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Weighing the pros and cons of contraceptive methods

Condoms and the pill are popular forms of contraception, but there are other options. KENNETH HO/THE STATESMAN
Condoms and the pill are popular forms of contraception, but there are other options. KENNETH HO/THE STATESMAN

Sex, when done right, is an enjoyable, healthy and stress-relieving encounter between consenting individuals. Let us keep it at that. Below is a review of several different types of birth control for both males and females and their relative merits. Here are included familiar methods as well as more esoteric ones; some popular forms of birth control, like vasectomy, were omitted because they were irrelevant to our readership.

Ratings are by Planned Parenthood and are out of a five-star ranking. 


Effectiveness- **** (1/100 result in pregnancy)

Convenience- *

Pleasure Factor-*

A little-known fact is that a breast-feeding mother can ensure sterility for six months after she gives birth, provided that she nurses her baby consistently, i.e. without the use of any formula. This is because the production of a hormone governing ovulation is stopped.

All those who have taken their token elementary school sex-ed course know that ovulation is the process by which a woman’s ovaries produce egg(s), which become available for fertilization by a male’s sperm.

There is an obvious downside to this method: by the time one can actually employ breast-feeding as a contraceptive method, the damage, so to speak, has already been done. In addition, most women say that breast-feeding makes them feel ‘unsexy,’ which can reduce satisfaction for both parties.

Breast-feeding will not prevent the contraction of STDs.


The Diaphragm

Effectiveness- **** (4/100 result in pregnancy)

Convenience- ***

Pleasure Factor- **

A diaphragm is a shallow, silicone or latex cup that is inserted into the vagina. It prevents pregnancy by covering the cervix, which is the narrow, bottlenecked lower portion of the uterus which connects to the vagina.

When properly cared for, it lasts about two years and can cost anywhere from $15 to $75.  A diaphragm should be coated with spermicide before use.

The diaphragm can be inserted hours before intercourse, making it possible for partners to proceed without interruption.

In addition, its presence cannot be felt by either the male or female participant, except males with abnormally large penises.

The diaphragm has its downsides: vigorous thrusting or unusual sex positions can displace it, opening up the cervix for sperm.

In addition, some women may experience vaginal irritation if they have a silicone or spermicide allergy of which they are unaware.

Women should also be sure to urinate before inserting the diaphragm and after intercourse in order to avoid urinary tract infections.



Effectiveness- *** (2/100 result in pregnancy if used correctly, 18/100 if used incorrectly)

Convenience- ****

Pleasure Factor- ***

Condoms are latex or polyurothane balloon-like implements that a man pulls over his penis for the purpose of preventing his ejaculate from entering the woman’s vagina. It also reduces the risk of STD contraction for both gay and straight couples. This is because most STDs are contacted through bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, saliva, and vaginal or anal fluids. Wearing a condom prevents the fluids of partners from intermingling, provided that it does not tear during use. Both partners should take care to ensure the condom is put on correctly to minimize the risk of tearing.

There are many different brands of condoms, most of which are widely known.  Ribbed varieties are available for female pleasure, while thinner ones are available for men’s pleasure. Partners should work together to find a product that is mutually satisfying.



Effectiveness-***** (Less than 1/100 result in pregnancy)


Pleasure Factor-****

Birth control implants are matchstick-sized implements that are inserted into the arm. They work by releasing a hormone called progestin, which prevents eggs from leaving the ovaries. In addition, they thicken the mucus inside the cervix, which disrupts the flow of sperm therein.  The implant must be inserted by a professional. It can cost anywhere from $600 to $800 and lasts up to three years.

Implants are very effective for preventing pregnancy, but their high price tags make them inaccessible for most people. In addition, once the commitment is made to insert the implant, it will be impossible to conceive until either the effect wears off or a $100-$300 fee is paid for a removal operation.

You can obtain implants through your medical provider. Implants do not protect against STDs.





Pleasure Factor- N/A

The definition of abstinence varies among people. For some, abstinence means refraining from all genital contact whatsoever, be it vaginal, oral, anal, etc. Others understand abstinence as forbidding vaginal intercourse, but allowing all other forms of sexual contact. In both cases, since the sperm never enters the vagina, there is absolutely no chance that conception will occur. The latter, broader definition does not protect against STDs.

The decision between abstinence and being sexually active should be informed by what you feel is best for your health. One should not feel obligated to have sex; conversely, one should not feel obligated to be abstinent.


The Pill

Effectiveness: **** (Less than 1/100 women get pregnant each year when they take the pill every day as directed, 9/100 if they don’t always take it as directed)

Convenience- ****

Pleasure factor: ****

Oral contraception, often referred to as the pill, are made of hormones that prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs each month and make mucus in the cervix thicker. If the body doesn’t release an egg, sperm cannot join with it and the thicker mucus keeps the sperm from getting to the eggs.

When taken properly, the pill is a very effective form of birth control. Certain things can reduce it’s effectiveness, though. To work best, the pill must be taken at the same time each day. Certain antibiotics also interfere  with the pill. Vomiting or diarrhea can also lower its effectiveness.

Physicians suggest that a backup form of protection, like the condom, is used in conjunction with the pill in order to work against any such complications.

The pill does not prevent STDs and can cost anywhere from $15-$50 per month, depending on health insurance plans.


The Shot

Effectiveness- **** (1/100 women get pregnant each year if the shot is always used properly, 6/100 women get pregnant if the shot is not always used properly)

Convenience- ****

Pleasure factor- ****

The birth control shot is injected into a woman’s arm four times per year, once every three months. The shot contains hormones that prevent pregnancy, much like the pill.

Some benefits of the shot include not having to remember a daily pill and long-term protection. It can also prevent cancer in the lining of a woman’s uterus

Women must go see a physician every three months to have the shot injected, and each injection can cost $35-100, not including any exam fees.

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