Nov 05 2013Gearing Up to Say Thanks, Birth Control
"Rocked a 4.0 because the only thing that kept me up at night was studying..."
Living in a sorority house, there are plenty of times during the day when a phone alarm goes off, reminding someone to take their birth control. Birth control is omnipresent on a college campus and especially in a sorority house--yet we don't talk about it. The alarm goes off, we reach into our bags, we take our pill, change our ring, buy a new patch and go on with what we were doing. Studying for a big test, organizing a philanthropic event, getting ready for a formal. The average college student has a LOT going on and worrying about getting pregnant before you're ready is not something you have time for. Birth control lets you decide when you're ready to start a family, and for me and the girls in my house, that's not right now. But no one gives it any credit!
99% of adults have used a form of birth control at some point in their lives. That means almost EVERYONE has used it--yet it's still not something we can talk openly about. And if we can't even talk about it, how can people be expected to be comfortable using it?
Let's get a conversation started--on November 12th (next Tuesday), show some love for birth control! Join me and tweet what birth control has allowed you to accomplish and tag it #thxbirthcontrol. We've got videos on The National Campaign's website, or head over to Bedsider for some shareable digital postcards. If I can find time to show my gratitude, so can you!
Alanna Perlstein is an intern with the Entertainment-Media team of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and a junior at University of Maryland, College Park. Originally from Highland Mills, NY, Alanna spends her downtime at school involved in her sorority and enjoying life before she becomes a "real person."
Oct 31 2013Weight, what?!
Today is Halloween so I thought it would be good to blog about something scary. And the scariest birth-control-related thing I've heard in a while is this:
Research has found that over-the-counter emergency contraception is significantly less effective for overweight and obese women. As in, women with a body mass index (BMI) above 25 should not use it.
Reasons why this is frightening to me:
- People don't know this. At least I didn't know it and I'm relatively knowledgeable about birth-control-related matters. A highly informal poll of a half-dozen co-workers, all of whom are smarter than I am about these things, found that five out of six didn't know it either (although two said they weren't surprised because "it makes sense"). The one who did know it only heard about this a few months ago. And these are well-informed women who work on these issues every day.
- Emergency contraception (EC) use is widespread and on the rise. In a recent National Campaign-Cosmopolitan survey of unmarried women ages 18-29 who are sexually active but don't want to be pregnant, EC was the third most commonly used form of contraception, behind condoms and the pill. Thirty percent of women surveyed had used the morning after pill--more than had ever used the Depo shot, NuvaRing, patch, IUD, and implant combined. According to the CDC about one in every nine women ages 15-44 used EC in 2006-2010. That's up from about one in every 25 women in 2002.
- One-third of American women are overweight (meaning they have a BMI higher than 25). Another third are obese (BMI higher than 30). That's a whole lot of women--two out of every three--for whom EC is not a good option.
According to Princeton's Dr. James Trussell, a leading researcher and advocate for EC, in clinical trials of women with BMI of 26 or higher who used progestin-only EC (Plan B One-Step or Next Choice) "pregnancy rates were no different than would be expected if they hadn't used EC at all."
Not sure what a BMI above 25 looks like? Well, a woman who is 5-feet-4-inches tall and weighs 150 pounds has a BMI higher than 25 (25.7 to be exact). And because everything is available on the internet, here is photo gallery of women who are 5'4" and 150 pounds. Not exactly a casting call for The Biggest Loser, is it?
Maybe not your classic ghosts-and-goblins ghoulishness, but something scary to think about over Halloween candy to be sure.
Not sure what your BMI is? Check here.
Want to know more about the emergency contraception method suitable for women of all shapes and sizes? It's a copper IUD (also called ParaGard) and Bedsider has the details.
Oct 28 2013Our Online Lessons are Free and They Work—What Are You Waiting For?
When The National Campaign started working with community colleges in 2008, we quickly realized that there wasn't much going on to provide students with information about preventing unplanned pregnancy--information that could help them complete their education. We learned that only two in 10 community colleges provide students with this information, and there weren't really any resources to help college faculty if they wanted to. Since then, we've been working with colleges to fill this gap.
One of the resources that we developed with college faculty is our set of three online lessons, Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy and Completing College, which are flexible enough to use in a variety of settings on a college campus. College faculty don't need to become experts to be able to provide their students with helpful information about why they should care about preventing unplanned pregnancy, learn about the different methods of birth control, and how to take action to wait to have children (or additional children) until they've completed their education. Also, the lessons are free!
Most of the information about birth control comes from The National Campaign's Bedsider website. The lessons take various parts of the site--like the Method Explorer, Where to Get It, and the awesome new Guy's Guide--and put them in an educational frame. Similar to the positive feedback we get about Bedsider, students reported that they enjoyed taking the online lessons and found the information useful. One student said, "I think the stories really helped me put things into perspective especially realizing that unplanned pregnancy is such a big thing. It changes everything!"
I'm so pleased to report that our evaluation of the lessons, which was conducted in the fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters with 2,050 students at three colleges--Georgia Perimeter College, Palo Alto College in San Antonio, and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College--has shown that the lessons are effective at changing students' knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intent. After only about 90 minutes of independent, online learning, students were significantly more likely to believe that a pregnancy would make it more difficult to complete their educational goals, be knowledgeable about birth control, have a clear plan for preventing unplanned pregnancy, and more! The National Campaign's evaluation report can be downloaded here. We hope the results will motivate anyone who works with (or plans to work with) college students to provide them with this fun, helpful resource that's easy and flexible to use. And did I mention that they're FREE!?
Now that we know the lessons make a difference when it comes to preventing unplanned pregnancy, we're working with three colleges--Georgia Perimeter College, Miami Dade College, and Tarrant County College--to try to determine if students who complete the online lessons then go on to complete their educational goals. Stay tuned!
If you're interested in using the online lessons, I would be delighted to hear from you. Please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com or 202.478.8519.
Oct 21 2013Are Unplanned Pregnancies a Good Thing?
This recent Jezebel post on "10 Advantages to an Unplanned Pregnancy" really irritated me for some reason. I can't quite put my finger on it--perhaps it's the flippant way the author compares her life pre-pregnancy to her life post-pregnancy, but most likely it's because it actually seems like she wanted to get pregnant (or at least was open to the possibility). So she thought her husband was infertile (you can get the details on that here) and was shocked when she saw the + sign on the pregnancy test. It remains the case that she had a partner who was willing and able to parent with her. She also had a job and an education, so while it seems as though she decided to make a career change, she was fairly prepared to do so. What about the thousands of women who find out that they're pregnant and don't have a career to "figure out"? Or those who just met their partner and don't have much of a relationship with that person yet? Perhaps the pregnancy will bring them closer and perhaps they'll really get their butts in gear after seeing that + sign. But isn't that a lot of responsibility to put on the shoulders of a baby? We're too lazy or scared to make decisions on our own so we have to wait for something to happen to us before we make a change?
I get it that life happens and many, many things are totally out of our control, especially things related to pregnancy and childbearing. I also get it that getting pregnant and having a baby is a lot of work (just coming off of a solo-parenting weekend for my 13 month old, I really get it)--but I also think that we can do a better job as a country making decisions about when and under what circumstances we want to start our families.
While it's true that almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, it doesn't mean it has to stay that way (take a look at the plummeting teen birth rate for inspiration). Shouldn't we at the very least decide with our partners when we might be open to the possibility of kids? Until then, maybe we can just use birth control--there are plenty of options out there.
Oct 16 2013Engines and IUDs: (More) Sex Ed With Guy Nottadadi
Guy is back--and this time he's talking about the long-acting, low-maintenance IUD.
BTW, if you or someone you know has heard scary rumors about the IUD--particularly the Mirena (which has been the subject of a lot of scary lawsuit ads lately)--you might want to read (or share) this article by one of Bedsider's medical experts separating the fact from the fiction.