Many girls on campus are probably taking some form of birth control, the most common form being the birth control pill. Although as girls, we may think we know everything there is to know about the pill, there are some precautions and concerns to consider while taking it.
The 2004 National College Health Assessment said that 53 percent of MSU students who use contraception or whose partners use contraception take birth control pills.
Nicolle Stec, a sexual health educator from Olin Health Center, said that many students do not understand how the pill work. “In my humble opinion, all too often students do not know the side effects of birth control, nor do they understand how the birth control method itself works.”
MSU junior Jenna Street said she didn’t know the side effects.“I know I wasn’t informed of many risks, and it does bother me,” Street said, who has just started taking the pill. “It makes me wonder if they just didn’t care or didn’t feel it was necessary for me to know.”
In fact, having a yearly check up with a gynecologist and requesting a prescription is all it takes to get the pill at Olin Health Center, while at Planned Parenthood, it’s not required to have a yearly check up. Many girls don’t want to talk about birth control with their parents, so they turn to friends and the internet for information, both of which are not exactly the most knowledgeable sources. Because parental consent isn’t always necessary, Mom isn’t there to go along and sign the papers and ask all the other embarrassing questions that you yourself wouldn’t even have thought to ask.
On and around campus there are many options for getting the pill, including Olin Health Center and Planned Parenthood. Information on birth control pills provided by Planned Parenthood states that risks of using the pill include: blood clots in the legs that can travel to the lungs, heart attack or stroke, and liver tumors.
Mary Kint, a nurse practitioner and an assistant medical director at Planned Parenthood says blood clots are the biggest risk Planned Parenthood vocalizes to patients.
“We tell them about all of the potential risks,” Kint said. “But we are most concerned about blood clots, so we make them aware of those side effects and tell them to come in if they see any.”
In addition to these risk factors, the warning from the Physician’s Desk Reference (2004), stated that cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular side effects from oral contraceptive use. This risk increases with age and heavy smoking (15 or more cigarettes per day) and is quite marked in women over 35 years of age. Women who use oral contraceptives should be strongly advised not to smoke. More specifically, risks increase for heart attacks, blood clots, stroke, liver cancer, and gallbladder disease, although the risk is very small in healthy women without underlying risk factors.
So the question remains, if women do know of these risks do they think the benefits of the pill outweigh the risks?
“I’ve heard of a lot of risks and concerns from taking the pill, but I guess the whole protection thing outweighs them,” Shannon Lewiki, an MSU sophomore who both smokes and takes birth control, said. “Of course it worries me, but I guess I don’t really think that anything will happen to me.”
So what can you do to determine whether birth control is right for you?
“People just need to be educated as to their options, the benefits and risks of their options and have the final decision in how they control their contraceptive use or non-use,” Stec said.

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