Birth Control Basics
By: Elias Azizi, Contributing Writer
Parents and teachers around the world have a major role. They are the ones who will train the next generation of youth by educating them on pertinent topics. As teens around the world grow up, they learn dozens of concepts that they can apply to their lives like math skills and writing skills. However, one subject tends to be avoided despite its necessity; sexual education. The birds and the bees. Teaching children and teens about sexual health and activity is almost always awkward. Not to mention, the lack of maturity from the majority of youths doesn’t make it much easier. However, sexual education is a very important topic for all individuals regardless of what walk of life they’re in. Most people in their lifetimes will perform sexual activities at least once, so it’s important for them to understand the risks that are involved with it; a major one is pregnancy. Accidental pregnancies are not uncommon amongst unsuspecting teens who lack knowledge of sexual activities. In order to avoid unwanted pregnancies, teens must have a solid understanding of different types of birth control and the risks associated with each one. Additionally, barrier birth control methods should always be used to prevent the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.
Birth control method #1: Condoms
For most individuals, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of birth control is condoms. Condoms are rubber barriers that prevent sperm from entering the vagina. There are two types of condoms: female and male ones. The male condom is used by placing it on the penis to create a thin wall between the penis and the vagina. By doing such, sperm is unable to reach the vagina, and pregnancy is avoided. The female condom, on the other hand, is placed inside the vagina which also creates a wall between the penis and vagina.
Low cost: Compared to other forms of contraception, condoms cost very little. A pack of 24-36 condoms should only cost about 10 dollars, which is excellent value. The low cost of condoms is one of the reasons why it’s such a great form of birth control; most people, regardless of their financial state, could buy them.
Availability: Unlike other forms of birth control, condoms do not require any prior healthcare visits or prescriptions. As well, they can be bought at almost any pharmacy, which makes them easily accessible.
There’s still a risk of pregnancy: Barrier birth control isn’t always perfect. With condoms, the risk of pregnancy isn’t very high, but it’s still high enough to be concerning. On average, 15 out of 100 couples who use male condoms have an accidental pregnancy. 21 out of 100 couples who use female condoms have an accidental pregnancy as well. However, many of these accidental pregnancies are caused by the incorrect use of condoms. Evidently, condoms are highly effective, but they still carry a risk.
Birth control method #2: Contraceptive pills
Contraceptive pills (more commonly referred to as “The Pill”), are another great birth control method. Similar to the condom, it’s also a very well-known method of birth control but the way it works is much more complex. When a female takes a contraceptive pill, the hormones in the pill stop ovulation from happening. Ovulation is the process that releases egg cells during the menstrual cycle. By preventing egg cells from being released, it is practically impossible for one to get pregnant. In every pregnancy, there must be an egg cell and a sperm cell. Contraceptive pills must be taken at the same time daily in order to maximize their rate of success.
Very high success rate: When used correctly and consistently, contraceptive pills have a 99% success rate. It’s almost a perfect method of birth control. The only reason why it isn’t 100% effective is due to the fact that some bodies react differently with contraceptive pills in ways that suppress its effects. It’s quite a complex process. Many people who use the pill will try out multiple brands and types of hormonal birth control before finding their “perfect” pill.
Easily reversible: The effects of contraceptive pills can be easily reversed. All one needs to do to reverse the effects is to stop taking the pills. This means that contraceptive pills don’t make one permanently infertile. One can take these pills whenever they want for whatever long period without having to fear infertility.
A plethora of side effects: Contraceptive pills may be effective, but they can cause many mild to severe side effects. Some of the mild side effects of contraceptive pills are nausea, decreased sex drive, and breast tenderness. Some of the more major side effects are deep vein thrombosis (formation of a blood clot in a vein), health attack, stroke, and even a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs). These side effects aren’t all guaranteed to happen if you take contraceptive pills, but it’s important to be aware of the risks.
Birth control method #3: Vasectomy
Unlike the other mentioned forms of birth control that have been listed, a vasectomy involves a surgical procedure. A vasectomy is essentially the clipping of the vas deferens in the male penis; tubes that transport sperm to the penile shaft. It’s a relatively harmless surgery and takes around a half-hour to complete. Before a vasectomy, the individual who is requesting the surgery must have a consultation with a urologist prior to the surgery. During this consultation, the surgeon will discuss what the surgery will do and the potential risks associated with the procedure. It’s definitely not a very common form of birth control since there are many non-surgical methods that are simpler. Not to mention, having a vasectomy is quite a big decision that should be carefully thought out.
Very high effectiveness: By blocking the passageway of sperm, it’s practically impossible for any sperm to be present in semen. Men who have had vasectomies still ejaculate, but their seminal fluid does not contain any sperm cells. Therefore, it makes sense why the effectiveness of vasectomies is 99%. The only reason why it isn’t perfect is due to incorrectly performed surgeries that don’t fully block the pathway of sperm to the penis. However, the majority of individuals who have had a vasectomy shouldn’t have to worry about accidental pregnancies.
Hard to reverse: The effects of condoms and contraceptive pills can be easily reversed in a short period of time, but vasectomies aren’t that easy to reverse. Since vasectomies are surgical procedures, to reverse their effects, another surgery must be done. Vasectomy reversal surgery is not very effective, especially when they’re done multiple years after the initial vasectomy. This is why vasectomies are such a big decision. If one is unsure on whether or not they should receive a vasectomy, they should probably not do it because they’ll possibly regret it.
High value: Yes, a vasectomy can cost upwards of one thousand dollars, but it still has a great value. Spending a thousand dollars once for lifelong birth control is much cheaper than spending ten dollars every week or month for a box of condoms throughout your life. This is why condoms tend to be a preferred method of birth control among older men.
The only completely effective method of birth control
So far, the three forms of birth control that have been listed are very effective against pregnancies, but not perfect. Condoms, contraceptive pills, and vasectomies are not 100% effective forms of birth control. They can all fail depending on circumstances like proper use. However, there is one form of birth control that is not only 100% effective against pregnancy but also protects you from all STIs (sexually transmitted infections). The flawless form of birth control is none other than abstinence. Abstinence is simply avoiding any sexual activity. By avoiding sexual activity, it’s literally impossible to become pregnant or contract an STI. It’s 100% effective. The only downside of abstinence is the lack of pleasure involved with it, but that’s a small price to pay for complete protection from pregnancy and STIs.
Evidently, there are many different forms of birth control; some are surgical, and some are non-surgical. Each type of contraception has its own advantages and disadvantages. All forms of birth control are somewhat effective, even nearly perfect, but only one is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy; abstinence. Abstinence is the only form of birth control that costs nothing, fully ends risk of pregnancy, and protects one from STIs. Sexual education is a subject that many youths lack knowledge of. It’s important for all teens to have a solid understanding of sex, as well as birth control, in order to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. The majority of teens who perform sexual activities don’t intend on conceiving a child, so they must be able to understand preventatives measures. Yes, it may be a sensitive topic among most, but it’s not a topic that one can just ignore. Everyone should be able to understand their bodies and be aware of ways to safely perform sexual activities.