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Golding Health Center offers students emergency contraceptives

By Ariel Wittenberg

Section: Features

April 11, 2008

The fifth time that Julia* ever had sex, the condom broke. Julia, who had been dating Mike* for about three weeks, had never had sex with any of her previous boyfriends, despite the fact that she had been in serious relationships before, primarily because she was afraid of getting pregnant. When Mike pulled out and looked at the condom and told her that it broke, Julia was face-to-face with her long time fear.

“As soon as it broke, I just felt like every second I could get pregnant,” Julia said. “The sperm was meeting the egg, and that was the end.”

“I asked him what he would do if I was pregnant—because we were dating, but we had just started dating, so we hadn’t had the conversation—and he was honest, and he said that he would help me out,” Julia said, “but he also said ‘we’re aiming for no.’”

Mike had to dress and carry a shocked Julia down the stairs and told her that they would go to the health center to get Plan B—commonly known as “the morning after pill”—an emergency contraceptive that prevents fertilization of the egg after sex has already occurred.

While the Golding Health Center has offered Plan B to students since 2004, 13 percent of Brandeis students are unaware that the health center provides it, according to an MAP survey from Brandeis’ Department of Institutional Research.

Julia was one of those students. While she had already scheduled an appointment with the health center in order to get on birth control before the condom broke, and had told Mike that although he was wearing a condom he could not cum inside of her vagina until after she was on the pill, she was not only unaware that the health center offered Plan B, but was unaware of Plan B’s existence prior to the condom breaking.

“At first I was like, shit, I’m not having sex again,” Julia said. “I just felt so stupid and that the health center would judge me, but they didn’t.”

In fact, Julia was only one of 58 other students who visited the health center in order to obtain Plan B this year.

“Condoms break,” said Health Center Director, Kathleen Maloney. “We do this all the time, you know. We’re not judgmental about it. We don’t judge them if they fall and scrape their knee and we don’t judge them if the condom breaks.”

Plan B does not have any effect after the egg has been fertilized. However, if it is taken as directed, the risk of pregnancy is reduced by up to 89 percent. Plan B does not protect against STDs and is not a guarantee against pregnancy, but Maloney encourages students in need to come to the health center and ask for help.

“It’s your body, so if you have questions about it, ask the questions,” she said. “As a health care provider you do everything you can to keep people healthy, physically and psychologically, and when you’re a sophomore at Brandeis and you have a long life and many reproductive years ahead of you, you know, we need to help you if you think you might get pregnant,. [So] I’m pro emergency contraception. Come on down.”

At the health center, Julia was asked to take the first of two doses of Plan B. One dose is supposed to be taken as soon as possible after sex, and the other 12 hours later. When a student goes to the health center and asks for Plan B they are asked to take the first dose at the health center itself.

While the health center, administers the first dose of Plan B, students in need of emergency contraception are also educated about safe sex and their menstrual cycles.

“We want to make sure that the person who needs the medication has also heard about their other options,” Maloney said.

“I was just in freak out mode when they told me that,” Julia said, “so it’s a really good thing that [Mike] was there.”

“She just kept saying that she was stupid…and I knew that emotionally she was out of it and she kept saying every crazy irrational thing possible, so I tried to keep it logical,” Mike said.

According to Maloney though, Mike being there for Julia was a special case.

“It is very rare that the guy comes in with the girl,” Maloney said. “The guys seem to be more shy…I just wonder if it’s the way we are socialized that getting pregnant is the girl’s responsibility, but you know, sometimes I have to remind the girls that there’s two people in a relationship.”

According to Mike, however, letting Julia go to the health center by herself was not an option. “I was having sex with someone I cared about, so that helps. It’s very easy to do the right thing when you care about the person,” he said.

Plan B costs $20.00 at the health center and can be paid for by cash or check. Because Plan B is an over-the-counter medication in Massachusetts, health insurance does not cover it. Plan B can also be found at all sorts of pharmacies, however while it does show up on the Walgreen’s website, The Hoot could not find it online at CVS.

While Julia is thankful that the health center had Plan B, she said that if she had to do it again, she would wait to have sex until she was both on a birth control pill and using condoms. “Plan B is really good, [but] you don’t want that to be the only option you have, it’s just too stressful.”

She added “yes, having it gave me a lot of tranquility, but it doesn’t ensure that no pregnancy will happen and it doesn’t protect you from STDs. I would not recommend taking Plan B as a plan A. There’s a reason why it’s called Plan B.”

For more information about Plan B and other contraceptives, either visit the health center or go to www.go2planB.com.

Editor’s note: names have been changed to protect anonymity

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