Myth: “They Looked Clean”
Every year, there are 19 million new cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and almost half of them are from the age group of 15-24 year olds.1 Chances are, if you’re in college and reading this, you most likely fit that age range. The best way to find out if you or your partner has an STI is to get tested. According to Healthy People 2020, women suffer more from infections than men. Women are 2.7 times more likely to get chlamydia than men but reports have shown that men have 5.6 times the syphilis rate than women.2 Since many STIs cause very little to no symptoms, many do not know they need to seek medical attention nor do they know they are infected.
Myth: “Only Gay People Have/Spread/Get HIV”
Although HIV is most prevalent among men who have sex with men, it is a myth that only gay people have HIV or that you can only get HIV from gay people. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25% of those infected with HIV are women and these women are infected mainly through vaginal sex with a male partner. HIV is not just spread through sexual contact; it can be spread from an infected mother to her child through breastfeeding, or by drug users who share needles. The lack of knowledge of your partner’s HIV status also plays a major role in transmission. A person can be infected for months or years before symptoms appear. It is this lack of immediate symptoms that cause many people to think there is no reason to get tested. Also, it is important to remember that an HIV test will tell you whether or not you have HIV; it will not protect you from becoming infected. To protect yourself from HIV, always use latex condoms from start to finish every time you have vaginal or anal sex. Condoms and latex barriers can be used during oral sex as well.
Myth: “Birth Control Pills cause Weight Gain and Infertility”
Many believe that the birth control pill always causes weight gain. It is important to note that the pill contains zero calories so there’s nothing to burn off. Studies now show that the pill has little to no effect on a weight gain. In the 1960s, hormone levels in birth control pills were much higher than our current generation of birth control pills.5 Many women are also afraid that birth control pills decrease fertility, and that women will have a harder time conceiving due to using the pill. However, fertility decreases naturally with age. Many women have more difficulty conceiving in their late 30s and 40s than in their teens and twenties. Often times, women who delay pregnancy for personal reasons, or academic or career aspirations use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. The fact that they have difficulty conceiving in their late thirties or forties has to do with their age, not their use or non-use of birth control pills.
The intrauterine contraceptive (IUC) also known as an intrauterine device (IUD) is a small Tshaped device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. In spite of the fact that this form of contraception has been used for many years, it is again becoming popular. A possibility for this increased popularity might be attributed to the fact that an IUC can provide continuing contraceptive protection from 5 to 10 years, enabling the user to not think about birth control daily.1,2
One reason this contraceptive is gaining more attention is because it appeals to a wider range of women. An IUC was once only thought to be used by married women who had given birth; however, this is no longer the case. The IUC is now approved for single women who have never given birth.3 This change is due to an IUC redesign for safer use. Although IUC use is gaining more attention in the United States, this contraception has been popular in other countries for many years. It has been the preferred contraceptive method in China since the early 1970s with over 40% of women using it for contraception.4 Dr. Grimes, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at North Carolina School of Medicine, described the IUC as “perhaps the safest, most convenient, and most reversible form of contraception.”1 Perhaps this is why IUC use in the United States has increased from just 1.4% in 2002 to 10.4 % in 2011.5
The United States offers two types of IUCs. Paragard is the only non-hormonal, long-term contraceptive. The Paragard IUC is wrapped in copper which creates a toxic environment to sperm, preventing them from reaching an egg to fertilize. Paragard is effective for up to 10 years.2 Mirena is another type of IUC that continuously releases a small amount of the hormone levonorgestrel into the uterus. It works by thickening cervical mucus and preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg. Mirena is made of flexible plastic and is effective for up to five years.1 Both IUCs are FDA approved, over 99% effective, and must be inserted and removed by a health care provider. 1,2
The CSULB Student Health Services does not offer IUCs. However, students interested in this form of contraception are welcome to come to the Health Resource Center to discuss different birth control options with a health educator. Referrals are provided for any contraceptive options not available at the Student Health Services.
The withdrawal method, also known as coitus interruptus or “pulling out,” is probably the oldest form of birth control. The withdrawal method involves the male removing his penis from his partner before ejaculation during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. If used during vaginal sex, withdrawal may reduce the risk of pregnancy; however, there is no protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If a man is infected with an STI such as chlamydia or HIV, the pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) that is released before ejaculation can contain enough microbes to spread the infection to his partner. Many times, withdrawal is not used correctly, and either some or all of the semen is released inside of the partner. If semen comes in contact with mucus membrane, such as the rectum, vagina, or eyes, the partner could become infected with HIV and/or other STIs.
Withdrawal is about 73% effective against pregnancy with typical use.1 It can take men a long time to perfect the method of completely withdrawing the penis before ejaculation. If semen gets on the vulva or inside of the vagina, there is a chance that the sperm could cause a pregnancy. There is also a chance that sperm could be present in the preejaculate; if a man has sex again right after ejaculation, leftover sperm can come out with the pre-ejaculate and cause a pregnancy. According to the CSULB Student Health Services, “When women agree to use withdrawal as their only method of birth control, they give away all their control to prevent pregnancy. Due to its high failure rate with typical use, withdrawal is recommended as a risk reduction method, meaning it’s better than nothing. Withdrawal is a great back-up method that can be used with other methods such as birth control pills or condoms” (personal communication, November 9, 2012).
There are many forms of birth control that are more effective than withdrawal, such as hormonal methods (birth control pills, vaginal ring, patch, shot, implant, IUD) and barrier methods (male and female condoms). However, if these methods are not being used, withdrawal is recommended.
In order for withdrawal to be most effective:
Withdrawal works best with couples who have open and effective communication; it also requires a significant amount of self-control, experience, and trust. Being under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs can also reduce the effectiveness of withdrawal.
Withdrawal is not recommended for:
Online tools exist to help you decide which method may be right for you. To find a birth control method that works for you, visit www.arhp.org/methodmatch.2
Are you sexually active? Do you want something new to try to spark up your sex life and help reduce your risk of STIs and pregnancy? Well then, the female condom (FC2) is for you! Yes, a female condom! The FC2 female condom is the 2nd generation to the original FC1 female condom that was first introduced in the early 1990s.1 The FC2 is made of a very soft, thin material called nitrile, which conforms to your body temperature. The FC2 also contains silicone lubricant.2
At first glance, you may think a female condom has a “threatening appearance,” “is too bulky,” and is “not sexy at all.” Don’t let its appearance sway your decision to use it. The female condom is a great alternative and provides many benefits in comparison to its counterpart, the male condom. The FC2 has a flexible ring inside the closed end of the pouch, with a larger ring at its opening. The flexible ring is inserted gently into the vagina, and is held in position when placed behind the pubic bone. A misconception is that once inserted, the FC2 will hurt. If placed correctly, there is no discomfort and you shouldn’t even feel it! If there is pain, the ring is probably hitting the cervix and simply needs to be readjusted/pushed back further into the vagina.
According to the Female Health Company, the manufacturer of the FC2, the Female condom provides the following benefits:
***Caution: Do NOT use a female condom and male condom at the same time***
As you can see, the female condom has a number of benefits. But you need to remember, like the male condom, the female condom can only be used once per sex act (ejaculation).1 Also, make sure the condom is not expired, and that the package is not torn before using. When making the decision to have sex with someone, it is important to stay protected, and the female condom is a great method to not only lower your risk of pregnancy, but STIs as well. “Safer is sexy!”2
Linda Peña, MA, CADC
Heidi Burkey, MPH, CHES
Christina Goldpaint, MPH, CHES
Nop Ratanasiripong, RN, MSN, CCRC
The HEALTH BEAT Newsletter is published by California State University, Long Beach, Division of Student Services, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90840. Printed in the USA. Copyright© 2008 by the Student Health Services. All rights reserved. Contact CSULB, Division of Student Services, Health Resource Center for a free subscription at (562) 985-4609.
The Health Resource Center does not accept responsibility for views expressed in articles, reviews and other contributions that appear in its pages. The purpose of the HEALTH BEAT newsletter is to serve college students and related professionals with health-related information, which may help understand a diagnosis or treatment, yet cannot serve as a replacement for the services of a licensed health care practitioner. The information and opinions presented in the HEALTH BEAT newsletter reflect the views of the authors.