12/29/2015 08:17 EST

How Does Birth Control Work? They're Pretty Much Stumped.

Would you pass a quiz on contraception?

Most of these folks sure didn't.

For this episode of Mic's series "Flip the Script," Liz Plank sat down with a tray full of goodies and asked some men and women to identify what the items were. Off the bat, most of them figured out that it was birth control, but for some, it went downhill from there.

"I have no idea what this is. This is a mitten."

Most knew at least the names of the items, if not how they worked. But some of the responses were puzzling, or endearingly confused.

"I have no idea what this is. This is a mitten," one woman said holding up a female or insertive condom.

Another called a vaginal ring an "orb of hormones," while the man in a fedora took a look and thought it was made of glass.

This study on birth control knowledge by a U.S. midwifery school shows that women are uninformed about birth control methods outside of the pill and condoms, and many have misconceptions about the effectiveness of various methods.

Contraception and the like have become a heated topic in the U.S. especially, with talks about cutting funding for Planned Parenthood stirred among Republicans.

There was good news for Planned Parenthood supporters recently, when a draft funding bill was released, and the organization seems to have been spared.

Plank said the debates about Planned Parenthood are unfortunate, considering the limited knowledge both men and women seem to have about contraception and sex ed.


Fortunately, there are other options. Since the video doesn't really explain too much about how these birth control methods work, we'll go through a few, based on the information provided by Planned Parenthood.

Before we get started, keep in mind that these are birth control methods and most DO NOT protect against STIs. On this list, only female condoms prevent STI transmission.

Birth Control Pills

"What's in the pill?"

"That's a very good question."

Almost everyone has already heard of the pill before, but based on the video, the mechanics may not be too clear. One fella was pretty well-informed about contraception — high-five to him — and he got the basic idea: it tricks your body into thinking you're pregnant so you don't actually get pregnant.

Sometimes called "oral contraception," it's a hormonal pill that uses estrogen and progestin (or just progestin) to stop an egg from leaving your ovaries — something that usually only happens when you are already pregnant. It also changes the uterus and cervix to keep the sperm and egg apart. But they must be taken religiously at the same time every day to be most effective.

Female or Insertive Condom

female condom

"This is a mitten."

Nope, not meant for your hand and it won't keep you warm in the winter. This functions just like the latex condom you're probably more familiar with, but it's meant to be inserted in either the vagina or the anus. But don't worry, it will stay put and you won't lose it. There are two rings attached to the pouch — one on the inside that holds it in place, and the other outside the vagina that anchors it there.

If you're allergic to latex, this could be a useful alternative since it's made of polyurethane. Once you're done messing around in the sheets, just twist the external ring, gently remove it and flush.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)


"Maybe you can fish with it. For eggs."

Not quite ... This small T-shaped device is made of plastic and inserted in the uterus. Some kinds are hormonal and release progestin, something the pill has as well. To elaborate a bit more, progestin thickens cervical mucus, which creates a barrier for sperm. For some women, it also keeps the egg from leaving the ovary altogether.

Other IUDs are made of copper, which makes eggs and sperm incompatible, so you can remain without child. These suckers can be expensive (up to $1,000) but certain brands can last for 12 years.


"You just shove it up there."

Indeed, you do, but you have to be careful how you do it. A diaphragm is a shallow, silicone dome which is sized just for you, which covers the cervix to keep sperm out and away from eggs. Think of them as the door overprotective parents slam in your significant other's faces when you're younger. You just have to be careful that it's inserted properly and doesn't get knocked out of place during sex. In order to be as effective as possible, it has to be used with spermicide (see below). When used correctly, they are 94 per cent effective against pregnancy.

Nowadays, according to Bustle, they seem to have fallen out of fashion, but were quite popular in the 20th century. But there are tons of benefits to this method: it isn't hormonal, it can be worn before sex, its reversible and it's reusable, so it can save you money in the long run.


spermicide pic

"What does spermicide do?"

"Genocide for sperm." That has an interesting ring to it. And that is what it does — sorta of. Spermicide is a gel that uses chemicals to stop sperm from moving. It's inserted in the vagina before intercourse and it can be used on its own, but it's more often combined with another method, like a diaphragm. Now this is an option, and works for some, but keep in mind that it's not as effective as other methods. Each year, 15 or 29 per cent of women get pregnant, depending on if they used this method correctly or not.

Vaginal Ring

"It's a little orb of hormones."

It is, yeah. Vaginal rings are small and flexible and like the diaphragm, you shove it up there, so to speak, but it works just like the pill, using the same hormones as birth control pills. You can keep it in for three weeks, then like the pill, you give yourself a week-long break from the hormones and then insert a new one afterwards.

It's extremely effective, with less than a 1 per cent fail rate when used perfectly, and 9 per cent if you're less than perfect. It can be an awesome alternative if hormonal treatments work for you, but you can't remember to take the pill every single day.

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