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COLUMN

Savage Love

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I'm a straight 18-year-old woman, a senior in high school, and I'm still a virgin. I'm going to a university about 3,000 miles away next fall, and I'm starting to wonder about going on some method of birth control. My degree is going to take me six years to complete, and within those six years I might want to have sex with someone. Would going to the doctor and having an implant or IUD inserted be dumb? (I might want a long-term method of birth control.) I trust the doctor I have here at home; the second I turned 14, he gave me tons of info on birth control and how I can get access to it. So I'd be comfortable getting it through him. Please let me know if I'm overthinking all of this and whether I should cross birth control off of my pre-college to-do list.
Thinking I Might Encounter Love Yearnings

"It is in no way 'dumb' to consider contraception as a virgin," says Dr. Unjali Malhotra, medical director for Options for Sexual Health British Columbia, aka the Planned Parenthood of British Columbia. "It is actually best to get on a method prior to ever having sex to ensure she is happy on her chosen option before acutely requiring it."
Dr. Malhotra also supports – acutely supports – your preference for a long-term method.
"Although oral contraceptives are popular," says Dr. Malhotra, "they have up to a 9 percent 'typical-use' failure rate." Progesterone-releasing IUDs have failure rates of .2 percent, copper IUDs have failure rates of .8 percent and implants have failure rates of .05 percent. "TIMELY can choose between a nonhormonal copper IUD, a progesterone-releasing IUD and a progesterone-releasing implant," says Dr. Malhotra. "Timing-wise, she has options of a three-year implant, five-year IUD and 10-year IUD. There are advantages to each, which she can discuss with her physician. And, despite myths to the contrary, there are very few risks with an IUD, and she can remove it and get pregnant at any time if she wishes."
None of these options will protect you from sexually transmitted infections, so use condoms, too. For more info about birth control, sexual health and STIs, go to optionsforsexualhealth.org.

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