WTF is actually happening in your body when you use birth control

Birth control. What is it? How does it work? Why do conservatives keep trying to take it away from us? I don’t know how many times someone has tried to convince me that birth control is killing a baby. While I always knew that it wasn’t, I unfortunately didn’t know exactly what it WAS doing to my body. So like any good nerd, I did my research. Now the next time someone yells at me how my birth control is he devil, I can femme-splain to them that actually, it’s just science. Here are some important birth control facts to make you the expert on what’s going on with your own reproductive system.

First off, there are even more types of birth control than I ever realized.

One thing I was completely surprised by was the sheer number of birth control types out there. There are the obvious options we all know about, like birth control pills AKA oral contraceptive pills, or IUDs, which are intra-uterine devices. There’s also the patch, the shot, the implant, the sponge, the vaginal ring (AKA NuvaRing), plus numerous others. Before researching this topic, I’d never even heard of the implant. Doctors implant a small rod the size of a matchstick underneath your skin, hence the name “implant.” If you’re thinking of going on birth control, Planned Parenthood is an excellent resource for all things concerning your reproductive health.

So what’s actually happening when you get pregnant?

We all know the story of how babies are made. Sperm plus egg equals pregnancy, right? Well, mostly. Beyond the actual sexy time, there are four steps that lead to a woman becoming pregnant.

First, a woman must be ovulating. This is when a woman’s ovaries release an egg or ovum and travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. There is a very narrow window of when the woman is ovulating, which is why it’s challenging for some to become pregnant. Step two occurs when sperm swims up through the cervix, which is the bottom part of the uterus. The egg and sperm meet in the uterus, and step three, the sperm fertilizes the egg. Finally, the fertilized egg must attach to the uterine lining, which has thickened during ovulation. This last step is called “implantation.”

If all these steps occur, congratulations, prepare your cheesy Instagram announcement, because you’ve got a bun in the oven.

And how does birth control stop this process?

If pregnancy occurs from ovulation, fertilization, and implantation, then it makes sense that birth control works to prevent these things from happening. Most types use the hormones estrogen or progestin to accomplish that. Types of birth control that use hormones include pills, the patch, the shot, the implant, and IUDs. The exception is an IUD called Paragard, which uses copper wire, because apparently sperm hates copper.

These hormones work by causing several changes in a woman’s body. First, they can stop the ovaries from ever releasing an egg. They also thicken the mucus on the cervix so sperm are unable to swim up to the uterus. And even if those two events fail to stop fertilization, the hormones can also thin out and weaken the uterine lining so that the fertilized egg will not implant.

No egg, no sperm, no implantation all leads to no baby.

Here’s what stood out to me the most in all my research. Frequently, critics of birth control state that life begins at conception, which by definition is when an egg is fertilized. So along that train of thought, consuming a pill or implanting a device that weakens the uterine lining is akin to an abortion. However, that argument doesn’t take into account how often implantation fails to happen even when a woman isn’t on birth control. In fact, according to the University of San Francisco Medical Center, 50% of all fertilized eggs are lost.

Therefore, it’s hard to argue about life beginning simply with fertilization when in nature, fifty percent of these fertilized eggs pass out of a woman before she’s even aware they existed.

Still, it’s important to acknowledge that some individuals will never be swayed by the facts. At least with this information, you’ll be ready to defend your point of view and your choice to use birth control.

Did we answer all your questions? What else do you need to know? Let us know in the comments below!


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