Ask Iman: What's the deal with birth control?

Hi Iman,

I’m trying to get on birth control but I’m not really sure of my options. I’m also scared of IUDs. What do I do?

Figuring out how to get on birth control can be an absolute nightmare. It’s hard to find information and finding a health care professional can often be difficult.

It’s important to consult a health care professional to find what works best for you and it’s invaluable to enter conversations about your reproductive health as educated and prepared as possible. But, for today, I’ve got you covered with a short explainer of some birth control options.

Are contraceptives for you?

Contraceptives can be used for many different reasons — from preventing pregnancy to treating conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis and hormonal acne.

However, certain lifestyle factors like smoking can impact what methods of birth control are best for you. Non-hormonal birth control options like the copper IUD, progestin contraceptives like progestin IUDs and the minipill or barrier contraceptives like condoms are safer for people who smoke cigarettes. If you have a personal or family history of blood clotting disorders, hormonal birth control might not be for you, but it’s important to consult a professional.

The ABCs of BCs

There are a ton of different birth control methods — like the hormonal pill, patch and IUD; or non-hormonal methods like internal and external condoms.

Most forms of birth control require a prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner and can be bought at a pharmacy. The closest pharmacy to campus is Shoppers Drug Mart, but there are tons all over Vancouver. If you want to maximize your AMS/GSS Health & Dental plan, Pacific Blue Cross can save you up to 50 per cent of your out-of-pocket costs if you get your prescriptions filled at a Rexall Pharmacy. The closest Rexall Pharmacy is at 6580 Fraser Street, 38 minutes away on the 49 bus.

To get a prescription or learn more, you can book an in-person or tele-health appointment with Student Health Services or at your local health clinic.

Some people can try several different brands of birth control pills because individual bodies respond differently to medication. Some side effects of hormonal birth control pills can include nausea, decreased libido, headaches and more. If you are facing these side effects, it’s important to talk to your health care professional and discuss other options that might work better for you. You shouldn’t be taking medication that makes you feel awful.

IUDs are probably the contraception method that you hear the most about — be it good or bad.

I’ve heard a bunch of horror stories on TikTok about people literally ripping out their IUD, but that is super rare and shouldn’t be a barrier to you exploring this option.

IUDs are small t-shaped devices that are inserted into your uterus (and can be removed) by a health care professional. There are two types of IUDs — copper IUDs like Paragard IUDs and progestin IUDs like Mirena IUDs. Student Health Servies can prescribe either.

The progestin IUD is a hormonal IUD which can last for three to six years and works by locally releasing hormones. Progestin works to thicken your cervical mucus while thinning the lining around your uterus. Hormonal IUDs are over 99 per cent effective according to Planned Parenthood.

Copper IUDs last for up to 10 years, are made out of copper (a spermicide) and are 99 per cent effective, according to the Mayo Clinic. The IUD kills the sperm before it can reach an egg, effectively stopping a potential pregnancy. Copper IUDs can also be used as emergency contraception when inserted within seven days of unprotected sex, if Plan B, or oral emergency contraception, isn’t an option for you.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, I’m just an advice columnist, not a health care professional, so going to see your doctor, nurse practitioner or even visiting Student Health Services or a clinic is the best way to go. You’ll learn about the different types of birth control that are best for your needs and pricing.

Deciding what type of contraceptive — whether that’s the pill, patch, IUD or a barrier method — is personal choice. Regardless of what your friends, siblings, parents, influencers or resident advice columnist recommends, you should always consult a doctor and do what feels right. And if a specific birth control method ends up not being right for you, you can always try something new, stop birth control or re-evaluate your options.

You’re doing great. Keep it up!

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