Children are delightful. They’re mini-humans who sing and play and gaze upon the world with a fresh, innocent perspective that reminds us to experience the present moment with humility and awe. They are also expensive, high-maintenance snot machines to which one must commit huge amounts of time, energy, and resources in order to ensure they don’t become super villains, or worse, club promoters.
As helpful as those grainy sex-ed videos were in middle school, for those of us who are terrified of getting pregnant, a refresher course never hurts.
If you're not ready to have a mass of hair and flesh growing in your womb, you're not alone. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization in the field of reproductive health, women spend more than three-quarters of their reproductive lives trying to avoid unwanted pregnancy. Three-quarters!
Due to huge disparities in education and resources however, the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States is still high. In 2011, 48 percent of the country's 6.1 million pregnancies were unintended. The rates were highest among low-income and minority women.
And unintended pregnancies are more than an individual problem, they're a public health issue. The Guttmacher Institute found that "births resulting from unintended or closely spaced pregnancies are associated with adverse maternal and child health outcomes, such as delayed prenatal care, premature birth, and negative physical and mental effects for children."
In other words, for your sake, and the sake of the country, take a gander at some of the best ways to avoid getting preggo. And keep in mind, while some forms of contraception may prevent pregnancy, they do not guard against sexually-transmitted diseases or infections, so think carefully about what works best for your lifestyle right now.
CONDOMS CONDOMS CONDOMS!
Condoms are most commonly used among teens and people in their twenties because they are one of the most accessible forms of birth control. They are often used in conjunction with other methods of birth control, such as the pill or IUDs, because they protect against most sexually-transmitted diseases.
Condoms also a great option for those of you who don't want to mess with hormones.
If used correctly, condoms are 98 percent effective, but when you factor in human error, they end up being only 82 percent effective. So if you need a reminder of how to properly apply a condom, check out Planned Parenthood's how-to guide here.
Fun fact: for the majority of first grade, I told everyone I met that my family and I lived in a condom (I meant "condominium").
Birth Control Pills
The Pill is currently the most commonly used contraceptive, and is used by 16 percent of women aged 18-44. When used perfectly, the Pill is 99 percent effective, but including human error (forgetting to take it for a few days, taking it at different times, certain medicines, etc.) it is more like 91 percent effective.
Birth control pills contain a mixture of estrogen and progesterone (the exact proportion varies based on the pill — you should talk to your doctor to find which combination is best for you) and come in 28-day packs, with 21 days of regular pills, and seven days of placebo or sugar pills. Most women get their periods while taking the placebos.
The Pill can also help control acne, manage symptoms of PMS, and regulate your period flow.
Remember, the Pill does not protect against STDs.
Find out more about the Pill on the Planned Parenthood website here.
For those of us who never quite got a hang of taking a pill at the same time every day, intrauterine devices are a great option for long-term, reversible birth control. IUDs are a small t-shaped device (nowhere near as large as the one in the graphic) that the doctor inserts into your uterus. They prevent pregnancy by changing the way sperm cells move, making it nearly impossible for them to reach the egg.
It is one of the most effective birth control methods out there, preventing 99 percent of potential pregnancies. And because you can't really mess with it once it's in, there's almost no room for human error.
There are two types of IUDs: hormonal and copper. Copper IUDs do not contain hormones, and can last up to 12 years, and hormonal IUDs contain progestin and generally last around five years.
IUDs do not protect against STDs.
Check out more info on IUDs here.
Implants And Injections
The birth control implant is a small rod about the size of a matchstick that the doctor inserts in your arm. It releases hormones into your body that prevent pregnancy, and can last up to four years. Like the IUD, it is 99 percent effective, in part because there's no room for human error.
It is a less painful to have inserted than the IUD, and you can breastfeed with it in.
Get more information about the birth control implant here.
While I've listed four, there are a ton of other birth control methods out there, including patches, rings, cervical caps, sponges, etc. Find which one is best for you by researching various methods and talking to professionals.
One of the best places to explore your birth control options is Planned Parenthood, which, as you know, is under serious threat right now by the Trump Administration. Planned Parenthood operates more that 650 clinics around the country that provide health care and family planning services for millions of people. It is estimated that in a single year, their services prevent around 579,000 unwanted pregnancies.
If you would like to make sure Planned Parenthood can keep doing this, check out their donation page here.