I was going to title this post as “Sex on the Cheap” but then thought that wouldn't go over so well (people may misinterpret it, understandably), and I would probably have 300 spam comments in my spam queue the instant I post it.
Being a young individual, you may want to delay baby-making for later years when you have that career established and your future somewhat organized. So here's a post looking at the different ways birth control can be cheaper and cost-effective, and their possible side effects so that you can make the best decision and save money at the same time. I won't go to the detail of analyzing “cost per use” though, you can do that experimenting on your own 😉
I might throw in a little “pros” and “cons” list for each one in terms of cost and ease of use just because you know I love my Pros and Cons lists and I haven't made one for a while.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills (aka OCP's or Oral Contraceptive Pills) are the most popular form of birth control in North America. They are taken daily and have an efficacy rate (if taken correctly and not missed, for example) of 99%. Typical usage (like the “oh crap! Forgot to take my pill!) renders its efficacy rate to be 95%. Then the drawback is you're worried for the rest of the month until Aunt Flow comes.
Cost- about $20-$60 a month depending on the brand/ type of pill. The generic less specific pills are cheaper, but may have more side effects like bloating, weight gain, etc. Usually its the generic pills that are covered by Extended Health Benefits from your work (unless your workplace benefits are awesome and don't discriminate against which brand of birth control pill you have).
PROS: Er.. comfort :). Low cost per use depending on how much action you're getting. You also get glowing skin and bigger boobs while you're on the pill.
CONS: Doesn't protect against STD's, and it can be a hassle to remember to take them. Side effects are irritability and moodiness, seemingly occuring 24/7. Exogenous hormones- long term use has been linked to increased chance of stroke or blood clots int he legs, and even to breast cancer (GIRLS if you have been on your birth control pills for more than SEVEN years, get off them asap!)
TIPS ON GETTING THEM CHEAPER: Check with your extended health to see if it is covered. Oftentimes if you are under the age of 25 and you go to the local health centre (in Canada anyway), health care providers can see you and give you pills free of charge (e.g. you don't even need to go to the pharmacy to get them). I believe Planned Parenthood offers the same thing.
PROS: Protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Ease of use- don't have to remember to take something every day.
CONS: Er… comfort. Though they've come a long way, I think. If it breaks then the night turns sour and panic ensues. High failure rate, 14%. You decrease this failure rate by using spermicide as well, though this may decrease the ‘ease of use' factor. High cost per use (at about $1.75 each) so instead of a mentality like “all you can do”, you may feel cheap and not want to ‘do' that often. Which of course will lead to an unhappy relationship, duh! 🙂
TIPS: Again, hit up the local health centre. They're usually in a bowl near the exit, just grab a bunch. Oh, and make sure they're not expired when you pull it out of that pocket in your wallet.
This is actually the most common form of birth control in the world (and the oldest form). I'm not sure why North America has an infatuation with birth control pills (uh oh, here's my inner skeptic of big pharmaceutical companies talking again!), but Europe and China for example, use the IUD as the most common form of birth control. Here in Canada, there are different types of IUD- the Copper IUD is about $180 and the Mirena IUD (it releases a hormone from the actual IUD device itself) is $300-400. Insertion is covered by our Medical Services Plan and can be done by a gynecologist or a GP who feels comfortable with it.
Factoring in that these devices last FIVE years (don't worry its reversible, just need to have your GP or gyne take it out), If you got the copper IUD and used it for five years, it would cost you only $2.60 a month (yes, you read that right). If you got the Mirena and you used it for a total of five years, it would cost you $6.67 a month. Talk about birth control on the cheap! They are both very effective as well- both 96-98%% and 99% effective (the Mirena is 99%).
PROS: So cheap! So easy, you don't need to remember to do anything or take any pills. Better for the environment (less rubber in the garbage, and less hormones in our water from women peeing it out).
CONS: The insertion process may be daunting (yes that contraption goes up your hoo-ha into the uterus). You need to make sure you use a medical practitioner who is comfortable inserting these things- because if you don't, it can be painful and super anxiety provoking. There is a small chance you could get a serious infection related to the insertion of the IUD (if this is the case, it can be very serious, including causing infertility). You also need to check for the string every month to make sure its there and doesn't slip out. The string may poke at your significant other and cause some discomfort. Aunt Flow might become “Aunt Flow gone wild” on the copper IUD.
TIPS: If you're in a long term monogamous relationship, then this birth control method is for you. Unless the concept of IUD insertion absolutely makes you squeamish.
Natural Family Planning
I guess this method would be the most cost effective (FREE!) except that is not the most effective. Natural Family Planning takes into consideration the timing of ovulation, menstruation etc. and basically you count to see when you are not ovulating and take your chances then. This type of family planning may be the preferable option for couples who are unable to use the other methods for religious reasons or even health reasons.
CONS: Possibly high failure rate. Doesn't protect against STD's or other nasties.
I don't think I'll bother mentioning the other options of birth control… there's the diaphragm, the female condom, the birth control patch (which is similar to the pill, and might not be covered on some extended health plans), the Nuva Ring (this ring that releases a hormone) which may cost similar or more than the pill.
One final method that is guaranteed cheap and free… is abstinence!
Readers which one does you or your partner use? (If you're feeling shy, that's fine too!).