By Alyson Kay

For The Diamondback

Oral contraceptives remain the most popular choice of birth control prescribed at the University of Maryland Health Center, though the center began offering more effective methods over a year ago.

The center handed out 1,440 prescriptions for the birth control pill last year, Health Center Director David McBride wrote in an email.

That's far less than the number of prescriptions the center has written for long-acting reversible contraception, McBride wrote.

This year, the health center began offering Nexplanon, an implant that goes in a woman's arm and can prevent pregnancy for up to three years. For more than a year, they center has also been offering IUDs, which are small devices placed in the uterus that last up to 10 years.

The failure rate is 0.2 to 0.8 percent for IUDs and 0.05 percent for Nexplanon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making LARCs the most effective forms of birth control available. The pill has a failure rate of 9 percent.

LARCs are steadily becoming more popular, according to McBride, though they've yet to catch up to more traditional forms of birth control.

Sex Week co-chair Galya Oberman said part of the reason for that is a lack of awareness.

"People only really know about the pill, and they think that it's the only form of birth control," the junior psychology major said. "But there's just so many methods, so it's really important that people find the method that works best for them."

The long-term methods may also seem more daunting than a once-daily pill.

"It seems like a bigger commitment than taking the pill, as they are for longer-term use and involve a procedure," McBride wrote.

Even though the pill is the most popular form of birth control, it isn't for everyone, Oberman said. As with other forms of birth control, the pill has some downsides.

"If you have the pill, one of the things that's difficult about that is that you have to take that every day and you have to remember to take it every day," Oberman said. "So, sometimes the issue of that is that someone will forget and then it's not as effective."

The health center also offers women Ortho-Evra patches, Depo Provera injections, diaphragms and vaginal rings, according to its website. For men, the health center provides free condoms that can be found at the front desk lobby and the ground floor desk.

These methods have a failure rate between .03 and 9 percent.

Some groups are trying to do something about the lack of awareness about methods of birth control other than the pill. The online birth control support group Bedsiders has a chapter on this campus.

A lot of what the group does is distributing free condoms, said co-president Louisa Caramico. But they also inform people that condoms are just one of many available birth control methods.

Bedsiders is about "being accessible to people to have them understand their options a bit better because I think that 'doctor talk' can get very confusing, especially for students our age" said Bedsider campus representative Emily Claure, a junior public health major. "A lot of the population of this campus is talking about sex for the first time in a casual setting."

Students can also contact sexual health program coordinator Jenna Beckwith for a free individual consultation if they are unsure of which method to use.

"We consult each patient on the various methods and help them to select the method that they decide is best suited for their needs and lives," she said.