Playing it safe

In the 1960s, the development of the Pill liberated a nation of women to claim responsibility for their birth control methods.

Today, women have a myriad of choices regarding contraceptive methods. But they also have more to worry about than conceiving, such as the danger of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, said Holly Rayko, coordinator for health education and Student Health Services.

?When engaging in a sexual relationship, birth control is just one of the many things you need to consider,? Rayko said. ?You can cure a pregnancy by keeping the child or giving it up for adoption or other choices, but some sexually transmitted infections are incurable.?

One of the most familiar forms of birth control is the Pill.

Combined oral contraceptives work by stopping ovulation and making the lining of the uterus thinner. To be effective, it should be taken at the same time each day.

Although oral contraceptives are effective in preventing pregnancy, they do not protect from sexually transmitted infections, Rayko said.

?Even if a woman is using a hormonal birth control method, we still encourage the use of a condom,? Rayko said, ?Only abstaining is 100 percent effective against sexually transmitted infections.?

Even if a woman is not sexually active, there are benefits from taking the Pill, Rayko said.

One benefit is a decrease in the amount of menstrual flow, a decrease in the physical symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle. Another benefit is a decreased risk of some types of cancer, such as endometrial cancer.

But the benefits depend on the woman?s health and the hormonal method, Rayko said.

For some women, such as sophomore Chris Hardt, a change in the monthly cycle is a direct benefit of her birth control method, depo-provera injections.

?I did not chose it for the convenience or so much as contraception,? Hardt said. ?I picked it because it stops your period.?

Other birth methods in the news recently are the emergency contraceptives, the morning after pill and the abortion pill ? RU-486. And while both are taken after unprotected intercourse, Rayko said the pills are not the same.

The RU-486 pill terminates a pregnancy while the morning after pill prevents the ovary from releasing an egg, Rayko said.

She also said the morning after pill must be taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse to be effective.

Also, if a woman is already pregnant but does not know it, the morning after pill will not cause an abortion, Rayko said.


A non-oral form of birth control is the depo-provera shot.

This method requires an injection every 12 weeks and provides a hormone that stops the woman from releasing an egg, Rayko said.

Intrauterine Device

Another contraceptive choice for women is the Intrauterine Device. According to the Planned Parenthood Web site, an IUD is a small devise inserted into the uterus by a doctor. The device prevents pregnancy by preventing the sperm from fertilizing the egg. Although the IUD received negative attention in the 1970s, Guillermo Lopez, a gynecologist and a research professor for the College of Public Health, said the IUD is one of the most effective forms of birth control today.

?It got a bad rap in the media from the Dalkon Sheild,? Lopez said. ?But the IUD is a one of the best methods that contraceptive technology has to offer.?

Lopez said the Copper T IUD has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for the past 10 years, and one advantage to the device is that it can remain in the body for seven to 10 years, if periodically checked by a physician.


For woman who do not want to have injections or take pills, a barrier method of birth control such as a diaphragm may be an option.

The diaphragm is a rubber, dome-shaped device that a woman places in her vagina so that it covers the cervix and blocks semen from entering the uterus, according to the Planned Parenthood Web site. A spermicide placed onto the diaphragm kills sperm and physically blocks the cervix.

While these methods such as the Pill are effective against conception,they do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.


Latex condoms, available for both men and women, provide protection against STDs, such as the HIV virus, according to the Planned Parenthood Web site.


The rhythm method, according to the Planned Parenthood Web site, is when a woman monitors her fertile days. She checks her temperature and cervical mucus daily and charts her menstrual cycles on a calendar.


There are not as many contraceptive choices for men. In addition to the condom, the other option is sterilization, also known as a vasectomy.

The type of birth control a woman chooses depends on the individual. First, a woman should consult with her doctor and look at her health history.

A woman should also take her lifestyle into consideration.

?When choosing a form of birth control, women should ask themselves three questions: ?Do I have any health complications, am I married and am I in a monogamous relationship??? Rayko said.

There are methods of birth control that do not require a prescription. The only method that is 100 percent effective is abstinence.

Contact Ann Norsworthy at