The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Ask the SHIC: a shot at birth control and some distressing discharge

Dear SHIC:
I began using the Depo-Provera injection as my primary form of birth control in the middle of last year, and I have noticed that I have been gaining weight. I’ve maintained my same diet and exercise routines that I’ve had for years with relatively constant weight, but now that I’m on Depo, my weight has gone up. Is this normal? Is this something that happens with lots of birth control forms? How do I know which form of birth control is right for me?
“Shocked by the Shot”

Dear “Shocked:”
As far as Depo-Provera goes, your problem is not unique. In clinical trials for the birth control shot, over 2/3 of women gained an average of five pounds in the first year, and continued to gain about 3.5-4 pounds each year following. However, the shot does offer certain advantages that other birth control methods do not offer. For example, the shot is used only once every three months. Also, the pregnancy rate among injectable birth control users is less than one percent due to limited chances for incorrect usage. While the shot does not protect against HIV or other STIs, its birth control effects begin as soon as the first shot is taken, which is not true for other methods (notably, the birth control pill). Another downside of using the shot is that women may lose significant bone mass density with extended (more than two years) use.

Birth control pills can also cause some side effects, although they are less common than the weight gain seen in Depo-Provera. These include nausea, headaches, breast tenderness and irregular bleeding. Every pill is different, so it is hard to predict how each pill will affect any one person’s body, so you need to work with your doctor to find the best fit for you.

Birth controls have also been reported to decrease sex drive (because who doesn’t love a good dose of irony?), but this has been neither supported nor refuted with clinical studies. The great thing about birth control pills is that there so many kinds that there should be one that works well without causing these unpleasant side effects. Also, when taken properly, the pills are more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

The diaphragm, while not a commonly used method of birth control nowadays, has very few reported side effects. These can include bladder infections and allergic reaction to the spermicide on the diaphragm. Additionally, diaphragms must be fitted at a clinic, adding extra inconvenience.

Other options include intrauterine devices (IUD) and the Implanon, both of which offer long-term protection against pregnancy (up to 12 years for IUD, 3 years for Implanon), but can be more inconvenient. The Implanon requires a minor surgical procedure to insert and remove and can cost $400-650. IUDs can cause infections, especially in women with multiple partners.
So, essentially, every method of birth control has advantages and disadvantages. What’s important is that you find a method that is comfortable and convenient for you. If you want any further information, talk to your doctor, stop by the SHIC, or set up an appointment with Central Iowa Family Planning (number below), and anyone of those places would be happy to help.

Dear SHIC:
My boyfriend and I just had sex for the first time two weeks ago, and we’ve been going pretty much constantly since then. Things were going great, until I noticed an unusual discharge. Someone told me this could be Chlamydia, or some other STI. What are the symptoms of Chlamydia, and what can I do if I have it?
Feeling “Chlammy” in Clark

Dear “Chlammy”:
While your friend is correct, unusual discharge is a common symptom of Chlamydia, there is no need to panic just yet. Vaginal discharge is quite normal, and in fact is a natural response to help clean and prevent infections. However, an “unusual discharge”—that is, a discharge that is colored (not clear or white) of has a smell of consistency that is abnormal for you personally—that is something that could definitely be either Chlamydia or another STI. Chlamydia is an STI that can be contracted by both males and females, and the symptoms can vary from person to person. Common symptoms include unusual discharge from the penis or vagina, burning during urination, and pain/bleeding during sexual intercourse. However, some people do not show any symptoms at all, even if they have the infection. The best thing you can do (if you think you have an infection, or even at the start of any sexual relationship, infection or no) is going in with your partner to get tested for STIs. That way, you can know if either of you has invited an unwanted third party to your sexual encounters. Chlamydia can be treated and cured with antibiotics.

It is important to note that these sympotms are not sure-fire signs that you have Chlamydia (nor is a lack of symptoms a sure-fire sign that you don’t). These symptoms are common among several STIs, most notably gonorrhea. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.
For more information on Chlamydia and other STIs, you can call your doctor, visit Central Iowa Family Planning, (on 5th Avenue at the corner of 5th and West Street in downtown Grinnell) or come visit the SHIC on the 2nd floor of the JRC to look at our informational pamphlets.
Central Iowa Family Planning also does STI testing! Call (641) 236-7787 to set up an appointment.
Hope this helps! Good luck with that discharge!

Love always-

The Sexual Health Information Center is a student-run resource center located on the second floor of the JRC (Multicultural Suites, Suite S). SHIC offers confidential one-on-one peer education sessions and also sells condoms (more than 20 kinds!), dental dams, lube, pregnancy tests and more for affordable prices. Come visit during our hours of operation:
Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday: 6-8 p.m.
Tuesday, Friday: 4-6 p.m.
Sunday: 12-3 p.m.
You can also reach us by email: [SHIC]
Or by phone: x3327

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *