College: the land of drug- and alcohol-fueled parties and the resulting wild, raucous sex that leaves your neighbors wondering if they should call the cops or put a cup to the wall and enjoy the show. While Stony Brook strays from this pop-culture-induced definition of college in that it is far from a party school and it seems as though everyone is always studying, that last hedonistic facet of college life is actually a reality here.
In The Statesman’s 2016 Sex and Relationship survey, 78 percent of respondents indicated that they are not virgins. With that, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that out of the almost three-quarters of us who are either currently bumping uglies or have in the past, nearly all have had to make the decision as to just how to prevent a tiny Seawolf from coming into the world.
But with so many options out there, making a decision regarding birth control that all parties involved can jive with may be even more daunting than finding a cutie on campus to “study” with in the first place.
Luckily for you, I’ve spent my adult life jumping from one prophylactic to the next in an attempt to find the method that suits my life as a college student best. With the sage wisdom this medical endeavor has bestowed upon me, here’s a breakdown of what I consider to be the best and most realistic birth control options for the average college student.
#1: The IUD
Three to 12 years of child-free bliss? Check. Periods that are both lighter and far more manageable should you choose the hormonal option? Double check. Low-maintenance, highly effective and virtually undetectable by either partner when things get down and dirty? Check. The IUD is perhaps the best thing that ever happened to sex; the device is inserted by your doctor into your uterus, far from where any penis should ever go, and once it’s in place, you can pretty much forget about it for the entire duration of its use save for monthly self-checks. With this method, spontaneous, uninhibited sex is given the green light. As long as you and your partner(s) are clean and the device doesn’t shift (and no, wild sex won’t shift your IUD), fewer than 1 percent of women end up pregnant while using an IUD. However, any pregnancy that does occur is more likely to be ectopic, or occurring within the fallopian tube. If not caught early, an ectopic pregnancy will result in either emergency surgery to attempt to salvage the tube or, in the worst cases, death. This situation is extremely rare, however, and though it happened to me, I still think the IUD is the most practical birth control out there today. With insurance, I ended up paying $9 rather than the $1,000 the IUD can cost, making this method extremely cost effective.
Condoms on college campuses are as common as pre-med freshmen at SBU. From RHD offices to the basement of the Union, free condoms are easy to find and easy to use. Condoms come with the benefit of being hormone-free and new types of condoms come out more often than incarnations of the iPhone. The cons? Condoms are admittedly kind of unsexy in that the action comes to a bit of a halt to put one on, but even this can be made fun. And though it is uncommon, condoms can snap if stored improperly or if lube is needed and not used. And perhaps most importantly, reactions to latex or different types of built-in lube is possible. Spermicides don’t always mesh well with delicate vaginal ecosystems, and Fire and Ice condoms have caused more than one partner of mine to cry out in pain and furiously wash their junk while cursing under their breath. Make sure you know your limits!
#3: The Pill
There’s a very good reason that these little suckers were one of the catalysts for the Sexual Revolution: one tiny pill taken at the same time each day virtually ensures that you will remain unfertilized. If you’re prone to hormonal acne, certain pills can drastically improve your skin’s condition. If you have heavy, clotting periods, the pill can help reduce bleeding. If you have insurance, the costs for both doctor’s appointments and prescriptions should be mitigated thanks in large part to the Affordable Care Act. As with any method listed here, there are some downsides to the pill. Though Oregon and California have both taken steps to make birth control pills available over-the-counter, most states will still require a prescription for the medication, which can be difficult to attain if you have overbearing parents. Some pills may cause some weight gain, and it is not uncommon to bleed sporadically for the first few months of using the pill. The pill relies on a blend of hormones to do its job, making the pill a no-go for those looking to stay natural. Finally, the pill requires extreme diligence in that it absolutely needs to be taken every day and certain medications can impact its efficacy. Missing pills is easy as a busy college student, and common antibiotics have been shown to impact birth control’s effectiveness.
#4: The Shot
The shot has a leg up (pun intended) on the pill in that one shot every three months provides all the protection you need, making it great for people who are so busy that they can’t be bothered to remember taking a pill at the same time each day. Like pills, the shot tends to be free if you have insurance, and it can be administered right here on campus at Student Health Services. However, this had to be my least favorite method of every day birth control that I have ever used. My hormonal acne, already annoying enough, flared up to the point that I felt like I was 15 again. The shot didn’t have much of a chance to do its job after I got it as I bled for the entire three months it was effective (and then some), ensuring I wasn’t really having much sex anyway. And if you’re afraid of needles, just forget this method; you’ll live constantly knowing that you’re no more than three months from your next shot, and is that any way to live?
#5: Plan B
Accidents happen. Condoms snap. It’s ladies night at The Bench and you got drunk you can’t remember anything when you wake up next to a total stranger. Plan B was made for these situations, and it does its job well.
As soon as you realize you may be at risk for what the late Bob Ross would call a “happy little accident,” you should run to your nearest convenience store and buy this pill. Sure, they put it in a clunky security box that gives it the stigma of a dangerous substance or weapon and the pill is whoppingly expensive at around $50 a pop. But so long as you soldier through with your purchase and take the pill within 72 hours (the earlier the better) of having unsafe sex, you should be golden. However, this pill simply isn’t meant to be used as birth control. I cannot stress enough that this medication is for rare, incidental use. But I am also a realist, and I know that we all make mistakes. And because I love you all and believe so staunchly in reproductive rights for everyone, here’s a coupon for $10 off the pill. You’re welcome.