Ask Adelle: Pregnancy Prevention—What You Need to Know
Adelle Zocher – Special to the Southern News
It’s the final countdown! I hope you enjoyed last week’s installment and found some of my suggestions for stress-free finals to be helpful!
In a previous column, I discussed IUDs (intrauterine devices) and the birth control implant (Nexplanon), both of which are available here on campus at Health Services. While these are excellent options for pregnancy prevention due to their high rates of effectiveness as well as ease in use, every body is unique, and therefore there is no one size fits all method. Some people choose to abstain from sex entirely, whether they are waiting for marriage, apprehensive or just plain uninterested, know this is perfectly normal! People tend to overestimate behaviors among their peers—many SCSU students believe that high percentages of their peers are having sex, drinking or doing drugs, when in fact, the numbers are almost always lower than what people expect— 1 in 4 SCSU students report that they are NOT sexually active! Sexually active or not, it is important for both men and women to know your options so when you are ready, you are as safe and prepared as possible!
Since we all know that the stork doesn’t deliver babies, it might seem redundant to explain the actual physiological process of getting pregnant, but we all have different levels of knowledge. There are many misconceptions (pun intended) around how conception occurs, and why someone might have unprotected sex once and get pregnant, or they may consistently be sexually active without any form of birth control and never get pregnant. Having unprotected sex is like a game of roulette, and the more you play, the greater your chance of a pregnancy and contracting an STI.
For a pregnancy to happen, an unfertilized egg must be released from one of a woman’s ovaries (the process referred to as ovulation) and make its way down a thin tube, the Fallopian tube, and into the uterus. Ovulation only occurs once a month, and only one ovary at a time releases an egg, which creates a window of usually about 2 days in which a woman is fertile and able to become pregnant. While this means that the window may be small, sperm can remain alive inside a woman’s body for 12 hours or more—meaning if she hadn’t ovulated at the time of unprotected sex, she could still become pregnant if she ovulated afterward.
The uterus is not in your stomach! Because women experience menstrual cramps in this general region, and because a baby develops inside the womb, the body’s organs actually shift to accommodate it— it may look like a pregnancy takes place in the stomach but the stomach sits much higher up in your torso, close to the ribs. A woman cannot become pregnant through oral sex, and the chances of getting pregnant from anal sex are negligible. Of course, just because you aren’t having intercourse, you are still at risk of contracting an STI by having oral sex or through skin-to-skin contact.
Some birth control options include:
- Abstinence: completely avoiding sexual intercourse
- Sterilization: when a man or woman undergoes a procedure called a vasectomy (male) or a hysteroscopic sterilization (female) to permanently prevent pregnancy.
- Implants: (such as Nexplanon) release low doses of hormones to prevent ovulation and/or thicken the mucus of the cervix so that sperm cannot make it to the egg
- IUDs (such as Mirena, Kyleena, Paragard): release low doses of hormones similar to implants or uses copper wire to kill sperm
- Pills/patchs/shots/rings (for example, Ortho Tri Cyclene, Depopreva, Nuvaring): release hormones similar to implants or IUDs
- Condoms/female condoms: provide a barrier between to prevent sperm reaching the cervix (and you should ALWAYS wear a condom to protect from STIs)
- Fertility Based Awareness: tracking a woman’s menstrual cycle and ovulation days in order to avoid having unprotected sex at a woman’s most fertile time
Check out our Guide to Great Sex on the SCSU Student Health and Wellness Facebook page for more information, and don’t feel shy about discussing them with your health practitioner. Sexuality is an important part of our lives and identities, and however you express it doing your part to remain safe and healthy will enhance your wellbeing, and the wellbeing of your partner(s)! In your college years you are setting yourself up for a bright, productive and hopefully healthful future. The choices you make and the knowledge you gain in your time at SCSU is precious, use this experience and the university to the fullest extent!
Take advantage of services such as free condoms and other protection products here in Wellness, visit Health Services where you can access IUDs, Nexplanon implants and others and STD testing. Keep an eye out for our events such as Wellness Wednesday and Tobacco Free Tuesday every week! Keep an eye out for our next Get Yourself Tested even in Granoff Hall on Wednesday, April 26 from 12-2 p.m., and our tobacco exchange event happening outside of Engleman Hall C-wing on Thursday, April 27 from 10a.m. until 3 p.m. As always, stay tuned, stay safe, be well and take good care!
Photo Credit: Jessica Roginski