Changing face of birth control

Melinda Russell

An advantage of living in the 21st century is the variety of opportunities provided us by science and technology: food, clothing, entertainment – all the basic human requirements, including sex.

“The pill” was the only popular contraceptive available for a woman the last 40 years.

Now the pill is joined by three new contraceptives for women – Ortho Evra, Lunelle and Nuvaring.

Eve Main, a nurse practitioner at Student Health Services, said the Ortho Evra birth control device is a patch worn on the skin. The patch is worn for one week, and then replaced by a new patch.

The procedure is repeated for two more weeks. During that time, hormones are released by the patch and absorbed through the skin.

The fourth week, the week of the menstrual cycle, is patch-free.

Main said there are some slight differences between the patch and the pill.

“The patch costs a little more than the pill because it has only been on the market for about 9 months,” she said. “It costs approximately $40 retail.”

Lunelle is a hormonal shot similar to the Depo Vera shot, the existing contraceptive injection, except the Depo shot is given every 12 weeks. Lunelle is a monthly injection.

Ortho Evra and Lunelle are more than 99 percent effective, Main said. But for women who weigh over 198 pounds, Ortho Evra may not deliver enough hormones to be completely effective.

Crystal Roberts, a senior from Morristown, N.J., started taking the traditional birth control pill when she was 15 for medical reasons.

But she made the choice to stick with the pill for contraception because she doesn’t like the side effects of the other methods of birth control.

“I don’t know if I would ever get a Lunelle shot since it hasn’t been on the market long,” she said. “I am satisfied with my pills, and I know what they can do.”

Nuvaring recently became a widely advertised form of birth control.

According to Planned Parenthood of Louisville, Nuvaring is a small, flexible ring that is inserted deep into the vagina once a month for three weeks.

It is 95 to 99 percent effective and costs $30 to $35 per month.

Gretchen Light, a freshman from Newburgh, Ind., takes the pill and doesn’t plan on trying Nuvaring.

“I happen to think it (Nuvaring) sounds unsanitary,” Light said. “Your body has to clean itself out, and the Nuvaring is not going to be very efficient in doing so.”

Owensboro sophomore Ryan Jackson has dated women who have been on birth control. He thinks it’s a necessity.

“Condoms do have a very unnatural feeling,” he said. But he still uses them because they are the only form of birth control that also prevents sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, Jackson said.

Condoms aren’t 100 percent effective, but if used properly, they reduce the risk of transmission of HIV and many other sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, hepatitis B and syphilis.

Free condoms are available for students at Student Health Services.

Although a number of new contraceptives have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Main said condoms are still the only contraceptive distributed for men to prevent pregnancies. She has no knowledge of a birth control pill for men, but doesn’t doubt it may come out on the market in the near future.

“It may be under trial, but right now, I don’t have any information about any type of men’s pill,” Main said.

As for the female condom, Jackson said it just seems strange for a woman to use a condom.

“Condoms are usually associated with men,” he said. “It just seems abnormal for a woman to go to the bathroom to put in a condom before she has sex and a man to take a pill.”

Due to patient confidentiality, Main could not say if any Western students have prescriptions for Ortho Evra, Lunelle or Nuvaring, but she did say Western students have requested information on these birth control methods.

Information for this article was gathered from the Louisville Planned Parenthood.

For more information on these new contraceptives, contact a local physician or search the Internet at www.nuvaring.com, www.lunelle.com or www.orthoevra.com.

Reach Melinda Russell at [email protected]