Your birth control and you

As a matter of reproductive rights, you have the right to determine if and when you become pregnant, how often you reproduce, the spacing of those pregnancies, and to whom you become pregnant for.

Birth control helps you with this decision, and for many women, it’s a life saving tool to have.

Thankfully in Guyana, this is part of our universal healthcare package – free for any sexually active girl* or woman, but sadly not easily accessible as most rural and hinterland clinics lack the comprehensive options listed.

Click the article here to find out where you can access birth control.

*There are no laws or policies preventing sexually active teenagers from accessing contraceptives in public healthcare facilities, in fact it is privately encouraged that sexually active persons visit their adolescent health centres. Though some minor invasive procedures like the implant and IUD insertion would need consent, this is dependent on the circumstances presented to the clinician, and their level of comfort.

As for women, no one: not a male partner, relative or escort needs to give consent or even be there. Just you.

If you have the privilege of living in the city, and on the coast, these options are available to you, the real problem is: knowing What is right for you?

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Consult with a doctor on what method is best for you, discuss your short or long-term plans, and your comfort.

Ask your doctor which one of these methods may be right for you:

The Implant

The implant is a small matchstick-like rod that is inserted into the arm.

It works by releasing hormones that thicken the mucous of the cervix (the gateway from the vaginal canal into the uterus) which prevents a sperm from meeting the egg.

It is discreet (no one will know you have it in), can work between 3 to 5 years; and it is 99% effective.

  • The Copper-T
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Copper-T is an Intrauterine Device (IUD) which means it is implanted in the uterus and sits right at the ‘T’ junction of the two Fallopian tubes and the uterus. The spiral of copper wire on the tool kills any sperm that comes into contact with it.

It is discreet, non-hormonal (so no side effects really), and work between 8 to 10 years; it is 99% effective.

  • The shot

The shot or injectables is an injection in the arm that can be applied monthly, every two or three months; depending on your choice. It is a shot of hormones that prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs.

It is effective right until your next shot date. It is discreet, and 99% effective.

  • The Pill
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The pill is a monthly cycle of pills taken daily. Once drank, the body ingests hormones than regulate your menstrual cycle, preventing eggs from being released.

Once taken correctly, (that is every day, at the same time of day) it is 99% effective. It is very affordable, easy to take if you are good at managing your daily schedule, and you can stop at any time.

  • The condom
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This is a – well you know – a barrier method of thin latex or other material that covers the penis or inserted into the vagina to prevent sperm from coming into contact with the body. It is essentially trapped behind the barrier.

The male condom is the most widely used form of contraceptive there is. Fun fact: condoms also prevent the transmission of some, not all sexually transmitted infections.
The female condom is currently suffering a shortage but please ask about their availability at your local clinic if this is your preferred choice.

Condoms are 99% effective, cheap and available at all pharmacies, (free at public health clinics) but only for single-use purposes. So, stock up.

Most persons actually do not know how to apply a condom correctly, (the GIF above is wayyyyyy off). See video for step by step directions for the most effective use of the willy-wrapper.

  • The morning-after pill
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This is considered emergency contraceptive and should only be used if a contraceptive failed (like the condom burst during sex). It releases hormones that counteracts your body’s hormones that are released after insemination. It is most effective when drank immediately after sex or 12 to 24 hours after, its effectiveness is reduced as 48 and 72 hours go by. Do not drink after 3 days (what’s the sense?)

Constant use (popping pills frequently) may cause irregular periods, hormonal imbalances, other medical issues and even pregnancy due to failed hormonal contraceptives.

About the hormones

Some of the options are hormonal methods and like any chemical in your body, their effects vary from person to person.

Some women may experience lightheadedness, headaches, body tensions, cramps, nausea, weight gain, weight loss, spotting, heavier than usual periods, a scary absence of periods or irregular cycle; and some women may experience nothing at all.

Not all women will share the same experience with birth control.

This is why it is important to consult with a doctor, and if you find that one method just isn’t for you, you can try another, a lesser dose, or even a non-hormonal method.

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Birth control is every woman’s freedom of choice, family planning is an essential healthcare service, and reproductive rights are human rights.

Some quick myth-busting: Birth control correctly used and applied does not cause infertility, infections or long-term medical issues.

Let’s be supportive of a woman’s right to decide when she wants to be pregnant, if ever, especially if that decision is “definitely not during a public health crisis.”

Featured image taken from ISTOCK/BBC Three.

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Jairo Rodrigues is a Women Deliver Young Leader, Human Rights Advocate and Social Change Projects Coordinator specializing in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), and programmes related to gender relations, women empowerment, youth development, and LGBT Rights.

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