University is the time where you meet a lot of new people and indulge in new relationships. Dating becomes a regular thing which means there’s a lot of ‘first times’. First love ❤️, first heartbreak 💔 and first sexual partner… 👅

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During this time, it is especially important to take control of your sexual health. Approach it in a positive manner and be well informed about the facts within this area, as well as knowing the range of support and resources that are on offer for students.

*Disclaimer, I am not a doctor or have any form of medical training* 👩‍⚕️

Firstly, let us get familiar with our local sexual health clinic. It’s situated in the centre of town, inside boots at the bottom floor. The staff are super friendly and are willing to give advice on anything sexual health related. No question is too big, small or silly for them so do try to be open with any issues you may have, they are here to help!

Contraception

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If you are planning to be sexually active at university, you should consider the range of contraceptive options that are available for both males and females. Please be mindful that what may work for some may not work out for you, be sure to discuss and do further research on these options at your GP 📖.

The first most commonly used form of contraception is Condoms 🍌

When used correctly, they are 98% effective in preventing STDs and unplanned pregnancy. They must be used with a water based lubricant as this prevents the condom from tearing. Using other forms of lubricant, such as baby oil or saliva, is highly unadvised as it weakens the condom and can lead to infections 😷.

 

+ Cost effective.

+ Can be purchased over the counter or free from the clinic.

+ Offers great protection from most STD’s and unplanned pregnancy.

– They do not protect against STD’s such as herpes, genital warts and syphilis as these can be spread via skin to skin contact.

 

Next we have the contraceptive pill 💊

The contraceptive pill comes in two types. Combined and the progesterone-only pill. Both are equally as effective when taken properly but they will not protect you from STD’s. They need to be taken every single day at a certain time in order to increase effectiveness so set a reminder on your phone or pick a time of day which will be easiest for you.

 

*As you will be having unprotected sex, you and your partner must go for a check-up to ensure you are both STD free.*

+ Makes periods regular.

+ Can improve skin conditions such as acne.

– Must be taken everyday so can reduce the effectiveness if you forget to take it at a specific time or miss a few days.

– Side effects may include; spotting, nausea and breast tenderness.

 

Implant 

This is a small plastic rod that is inserted into the skin, just under the arm, by a trained professional or a doctor. It slowly releases a hormone, called progesterone, into the bloodstream over the course of three years. If inserted correctly the implant is 99% effective against unplanned pregnancy.

 

+ You don’t have to remember to take anything.

+ Lasts a long time (3 years).

+ Easily removed.

– Does not protect against STIs, condoms should be used.

– Alters the menstrual cycle, causing irregular periods and spotting.

 

Injections 💉

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Depo-Provera injection is the most commonly used injection amongst three other types. It lasts for up to 3 months and contains progesterone. Like other hormonal contraception, it thickens the mucus in the cervix, which stops the sperm from reaching the egg. It also thins the lining of the womb and can prevent the release of an egg. The injection can also provide some protection against womb cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease.

 

+ Low maintenance.

+ Very effective.

– Does not protect against STI’s.

– Can disrupt menstrual cycle.

– Can’t be reversed, so you have to wait until the injection wears off.

– Can cause depletion of calcium from the bone, so it’s recommended that you have a calcium rich diet.

– Headaches, nausea, mood spells and weight gain may be experienced.

 

The intrauterine device (IUD)

This is a small object that is put inside the womb by a doctor and can last for up to 5-10 years. There are hormonal and non-hormonal versions which are good for women who have had bad reactions to the hormonal contraception. It works by stopping the sperm from reaching the egg and prevents a fertilised egg from attaching to the lining of the womb.

 

+ Convenient as it lasts for 10 years.

+ Can be removed at any time by a doctor.

– Does not protect against STD’s.

– Pain and discomfort will be experienced during insertion and for a little while after.

– You have to check monthly if the IUD is in the right place.

 

The patch ⬜

This is a small 5×5 sticker that is placed on the skin almost everywhere apart from the breast area. It delivers hormones into your body through the skin and contains combined hormones. It is changed weekly and can be worn in the bath, swimming pool or whilst playing sports as it is super sticky so won’t fall off. However it is not suitable for everyone so you must go to your local clinic to have some tests and be asked a series of questions before being given the patch.

 

+ Easy to use and does not interrupt intercourse.
+ Low maintenance as you change the patch weekly.
+ Makes periods regular and lighter.
+ Can reduce the risk of a number of diseases such as ovarian, womb and bowel cancer.

– Depending on where it is placed the patch is visible.
– Can cause skin irritation.
– Doesn’t protect you against STI’s.
– Mild temporary side effects such as: mood changes, nausea, breast tenderness, and headaches (these tend to settle down after a few months).
– Some medicines may interfere with effectiveness.

 

Aaaaaaaand take a deep breath!

It is a lot to take in at first but when you find the effective method for you, you can have some peace of mind.

I’ve found that using hormonal contraception was not the best time, it gave me crazy mood swings whilst being on the pill and the patch. As well as this, I experienced some headaches, body aches weight gain and so on and so forth… It was really exhausting. For others though, hormonal contraception works a treat! However, I have found that condoms work best as it’s easy and effective with no stress involved.

Take your time with your decision and never feel pressured into doing anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. You are in control of your body so there is no rush!