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Bedsider UAB Promotes Safe Sex
Bedsider UAB is empowering collegiates with knowledge–the knowledge for college-age women to choose what birth control method works best for her based on its effectiveness, side effects, cost and frequency. The student organization is part of Women’s Right Coalition at UAB and aims to provide useful information about relationships, sex and protection.
Bedsider is an initiative by the The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, based in Washington DC. As part of UAB’s In The Wild program, Bedsider provides college-age women information about birth control options, as well as their pros and cons so that women can find birth control that works best for them based on their individual needs.
Recent graduate Amber Ritchie founded Bedsider UAB in 2013 because of its unique approach that allows students to openly discuss sex education in a funny, positive way “even though it discusses topics that some people find uncomfortable.” The student-run organization calls its members “sexplorers” and encourages collegiates to use #InTheWild to discuss sex and birth control.
“I have always been in favor of sex-positivity and helping women take control of their bodies and their sex lives by keeping themselves protected, rather than shaming them into not having sex at all, thus making it extremely embarrassing for some women to seek out birth control for fear of being judged. Bedsider is great because it allows students to talk about birth control casually to let young women know that using birth control is perfectly normal; a decision that should be praised instead of shamed,” said Ritchie.
Bedsider’s website offers public information on a variety of birth control methods, including shots, implants, male condoms, female condoms, IUDs, fertility awareness, spermicides, withdrawal, cervical caps, sterilization, emergency contraceptives, the pill, the ring, and the only guaranteed technique, celibacy. Bedsider’s website has a feature that lists which birth control methods are “Party Ready,” meaning that they can be used post-sex.
“In the South, we often find that our high-school sexual education courses don’t teach us enough about preventing pregnancies. I’ll even admit that I didn’t know about all of the birth control options available, like the non-horomonal, copper IUD! It’s one of the best methods out there,” said Ritchie.
While birth control is becoming increasingly effective, Bedsider advises women to look into additional or alternative methods such as fertility awareness. This inexpensive and hormone-free practice can be used for women to track day-to-day information about their sexual activities and menstrual cycle. This organized method can be used to track fertile days. According to the National Institute of Health, fertile days are when a woman is most likely to get pregnant, which is typically 11-14 days after ovulation.
Collegiates can sign up at www.bedsider.org for text or email reminders about birth control and/or scheduled appointments. Reminders can be customized to be sent for a specific time range at designated times. The service is completely free and available for everyone.
Ritchie advises college women to, above all, be prepared. “It’s great that Plan B is over-the-counter now, but many college students can’t afford to spare $50 in the morning after having unprotected sex. So it’s always great to be prepared. And don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. They’re experts and they’ll know which methods can work best for you.”
Ritchie now works as a volunteer advocate for Rape Response, part of the Crisis Center. The private facility allows sexual assault victims to come in for a rape kit examination performed by a nurse specially trained as a S.A.N.E (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners). The Center specializes in assisting rape victims and provides an alternative to the emergency room setting. Survivors can choose to file a police report with detectives present to avoid re-telling their story.
Volunteer advocates like Ritchie are available to comfort the survivor, whether it’s talking to the victim or simply holding their hand during the exam. Volunteer advocates are also responsible for providing victims with information and resources, as well as what options they have as a victim. Rape Response is located at 3600 8th Ave. S, Birmingham, AL 35222. Victims can schedule an appointment with Rape Response by calling (205) 323-7273 or call the Crisis Center’s Crisis Line at (205) 323-7777.
For more information about Bedsider UAB, students may “like” Bedsider’s UAB Facebook page for events and informational meetings, and may visit www.bedsider.org to learn about birth control methods and where to get it, birth control and appointment reminders, health centesr, articles, real life stories and more.
Below is a list of facilities and organizations that offer free condoms and sex education materials:
- Birmingham Aids Outreach
- Jefferson County Department of Health
- Planned Parenthood
- Bedsider UAB
- University of Alabama at Birmingham 1917 Clinic
- AIDS Alabama
- North Jefferson Women’s Center