Safe sex: Your one-stop guide to contraception
Suitable contraception leads to safe sex.
For international students living on their own, safe sex is a priority. Most of us want to avoid any accidental mistakes from happening. It is an important reality.
Phillip Goldstone, a medical director at Marie Stopes, a network of abortion clinics in Australia states, “there are around 4,000 international students that access abortion services around Australia.”
Around the world sex education varies, and some international students may not have had the opportunity to learn about the different ways to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
While this may sound scary, the correct use of contraceptives ensures safe, stress free sex.
What is contraception and what does it do?
In a nutshell, contraception is a method or technique used to prevent pregnancy as a result of sexual intercourse. Contraception comes in a variety of forms, to suit a variety of needs; everyone is different and methods that work for others, may not necessarily work for you.
Some methods provide protection against pregnancy only while others provide additional protection from STDs, which means you may want to consider using both types or figure out one best for your situation.
The world of contraceptives is confusing, that’s why we’ve listed a few contraception methods down below to help.
Let’s talk about the C word
Before letting you in on all the saucy details, we went around and talked to other international students about their thoughts on all things contraception.
All of our interviewees unanimously agreed that contraception is very important.
Whether it be serious or casual, long term or short – protection is a big part of having a healthy sexual relationship.
Gayathri, a Trinity College international student believes being protected “allows you to have intercourse… without having to deal [with] all the unwanted consequences… [and] protects you from diseases”.
When asked about the different contraception methods that they were aware of, a common answer amongst all the interviewees was the trusty ol’ condom, with reference to both the female and male form.
Another popular answer was the birth control pill. Tara, another insightful international Trinity College student, rightfully warns, “taking pills can have side effects”.
It is crucial to do some background research and always read the label before going down the pill road.
Jamison, another Trinity international, mentions lesser known forms of contraception specifically for women. Things such as the implant or rod, and the IUD; both of which are becoming increasingly popular due to its “fit and forget” forms of contraception, as well as its 99 per cent effectiveness.
What are the different types of contraception?
Both copper and hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by changing the way sperm cells move so they can’t get to an egg, thus preventing the pregnancy from happening.
They are inserted into the womb by a trained doctor and although the hormonal IUD lasts for five years, the copper IUD lasts a whopping ten.
The hormonal IUD prescription costs around $6.40 if covered by healthcare, otherwise, the usual cost goes up to $40. A more expensive copper IUD is not covered by healthcare and costs up to $120.
IUDs work well as emergency contraception. If you receive it within 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex, it is more than 99.9 per cent effective.
You’ll have to grab a prescription from a doctor, buy the IUD from a pharmacy, and then return to said doctor for insertion.
Birth control pill
There are many different types of birth control pills which all aim to prevent ovulation. When a female does not ovulate, there is no chance of pregnancy but not STDs. The pills have to be taken at the same time every day, so consistency is key here.
Each pill contains hormones except for one week of placebo (sugar) pills designed to allow menstruation to occur. This form of birth control is 99.9 per cent effective and is easy to use, but it does come with some minor side effects. The pill normally costs around $14 from a pharmacy and is not covered by insurance.
Birth control implant
The birth control implant is a matchstick sized rod. A doctor will insert the implant under the skin of your upper arm and while bruising may occur, the procedure is relatively painless.
The rod releases a hormone known as progestin which serves to thicken the mucus in your cervix, therefore preventing sperm from reaching the eggs.
Similar to the birth control pill, it can’t prevent STDs. The implant is a long lasting “forgettable” form of birth control that students can get. It will last up to three years and the cost of the rod is expensive if not covered by insurance starting at $200.
Condoms stop sperm from getting into the vagina, so sperm can’t make contact with an egg and cause possible pregnancy. It is one of the most effective forms of physical barrier birth control. The most common one is used by males – where a rubber condom covers the penis. Alternatively, the female condom is inserted into the vagina, with two front and back rings.
Condoms are the only method that can protect you from STDs and prevent pregnancy. Many people prefer to use condoms by itself or together with another form of birth control.
Birth control sponge
This vaginal sponge is a physical barrier that prevents sperm from fertilising an egg. It is made from polyurethane foam and contains spermicide, a solution that kills sperm.
This method of birth control is easy as it can be fitted at home. The sponge must stay inside the vagina up to at least six hours after sex, but cannot be left inside for more than 30 hours.
While the sponge is easy to transport and is non-invasive, it is relatively inefficient when used alone. It has a fail rate of nine per cent if inserted perfectly and 16 per cent in most cases.
Birth control shot
Those afraid of needles beware! The birth control injection is a shot full of hormones that prevent pregnancy but not STDs.
This method is 99 per cent effective and lasts up to three months. After this period, you’ll have to get another shot to ensure the hormones are consistently in your system.
One shot cost about $30 for those without insurance coverage.
A vaginal ring is a small flexible ring inserted into the vagina once a month. On the fourth week it is taken out to allow menstruation. This easy at home method utilises hormone production to prevent sperm from reaching the egg.
While it is an easy way to prevent pregnancy, it does not prevent STDs. The ring can be purchased at the pharmacy with a prescription then inserted at home. Each ring cost $40 which covers you for a month. It is also highly effective and good for those who want as little maintenance as possible.
In addition to all these physical barrier methods, there is the weird and wonderful diaphragm, a silicone cup that covers the cervix. This method is used in conjunction with spermicide to increase its efficiency. It is, however, only 86 per cent effective when used correctly.
The diaphragm must be inserted at least two hours before sex and has to be left in place six hours after, but no longer than 24 hours. The spermicide must also be replaced after every coital act. While it is reusable, the diaphragm comes at a high start up cost of $100.
Spermicide is a type of gel, cream, or lubricant that kills sperm in order to avoid pregnancy. They are normally used in conjunction with other birth control methods but can also be used by itself.
It must be applied ten minutes before sex for it to be effective. While it increases the efficiency of other birth control methods, spermicide on its own is not very effective. A bottle of spermicide can cost around $30.
Students are encouraged to speak to a general practitioner and discuss all possible side effects before using any birth control method. Don’t rush into anything, take the time to figure out which method is best for you.
This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.