Birth Control: The Basics

By: Francesca Cocchiarale
Edited by: Bridget Salice

As someone who attended Catholic school up until college, I learned little to nothing about birth control and the importance of contraceptives when it comes to relationships. Sex education is absent in a majority of schools in the U.S., and this lack of knowledge can lead to harmful assumptions and negativity towards intimacy and protection. As for me, when my primary care physician prompted me to use birth control to regulate my period after experiencing amenorrhoea (an abnormal absence of menstruation), I felt extremely uneducated and skeptical when it was my turn to make this decision. Now, I am grateful for the opportunity to take birth control, since it has helped me stay in tune with my body and its natural processes. Since contraceptives can be a foreign subject to many people, it is important to be informed!

What exactly are contraceptives?

Pregnancy is when the joining of the male’s sperm and the female’s egg occurs. Though MANY factors have to line up in order to become pregnant, including optimal environmental conditions, the perfect timing of the female’s menstrual cycle, and the fertility of both the male and the female during the time of intercourse, it is still very common to become pregnant without the right protection. Contraceptives represent a tool that inhibits the ability of the sperm and egg to join in the first place, thus ending the prospect of pregnancy before it even begins.

Why do women start taking birth control?

One common myth about birth control is that women start using it ONLY to prevent pregnancy and because they are sexually active, but these are not the only reasons. For example, I started taking birth control because of the imbalance I was experiencing from amenorrhoea and hormonal problems that started to negatively affect both my mental and physical health. Here are other reasons women choose to take birth control:

Different Types of Birth Control    

There are a variety of birth control options and I want to give some examples for those interested in learning more! **Be advised: I am not a health professional or a certified doctor, so use this article as a starting point in learning the basics.

Hormonal Methods – This method uses the addition of hormones to regulate ovulation and the entirety of the menstrual cycle to prevent pregnancy and balance hormones. Here are some options:

Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) – This form of birth control is the most effective, but does require slightly more complicated, but safe, medical procedures. Women can keep this type of birth control for 3-10 years without having to remember to take a pill or get a shot, which is why many choose this route.

Barrier Methods – These methods do not involve the use of hormones, and most are only in-use during the act of intercourse to prevent the occurrence of sperm reaching the egg in the first place.

Emergency Contraception

This form of contraception is used either right before or right after intercourse and allows those who currently don’t take a long-term form of birth control to prevent pregnancy. The most common form, and most available form, of emergency contraception is the morning-after pill (such as Plan B). The morning-after pill is optimal to take approximately 72 hours after intercourse but can be taken up to five days after for it to work under normal circumstances. This form of contraception stops ovulation in its tracks and causes the ovary to release the egg before impregnation can occur. 

Where can you go to receive or qualify for birth control and advice?

Here are some places that will provide both general and descriptive information regarding birth control and why it is important:

Birth control, whether used to prevent pregnancy or treat symptoms, can be safe and effective with proper use and education. Personally, it has helped me focus more on my health as a woman and stay in-tune with my body’s signals. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a health professional, clinic, or other sources to find out more about birth control and the importance of contraceptives. Make this decision with a positive attitude and an open mind. And once you do find your birth control method, make sure follow instructions for full effectiveness in the end!

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