“The Talk” with Ari: Contraceptives: let’s talk spermicide and Plan B

In my last column, I mentioned some of the more popular forms of birth control and ways to prevent STIs. This is a follow-up on the other birth control methods, emergency contraceptives and myths about contraception. 

So, let’s start with the next most effective method, almost as effective as the pill, the patch – Xulane. Similar to the other forms of contraception, the patch has hormones, estrogen and progesterone, embedded in it. Unlike internal or oral birth control, the patch sticks to your skin. You can place it on your bicep, lower back, butt or your stomach, and it will release hormones through the skin to thicken cervical mucus. The patch runs on a weekly schedule and needs to be replaced each week on the same day for three weeks, and then you go patch-free the week of your period. According to Planned Parenthood, it is about 91% effective if you replace it on time, every time. If the patch falls off for more than two days, there is a higher chance of becoming pregnant, so make sure to check that it is on your skin every day. 

The next three birth control methods are used with spermicide, a method that takes on multiple forms like gels, creams or suppositories. Spermicide has chemicals in it rather than hormones. For people who do not want birth control with hormones, spermicide on its own or with other methods is the way to go. Another benefit is that you can get it over-the-counter. However, a side effect is that it can cause vaginal irritation and infections. The birth controls that spermicide can be used with are the diaphragm, the cervical cap and the sponge. The diaphragm is the most effective of the three. It is shaped like a dome and is inserted into the vagina prior to sex. It covers your cervix, preventing sperm from entering it. Similarly, but not as effective, the cervical cap is used the same way. It is shaped like a small bell with the smaller part blocking the cervix. While you can keep a cervical cap in for up to two days, which is longer than the diaphragm, it is still not as effective. The next method you can use with spermicide is the sponge. As the name suggests, it is a sponge that is soaked in spermicide and inserted into the vagina. While it could be as effective as the patch, if you have ever given birth, the effectiveness decreases. 

The last two birth control methods are the withdrawal method and fertility awareness. Even though they don’t use hormones, these methods make pregnancy more likely. For the withdrawal technique, it requires some finesse. While pre-ejaculate does not contain sperm, the chance of pregnancy is still likely. Therefore, even if you withdraw before ejaculating, there is still a chance for sperm to enter the cervix. For the fertility awareness path, there are three different ways to monitor your fertility   ̶̶ the cervical mucus route, taking your temperature every morning or tracking your menstrual cycle. When all three parts are put together, they are more effective than if used separately.

If there is a chance you could be pregnant, emergency contraceptive is an option if you want to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. You can choose between two pills – one that contains ulipristal acetate or one that contains levonorgestrel. The best morning after pill is one with ulipristal acetate because it is effective longer than other competitors, functioning up to five days after unprotected sex. There is only one on the market – Ella, and you need a doctor’s prescription for it. Most people buy levonorgestrel pills like Plan B from drug stores and pharmacies. Pills with levonorgestrel are most effective up to three days after unprotected sex. 

One myth with emergency contraceptive is that it will affect your fertility after taking it  a certain amount of times. This is not true. You can take emergency contraceptive as much as you want. However, it is not a viable option for long-term, so that is where birth controls come in handy in preventing pregnancy. Another myth is that emergency contraceptive is an abortion pill. It does not attack a fertilized egg, but rather it kills any viable sperm trying to make its way to an egg.

With any birth control method, it is best to discuss with a doctor which one would be best for you. There are methods that promote fertility, lessen acne or help people have a consistent period. Something to be said about any birth control method is that there is no one right method. If the pill is not working for you, you can talk to a doctor about changing it to either another brand of the pill or another method like the IUD. Until next time, stay informed Bulldogs!