Protection is my favorite. Not only does it allow you to have as much pleasure as you’d like, but it helps keep your body healthy and reduces your chances of unwanted pregnancy (Yay!!). The thing is, there are many different types of protection out there these days, which is awesome, but also a bit overwhelming. Especially since different forms of protection can protect you against one thing but not another (i.e., unwanted pregnancy but not STIs, or vice versa). So, I did some research, found the stats, and thought I would compile the information into one handy post that will help you make the best decision for your body and your future.
Out of Protection? OUTERCOURSE.
Because there will inevitably come a time when you are getting real hot with a person or people and you will be out of barrier protection… it’s happened to the best of us! What can you do? LOTS! There’s mutual masturbation, kissing, “petting” (a word I hate, but we can’t win ‘em all!), etc. Will it protect you from every STD possible? Not necessarily, which is why you need to either fool around with someone who has been tested and whose results you know or double check that you have protection before engaging in any type of sex act. On the other hand, outercourse can protect you from pregnancy, as long as you are careful about where seminal fluid ends up. Sperm are sneaky bastards, so keep them away from the vaginal opening!
Abstinence: Yup, I said it.
As a sex therapist, I am usually helping people have MORE sex, rather than ZERO. However, it is important to note that abstinence is the only form of birth control that will keep you 100% safe from unwanted pregnancy. And depending on how you define abstinence, it may also help prevent STI’s. But because we know that abstinence isn’t a decision many people will make, let’s take a trip down protection lane…
Preventing Unwanted Pregnancies: Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control, such as the pill (91% effective), the implant (99% effective), the vaginal ring (91% effective), the shot (94% effective), and the patch (91% effective), release hormones into your body that help to keep you from ovulating and thus makes it harder to get pregnant. Each form of birth control (as seen above) has a different rate of effectiveness, as well as how invasive it is; and when it comes to protection against STI’s, you need to add an additional form of barrier protection (i.e. a condom, dental dam). For more specific information about each type of hormonal birth control, you can head on over to Planned Parenthood!
Barrier Protection that Helps to Prevent Pregnancy, but not STI’s
Usually, when we think of non-hormonal forms of birth control, we go straight to the condom. It covers the penis and thus helps to prevent STI’s AND pregnancy. So, IF you are a vagina owner who is having sex with a penis owner, these forms of contraceptives will be helpful to reduce your chance of pregnancy, but should not be used alone if there are concerns about contracting an infection or disease. For example, Cervical Caps (76-81% effective) are soft cups made of silicone that you stick inside your vagina to cover your cervix, like a little cervical soldier. Although this soldier works hard to keep sperm from entering the cervix, it’s job is not to protect the vagina or penis from infection. Very similar to the Cap, there is the Diaphragm (88% effective). It is a saucer-shaped cup that also acts like a little soldier, keeping sperm away from your cervix. However, as you may have noticed, the Diaphragm has a higher effectiveness rate. Lastly, we have the Contraceptive Sponge (76-88% effective), which is a type of squishy plastic, covered in spermicide, that you fit into your vagina, similar to the cap/diaphragm. And lastly, one of the most effective forms of birth control is the IUD aka an Intrauterine Device (99% effective), which is placed inside the uterus to avoid pregnancy. It is long-term and reversible. All three have a similar job, but when doing more research, you may find that one is better for you than another. Again, for more information, please see Planned Parenthood.
Contraceptives That Can Help Prevent STI’s &/Or Pregnancy
Of course, the form of protection that is probably one of the most well-known, outside of the Pill, is the Condom (85% effective). Condoms, when correctly placed on the penis, can be a great form of birth control. They can help prevent STI’s during both vaginal and anal sex, as well as help prevent unwanted pregnancy by keeping ejaculate from entering the vagina! Another type of condom, which is not as popular, is the Female Condom (79% Effective). The female condom aka the internal condom is basically the same idea as a regular condom, except it is inserted into the vagina, rather than on the penis. The female condom can also be inserted into the bum to prevent STI’s during anal sex.
“Protection” I Don’t Recommend…
The Withdrawal method (78%), or what I like to call “Pull and Pray.” Nope, don’t do it. Not only will this not protect you from contracting a number of STI’s, like genital warts, herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, but it will not protect you from unwanted pregnancy. You may think that it is easy to pull your penis out before you ejaculate, but in the heat of the moment, overcome with pleasure, it can be REALLY HARD (no pun intended) not to continue thrusting until you have finished. Also, pre-ejaculate can contain sperm. So even if you are successful with pulling out before you ejaculate, there is no way to definitively say that sperm has not entered the vagina.
In addition to Withdrawal, there are a few other types of birth control that fall under the umbrella term of FAMs aka Fertility Awareness Methods (76-88% effective). These methods do not protect you from STD’s, as they offer no barrier, but rather monitor a vagina owner’s fertility each month. On days where the person is most likely to ovulate, barrier protection is used. These methods are called: The Temperature Method, The Calendar Method, and The Cervical Mucus Method. For more information about FAMs, head on over to Planned Parenthood. Like anything having to do with the body, timing can change, which can make it really hard to track what’s going on. In my opinion, there are far more effective and less time-consuming, methods that can be used (see above!).
PROTECT YO’SELF! <3
Photo Credit: Photo: SisterMagazine.co.uk