Let’s get a bit controversial today and have a chat about birth control and STD prevention, the two downsides of sexy-times. Just letting you know, I’m probably gonna say the words PENIS and VAGINA a lot. Get used to it, information is power. Not saying the words which are anatomical names for body parts increases the taboo of discussing safe sex. This leads to unwanted pregnancy and STD spread. As a wise wizard once said, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” Yes I just quoted Dumbledore in a birth control post.
And here I’m mostly gonna talk about heterosexual penis + vagina kinda sex that can result in fertilisation of an egg. There are other types of sex, and other risk factors to do with those types of sex. We’ll get to that later. Sorry Mum ❤
Righto then, there are a bloody myriad of ways to prevent pregnancy, and I’m gonna list them here and talk about them in order of effectiveness. Starting from the worst ways to prevent pregnancy.
- Abstinence. Technically, this is 100% effective. 99.999999999% if you believe the Virgin Mary thing. But lets be real, you’re reading about birth control because you want to have sex, so this probs won’t work. But technically yes, if you don’t have sex you can’t get preggo. Also works against preventing STDs (if abstaining from P in V sex also means abstaining from all sex. STDs can spread in many ways other than just penetrative sex! We’ll get to that soon.)
- Withdrawal – This involves pulling the penis out of the vagina before the male ejaculates. This is 73% effective because there can be sperm in pre-cum, which leaks out of the penis before ejaculation. Don’t use this as your only birth control method, dumb dumbs.
- Spermicide! Spermicide is 71% effective at preventing pregnancy. It works in two ways. The first is that it’s an actual physical barrier to your cervix; it’s a gel or foam or liquid that you insert right up the top of your vagina, so it’s basically a rock slide that blocks the tunnel to Babytown. There’s a bunch of different chemicals that can be in spermicide, but the general idea is to slow down the sperm/stop them from moving so they can’t swim up to the egg and fertilise it. Spermicide needs to be used in combination with one of the next two methods….
- Cervical cap. This is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a little plastic rubbery ring thing that you use to cover your cervix . It is between 71% and 86% effective at preventing pregnancy. They describe this as looking like a sailor hat to contrast it with….
- A diaphragm. This works in the same way as a cervical cap but is a slightly different shape, more like a dish, and it is 88% effective. A big benefit of these two contraceptive methods is that they are non-hormonal. Some women have issues with hormonal birth control methods, so this could work for them. However, these have side effects. You might outgrow your cap or diaphragm if you lose or gain weight, and it’s not the most effective.
- The contraceptive sponge is basically a diaphragm made out of spongy plastic which had spermicide embedded into it, so it works like those two things put together. However it’s only 76-88% effective depending on if you’ve given birth or not. You pop it at the very top of your vagina in front of your cervix, The downside is that you can only keep one in for 24 hours, then you have to throw it away, so if you forget to put it in or take it out too quickly, there’s a chance you could get pregnant.
- The female condom is 79% effective. It works like a male condom but instead of rolling it onto the penis you insert it into the vagina before sex. These don’t fit as snuggly as male condoms, so there is more risk of pregnancy with these.
- The good old male condom, which works by catching all the spermies so they can’t swim to your egg. 82% effective because they break and can slide off and also people hate using them cos they’re a bit of a pain. Super cool news though, these are the only type of birth control that will protect against STDs! And they can be used in combination with almost every other type of birth control to prevent STDs! And you can buy them at the supermarket, no prescription required!
- A contraceptive patch. Much like a nicotine patch delivers nicotine into the bloodstream to help quit smoking, contraceptive patches deliver estrogen and progestin into the blood stream to help prevent fertilisation. They work by sticking a patch onto the skin and changing it every week. This hormone combination is common in all types of hormonal birth control, and it works like this. Progestin thickens the cervical mucus so spermies can’t swim through (think swimming in mud compared to swimming in water), and it also stops the egg releasing from the ovaries so it won’t be in a position to get fertilised. Estrogen works to prevent ovulation too. A lot of hormonal birth control is the same hormones, just different delivery systems. The patch is 91% effective because it’s easy to misuse it. Benefits though, some people notice reduced acne, lighter cramping and lighter periods, and more regular periods.
- The contraceptive ring, also called the NuvaRing, is a mix between the patch and the diaphragm. It’s a rubber ring thing that you insert into your vagina which releases estrogen and progestin, to do the same hormonal stuff as the patch. It’s like a patch inside your vag. A vagpatch. It’s about 91% effective and has similar benefits and drawbacks as all other hormonal contraceptives. You have to change it every month, it’s three weeks in, one week out for your period, then you insert a new one. You don’t have to take it out to have sex, which is a plus too!
- The contraceptive pill, the beginning of many young ladies contraceptive journey. It works the same way as the patch with estrogen and progestin (although some kinds have only progestin) and is also 91% effective cos it is also easy to misuse (forget a pill, get too drunk and vom it up, etc). The pill has been used for over 50 years as a contraceptive and has shown no significant negative effect on fertility or health of women who take it. However there is evidence linking use of the contraceptive pill to depression and mood issues. Some, not all women will experience this. They also might experience it with other types of hormonal birth control. It’s important to shop around and see what works for you.
- The contraceptive shot – this involves getting an injection of progestin in your bum bum once every three months to do the whole mucus stop releasing eggs thing. This is 94% effective, but there are some downsides. Once you stop taking the shot it can take up to 10 months to become fertile again. Some people experience symptoms such as changes in periods, nausea, weight gain, headaches and depression. But this does mean it’s only four visits to the doctor a year, and it’s a set-it-and-forget-it kind of birth control, which means if you’re bad at remembering to take pills this could be good for you!
- The birth control implant – this is the most effective type of birth control on the market today, it’s more than 99% effective and a super easy set-it-and-forget-it method. The implant is a rod about the size of a matchstick that gets implanted into the underside of your arm, just below your armpit. It works by using progestin, and is reversible. It lasts for up to four years. But you do have to get a minor surgery to get it, which involves numbing your arm and cutting a little hole to put the implant in, which should be done by a doctor or nurse. Bonus, a third of women who use this method stop getting their periods altogether within a year, and experience decreased period cramps. This is a pretty A1 method ladies!
- IUDs or intrauterine devices. There are two forms of these, hormonal and non-hormonal. They sit right at the stop of your cervix, and have to be inserted by a doctor or nurse. The hormonal one works by releasing progestin to do the whole mucus egg thing. The non-hormonal IUD has a little copper wire around it, which is toxic to sperm, so they die and can’t fertilise the egg. Downside though, the copper can make your periods heavier and cause pain, cramping, spotting, and irregular periods. BUT this is also over 99% effective, and long term protection (up to 5 years.) They can be expensive though, if it’s not subsidised by the government. All kinds of hormonal birth control carries risks such as risk of heart attack and stroke due to high blood pressure. Always discuss with your doctor the best type of birth control for you based on your family history.
- Vasectomy and sterilisation – these involve essentially cutting the tubes in the male or female to physically prevent the sperm getting inside the vagina, or the egg releasing. These are super effective, over 99%, but they are irreversible. Don’t get this done unless you are 250% sure you don’t want (more) babies.
So there you have it, the 15 ways to prevent pregnancy! Obviously chat to your doctor about your options, but I hope this helped demystify birth control, especially to you dudes out there. Let’s be honest, if a baby is accidentally made, it’s 50% yours, lads! Birth control should be as important to you as it is to women.
Thanks for reading friends, stay tuned for the next post, I might talk about something controversial again. 🙂 GET LEARNED!