Cardiff students talk contraception

84 per cent agree the burden is too heavily placed on women

In light on International Women’s Day on March 8th, we wanted to find out Cardiff students’ thoughts on all things contraception. Following International Women’s Day, it is important to recognise that women should be empowered to make their own decisions, the decisions that are best for their own bodies.

We’re well into the 21st century, people are increasingly embracing feminism, as they should, and humanity is advancing faster than ever. So, we should be able to openly talk about sex and all things related, right? Here’s what Cardiff’s students had to say…

80 per cent of Cardiff students we asked use contraception

80 per cent of the participants answered ‘yes’ to using some form of contraception and are therefore practicing safe sex.

To find out more about Cardiff University’s contraception services for students, please visit this page.

The birth control pill is the most popular form of contraception

When asked about the type of contraception students use, the most popular response was the birth control pill, with with 481 of 1,282 (37 per cent) participants using it regularly. This was followed by condoms that are used by 26 per cent of students. Other methods that were also voted for included implants (11 per cent), coils (eight per cent), cycle tracking (five per cent), injections (two per cent), and patches (one per cent).

Cardiff students contraception use preferences (Tab Cardiff Instagram Data Collection 2021).

The NHS 2017/18 England report on contraception states oral contraceptives are the most common single type of main method in use, with 42 per cent of women using them, showing that Cardiff students follow the general population norms regarding contraception preferences.

74 per cent of students prefer long-term contraception

Of the 653 people that took part in the poll, 74% stated that they prefer long-term contraception. These include implants, intrauterine devices/systems (rod or coil), and the contraceptive injection. They work by adjusting your body’s progestin levels over time. Long-term contraception methods are considered to be around 99 per cent effective.

According to the NHS, the proportion of women choosing to use long acting reversible contraceptives has been rising steadily over the last 10 years, and in 2017/18, 41 per cent of women were using them.

On the contrary, 26 per cent of students voted for short-term contraception, including vaginal rings, condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, etc. These methods prevent pregnancies by adjusting the body’s estrogen and/or progestin levels or by creating a sperm ‘barrier’. Short-term contraception is approximately 91-95 per cent effective.

Temporal preferences of contraception for Cardiff Students (Data from Tab Cardiff Instagram 2021)

To find out more about different kinds of contraception, use the NHS advice. 

We spoke to one Cardiff University student who explained “I feel women think their options are always limited to the pill or condoms”, advising other female students to contact their nearest family planning clinic and find the best option for them. We usually research about these things independently, not realising that there are professionals out there with the knowledge and experience to assist us. It’s always good to consult a specialist before making major decisions about your body. But don’t forget, at the end of the day you know what’s best for you, so trust that too!

Is the burden of contraception placed too heavily on women?

When asked whether or not women heavily bear the burden of contraception, a staggering 84 per cent of students voted ‘it absolutely is!’, agreeing that women are the ones who must bear the burden of contraceptives. 10 per cent of students disagreed with this statement, voting for ‘nah not really’ whilst the remainder stated that they weren’t sure.

In addition to collecting poll responses, we also spoke to several Cardiff University students about their thoughts on the topic of contraception. Many students stressed the damaging stigma around some contraceptive methods and the reluctance to talk about the negative impact of others. One student told The Cardiff Tab: “I’ve tried talking to my boyfriend about it but I feel like he doesn’t understand the struggle, or doesn’t understand the weight of the pressure on me to make sure I take my pill and stay on contraception in our relationship”.

The Cardiff Tab spoke to one student who explained: “I think there should be more options for men, so it’s not just expected for women to sort out.”

The normalisation of this burden on women as well as the stigma and health issues surrounding it are dangerous when not talked about. After all, it’s only fair that all parties involved are equally responsible for ensuring safe, protected sex.

Contraception can have a huge effect on mental health

The negative impact of some contraceptive methods is especially well-known to those affected by it. Mood swings, bloating, headaches and changing hormonal levels are just a few of the many side effects our bodies battle. In another poll question, we asked students if their contraception has negatively affected their mood or not. 68 per cent of students voted yes, while 32 per cent answered no, showing that the majority of students have suffered negative effects to their mood since taking contraception.

The Cardiff Tab spoke to one student who explained: “My fear of falling pregnant is so strong that I feel like I’d rather suffer mentally or have my body weight and appetite change than fear being pregnant when I’m coming up to my period.”

One student in a long-distance relationship shared her experience with us. She explained: “I’ll go weeks/months without seeing him and obviously without sleeping with him, but still take the pill throughout because I’ve heard it’s bad to keep going on and off the pill, and it’s wrecked my mental health before. However,  it’s so normalised that women suffer whilst on the pill that it goes ignored.”

Credit: Instagram @taikawaititi

In the wake of  International Women’s Day, it’s important to know that as women we are in control of our bodies and what decisions are made about them. Your body, your choice after all. And to all our gentlemen friends: talk, learn, and understand, because contraception is as much your responsibility as ours.

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• International Women’s Day: We spoke to the Cardiff Uni Boob Team about checking your chests

• Celebrating iconic Welsh women throughout history this International Women’s Day