Taking control of birth control

Misconceptions, mishaps, and missing pieces of the contraceptive puzzle

Condoms and Pills

Condoms? The pill? It’s anyone’s choice, but you should choose. Photo courtesy of Women’s Health Info

Perhaps it’s fitting that contraception and misconception have a similar ring. After all, avoiding conception means understanding a lot, aside from the basic mechanics of sex. Nurse practitioner Elisabeth Scott says misconceptions about birth control are dangerous.

“[People think] it will cause you to get breast cancer, other cancers, or it will cause you to have blood clots,” Scott told The Link.

Scott says it’s important to keep these risks in perspective, and that many factors affect these risks, like whether or not you smoke and your family history. She notes that pregnancy comes with its own risks.

As well, Scott continues, some are confused about the lasting effects of hormonal birth control. Many people who want to get pregnant in the near future are afraid they won’t be able to if they use hormonal forms of birth control.

On the other hand, for women who do choose birth control, Scott stresses the importance of using it properly.

“Some of the saddest and craziest stuff that I see is women coming in with unintended pregnancies because they were misinformed about birth control,” she explained.

According to Scott, many women demonstrate a lack of knowledge about their own anatomy, especially when discussions arise about where certain types of birth control go. For example, intra-uterine devices (IUDs) are good for long-term use and are inserted into the uterus by health care professionals.

[pullquote]“Some of the saddest and craziest stuff that I see is women coming in with unintended pregnancies because they were misinformed about birth control.”
— Elizabeth Scott, nurse practitioner[/pullquote]A lack of understanding of these mechanics may be why IUDs haven’t totally caught on in North America, though they’re the most commonly used contraception in the world.

Risks do exist. It’s hard to talk to a crowd of women without at least one expressing relief at being off the pill because of how it made them feel.

Katerina, who asked for her last name to be excluded, is a nurse who works in an emergency room who had an unpleasant experience with an IUD.

“I recently had the misfortune of getting my IUD in my abdominal cavity and had to go for surgery to get it removed,” she said.

At the end of the day, what works for one may not be the best for another. So how to choose? Options for Sexual Health (OPT) is a specialized sexual health clinic that provides consultations and advice. According to its website, it provides confidential, non-judgmental, pro-choice, sex-positive services to people of all ages, genders, and orientations.

OPT’s website divides contraceptive methods into five types: Hormonal methods like the pill, barrier methods like male or female condoms, intrauterine devices, natural methods like abstinence, and emergency contraception like Plan B.

According to Manav Gill, acting director of nursing and clinical services, OPT’s nurses are specially certified in sexual health. Nurses are able to talk in detail about forms of contraception people might not have considered before.

What’s more, like many sexual health clinics, OPT offers contraception at cost, unlike pharmacies which may charge a dispensing fee. Gill also stresses OPT distributes condoms free of charge.

When asked if she has one piece of advice for young people who are sexually active, Gill is quick to answer: Condoms, condoms, condoms!

Gill says when used properly, they’re actually the best form of contraception.

Condoms are available for free at the Uconnect Resource Centre in SE2 at Burnaby Campus.

“[Students] definitely know the Uconnect has free condoms because we handed out over 40,000 last year,” said administrative assistant Jenn Fedyk.

It’s clear that twenty-somethings are having sex, but the question remains whether they are able or willing to use resources and information available and broaden their contraceptive horizons.

Methods of Birth Control Chart[hr]

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