Don't Get Your Birth Control Information from Cosmo

I found this little gem on the cosmo website today. Don't ask me why I was on the Cosmo website - it's complicated, I don't want to talk about it.

The author of the article claims to want to help women make decisions about birth control because there just isn't enough information out there. That's true. There isn't enough accurate information about birth control that helps women make decisions that work well for them. This article doesn't provide that either. The 'article' is just a list of all the different types of contraceptives out there and their failure rates. It contains only a one sentence description of the method, a picture, a pithy joke or two, and the failure rate.

There's two problems with doing things this way. First, just listing the failure rate and putting them almost in a descending list of most effective to least, implies that one is actually better than the other simply because of the effectiveness rate. There are a lot of other considerations though - such as whether it's even available to you, if the way it must be used fits your life and your needs, if there are side effects, if the method is contra-indicated for any health issues you might have, and whether you can afford it or not. It is true that hormonal contraceptives have the highest effectiveness rates of all the methods. It is also true that they have the greatest number of side effects and the most serious side effects of all the methods. Pregnancy is not the only thing to consider when making a choice.

Second, the author has chosen to use typical use rates of failure. That is mentioned only on one method so it's a little confusing as to whether it's typical use just for that method or for all. But it is for all. She might have thought she was giving the real info by doing that - after all, condoms are said to be 95 to 98% effective but that is only if they are used properly every time. A typical failure rate, though, is an aggregated statistic. It combines all the people that use the method. It includes people who are trying it for the first time and people who've used it for a long time. It includes people who read the instructions before they used it and people who didn't. It includes people who asked questions or practiced and people who didn't. So yes, overall, the failure rate is what is printed in Cosmo's little list there, but what she doesn't say is that an individual can greatly increase the effectiveness rate by making sure s/he understands the method, practicing, and taking care to use it properly. The effectiveness rate for almost every method, particular things like condoms and fertility awareness, usually increases for each person the longer they use it. The author really needed to include the perfect use rate because, if you are careful to use them perfectly, they can be as effective as the perfect use rate.

The author also includes the cervical cap in her list. In Canada, this is pretty much non-existent now. I've had several calls over the last few years from women trying to find the jelly that goes with cervical caps. They have had a cap for awhile but can't get the jelly. This is because doctors here are just not fitting these devices anymore. I'm not sure why this is but I suspect that it's because they've fallen from favor as more effective and easier to use methods have become available. I'm not saying that's necessarily a good thing - they have been good choices for some. But whether they are, or not, you're going to have a hard time finding them here. Unless things are very different in the USA, putting them on that list is a complete waste of time.

If you want accurate, comprehensive, information on birth control, check out the BedsiderInsider. It has all the same stuff but it explains it all - including a really good list of pros and cons for each method and stories of the experiences of people who used them.