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The Golden Ticket of Contraception

Posted by Ryan Morgan on September 18, 2013 at 11:27 AM
After watching the first week’s lecture and completing the readings and quiz on Coursera’s “Contraception: Choices, Culture and Consequences,” I thought to myself, “Crap. What have I gotten myself into?” The course has been adapted from a series of lectures intended for graduate Nursing students. It shows. If you can use terms like “Gonadotropin-releasing hormone,” “Luteinizing-hormone-releasing hormone,” or “follicle-stimulating hormone” cogently in a conversation, then you should be fine. Thankfully, week two of the course gave me what I was looking for: an overview of specific contraceptive methods. Week two focused on the most effective methods: IUC (and here I was calling them IUDs!), hormonal implants, and male & female sterilization (it doesn’t have to be as draconian as it sounds!). 1. IUDs (Intrauterine device). Have you heard? IUDs are SO hot right now. Apparently they’re the Birkin bag of birth control, but for me, IUDs are like the crock pot of contraception: you set it and forget it. Sure, for some they carry dowdy remnants of their Dalkon shield past (Don’t worry, the problem was with the multifilament strings which made it easy for a woman to get an infection, leading to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. The current IUDs use monofilament strings and are NOT associated with infection.), but today’s IUDs are safe, long-lasting (depending on the type you get, they can last from 3-12 years), reversible, invisible, and after your doctor inserts it, you don’t have to worry about it for years (as opposed to methods like birth control pills where you need to put in daily effort). Click here to check out Bedsider’s guide on IUDs and how they work. 2. Hormonal Implants. Hormonal implants (Do you remember Norplant? Well there’s Implanon and Nexplanon now) kind of freak me out. It’s a matchstick-sized implant that’s inserted under the skin of your upper arm. They’re super effective (more than 99%) and like IUDs, long lasting and low maintenance after the initial insertion. But for me, it’s the inserted-under-the-skin thing. Sure it’s discrete, but it’s still there and you can see it and feel it. Yes, I’m a wimp, still scared of needles, etc.  Judgment free zone, ok? Click here to learn more about hormonal implants. 3. Male & Female Sterilization. I was shocked to find out that these methods—non-reversible sterilization—are the most widely used contraceptive methods globally. And yes, there’s a horrific history of how these methods have been forcefully used, without consent, against men and women (thanks, eugenics), but if you’re sure and you’re sure that you’re sure you don’t ever want to have kids, may I introduce to you the vasectomy. As a woman, finding a man with a vasectomy is the golden ticket. And for a man who doesn’t want kids, it’s the golden ticket. A no-scalpel vasectomy (NSV) is an outpatient procedure (it takes about 5-10 minutes), the method itself has a 0.10% failure rate (although it’s not immediately effective—you have to make sure all the sperm has cleared out of the tubes), and it’s cheaper, safer and more effective than female sterilization. Did I mention there are no adverse effects? And no adverse effects on sexual function? Yeah. Golden ticket. Click here to find more details on vasectomies. Not interested in any of these methods? Stay tuned. Next week’s lesson includes information on combined oral contraceptives, progestin only pills, and emergency contraception. Wanna join me in my excellent online learning adventure? You can still sign up for the “Contraception: Choices, Culture and Consequences” class by clicking here.

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