Q: Does UC Merced provide various birth control options aside from condoms?
A: The UC Merced Health Center provides medical services and prescriptions just like any doctor. A woman can make an appointment there to receive birth control or more long-acting contraceptives, such as an IUD or birth-control implant (however, they may be referred to another facility to receive implants or IUDs). These types of birth control can also be attained at Merced's Planned Parenthood. In both cases, birth control can be attained for free and (at least at Planned Parenthood) even without insurance.
Q: Does starting birth control cause you to gain any weight?
A: Since birth control regulates a woman's hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, it can have some side-effects. However, recent studies have found that weight gain resulting from birth control is quite rare and most often results in only gaining 1 - 2 pounds of water weight.
Any negative symptoms from birth control are most often temporary (lasting 2 - 3 months) and dissipate once the body gets used to these new hormone levels. Some other side-effects of taking birth control can be issues with nausea, headaches, breast tenderness and mood changes. If a woman experiences these negative symptoms for more than 3 months while taking birth control, she should switch to a different brand or type of birth control. This most often fixes the problem.
Beyond these short-term symptoms, birth control is extremely safe and doesn't cause any problems with fertility. It's also been shown to decrease acne, menstrual cramping and PMS, and reduce a woman's chance of getting cervical and uterine cancers down the road. The only woman who may want to avoid taking birth control are women who are older than 35 and smoke regularly.
Q: Will birth control (the daily pill) hurt my chances of getting pregnant in the future when I decide to have children?
A: Thankfully, studies show that being on oral contraceptives or any type of hormone-based birth control does not hinder a woman's chances of becoming pregnant later on in life. Birth control simply keeps a woman's estrogen and progesterone levels in a balanced state, so that they cannot fluctuate. This stops a woman from ovulating and building up an endometrium (the lining of the uterus that allows a fertilized egg to implant), because these processes are started by spikes in estrogen and progesterone.
Birth control has actually been shown to have many health benefits for women, such as lessened menstrual cramping, PMS symptoms, acne, and a decreased chance of uterine cancers later in life. The only known health risk of taking birth control is blood clotting, which is only a risk-factor for women who are age 35 or older and who smoke regularly. So, if you're not an older woman who smokes, there's nothing to worry about when taking birth control.
Q: If you have a one night stand, what should you check for the following days?
A: One-night stands, hookups and casual sex in general can be a relatively safe experience as long as you prepare a bit in advance. Obviously, it's always best to have condoms on you, in case something like this happens. If you're a woman, I also suggest being on a long-acting reversible form of birth control, such as birth control implants, which are very safe and effective can be attained at Planned Parenthood. Also, it's not a good idea to be really intoxicated if you're going to hook up with someone, because then it's likely you'll be far more reckless, such as not using condoms or having sex in a way that you're not comfortable with.
Let's assume that you didn't totally prepare and perhaps you didn't use any safe-sex practices. In that case, if you're a woman and you don't want to get pregnant, I would strongly urge you to take "Plan B" or some other type of post-sex birth control. Plan B can be purchased at regular drug stores, such as CVS or Rite Aid. It's a bit expensive (around $50), but it's well worth it if you didn't use any form of birth control. This medication basically causes you to quickly begin menstruation, flushing away a potentially fertilized egg. This can cause you to experience some pretty bad cramping and a heavy flow, but that's to be expected.
If you're worried about STIs, I suggest going to Planned Parenthood to get a full STI screening. You can visit the Planned Parenthood in Merced at 3166 Collins Dr, Merced, CA 95348. You can get an STI screening for free and, even if you're on your parent's insurance, you can let Planned Parenthood know not to bill your insurance, so that your parents won't find out. There are some STIs that take a while after being infected to show up in a screening test, particularly HIV. Sometimes, HIV won't show up in a screening until 6 months after someone has been infected. So I suggest getting screening a week after a one-night stand and then scheduling another appointment for 6-months later to do a follow-up.
As you can see, having a one-night stand can cause a lot of issues and require a lot of work afterward if you don't properly prepare beforehand. So, in the future, make sure you're using some type of long-acting birth-control and condoms to protect yourself from pregnancy and STIs.
Q: When me and my boyfriend have sex, we sadly often just "pull out" but he has the idea that if I "rinse" out my vagina after sex, I will decrease my chances in getting pregnant. Is this true?
A: This is not true, because sperm quickly enters the cervix (the small opening in the back of the vagina that leads to the uterus) and so cannot be rinsed out. Using the pull-out method is extremely risky for both pregnancy and contracting sexually-transmitted infections (STIs). Using the pull-out method results in pregnancy for about 20% of couples who use it as their main method of birth control. And, of course, it doesn’t protect against any STIs. Even if your boyfriend doesn’t present any signs or symptoms of STIs, he may very well still have them. A recent study found that 1 in 4 men carry HPV (https://t.co/M4tZySQtZt) and the vast majority show no symptoms at all. If a woman catches this disease, it can create serious problems for her, such as cervical cancer or infertility.
Attaining birth control is as easy as visiting your local Planned Parenthood. The one in Merced is located at 3166 Collins Dr. You can also call them at (209) 723-7751 to schedule an appointment. Planned Parenthood offers free contraceptives, such as birth control, regardless of whether you’re insured or not. And, it’s completely confidential, so no one, including your family or boyfriend, will be notified. They offer traditional birth control (“the pill”), which is over 98% effective in preventing pregnancy if used every day. They also offer long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), such as a birth control implant, which is implanted in the upper arm or hip. These can last 3 – 5 years and are 99.7% effective in preventing pregnancy. I would strongly urge you to take advantage of one of these options, so that you do not become unintentionally pregnant.
Answers provided by Dr. Ross Avilla
Dr. Ross Avilla has been teaching Human Sexuality since 2013 and has a PhD in psychology from UC Davis. Dr. Avilla is not a clinician and all information and advice offered on this website is for educational purposes only.