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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 procedures.

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 Williams.

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 vagina.

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 2005.

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 women.

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.

 

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