that the pill will leave them impotent,
said Susan Scrimshaw, an anthropologist and dean of
the University of Illinois School of Public Health.
There are also issues of trust involved.
Many women say they could trust men not to forget
only if men were the ones who got pregnant.