If you want to make sure young adults are safe when it comes to sex, education is the way to go. Instead of instilling fear in us, I think it would be more beneficial to teach the words of the great Spike Milligan: "Contraceptives should be used on every conceivable occasion." There are many different types of contraception to choose from- condoms, diaphragms, pills, patches. It's easy to be overwhelmed by choices. Keep in mind that some of these birth controls can be bought over-the-counter (read: you can buy them without a prescription.)
Male condoms are great because they are inexpensive and can be found almost anywhere- drugstores, gas stations, and even the occasional gift shop. They protect against STIs and, sometimes, men find themselves lasting longer when they have one on. But they do have their downsides. For one, they definitely have the tendency to interrupt sex. Since they should only be applied to a fully erect penis, you have to wait until your deep into the act to get one on. Additionally, some people are allergic to latex. You can buy latex-free condoms, but they are a bit spendier. Another issue is that condoms can also break from friction.
2. Female condoms
As the name implies, a female condom is a condom for the vagina rather than the penis. While they are noisy, slightly uncomfortable, a bit more expensive than the male condom, and have only a 79 percent success rate for protecting against pregnancy (withdrawal alone has a 78 percent success rate when done correctly), it is definitely better than nothing since they provide protection against STIs. Plus, they do have a leg up on male condoms since they can be inserted well before intercourse.
A diaphragm is a reusable piece of rubber you insert in the vagina 2-3 hours before sex. Since it uses suction in stay in place, it can move during sex making it ineffective. That aside, it has an 88 percent success rate at preventing pregnancy. Keep in mind that you can't take it out until 6 hours after you've had sex. To get a diaphragm you must go to a health care provider and get one fitted for you and you'll need to buy a spermicide gel to use with it. You must always use spermicide. Regularly used diaphragms usually last two or three years, but fluctuations of weight may require you to get it refitted.
4. Contraceptive sponges
Before I wrote this article, I had never heard of a contraceptive sponge before. Today, you can buy a contraceptive sponge over-the-counter at a number of drugstores. Contraceptive sponges are disk-shapped sponges covered in spermicide. They can be inserted several hours before intercourse and provide up to 24 hours of protection. They have a standard success rate of preventing pregnancy- 76 to 88 percent. Like the diagram, you can't take it out until 6 hours after sex. Please note that these can increase the likelihood of getting urinary tract infections.
Spermicides can be used alone or with other birth control methods to make them more effective. You can find them in the form of a foam, jelly, cream, suppository (a "pill" you insert into your vagina), or film (a paper-thin substance that dissolves in seconds when placed in the vagina). They have a 72 percent success rate at preventing pregnancy, but that's only if used correctly. Spermicide needs to be reapplied since they only effective for about an hour, and some forms need to be inserted 10-20 minutes before intercourse.
6. The Pill
The Pill is super effective with a 91 percent success rate if used correctly. It makes your period lighter and more regular, and can decrease menstrual cramps and acne. However, you need to remember to take it every day at the same time or it won't be as effective. If you forget to take a pill, you can really through your body off resulting in cramps and nausea. In general, it can also cause weight gain, a reduction of libido, migraines, and more. Keep in mind that your body won't fully adjust to the pill for at least 3 months. This means that you might want to consider waiting before switching to a new prescription.
7. The Patch
The patch has 91 percent success rate of preventing pregnancy if used correctly. Like the Pill, it can cause a variety of side-effects such as weight gain, headaches, and nausea. It's a good option for people who don't want to think about taking a pill every day since each patch lasts for one week. You change the patch every week for three weeks, then have a week off without a patch. This is when you'll have your period.
8. Contraceptive Injections
A contraceptive injection is a shot you get every three months. It is a reversible method of birth control that has a 94 percent success rate of preventing pregnancy. You may stop getting your period altogether while taking this shot, and it is common to gain weight. Other side effects include acne, bloating, and a change in mood. If you decide to stop taking the injection, your period might become heavy and prolonged and should return back to normal in a few months.
9. The Vaginal Ring
The vaginal ring is a clear, flexible plastic ring you put in yourself. It is left in place for three weeks and taken out for the remaining week each month so you can have a period. The success rate of preventing pregnancy is 91 percent. While the vaginal ring can cause various side effects, the biggest obstacle is putting it in correctly. This isn't a big deal but it something to think about when considering what birth control you want.
10. The Contraceptive Implant
The contraceptive implant is a small rod that a doctor puts in your arm. It has a 99 percent success rate at preventing pregnancy and can be inserted for up to three years. A doctor can remove it whenever you want but it can leave a small scar. Side effects can include depression, hair loss, weight gain, and more.
11. The Intrauterine Device (IUD)
An IUD is a small, T-shaped device put in place by a doctor. It can by expensive, but it lasts up to 12 years and has a 99 percent success rate at preventing pregnancy. Usually, you and your partner will not be able to feel the IUD, and it starts to protect against pregnancy as soon as it's inserted (other forms may take a few weeks to become effective.) Sometimes painful cramping can occur within the first couple days of insertion.
12. Emergency Contraception
The morning after pill is a safe, effective way to prevent pregnancy. Usually, you have three days to take the morning after pill, but the sooner you take it, the better. Nausea, fatigue, and dizziness are potential side effects, and it will alter your period cycle since it delays ovulation. Please note that this is not for routine use. It should solely be used as a backup plan if mishaps occur.
13. The Withdrawl Method
Withdrawing refers to the act of pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation. If done correctly, it has a 78 percent success rate at preventing pregnancy. However, even precum, a bodily fluid that seeps out of the penis during intercourse, can get a female pregnant. Men don't have any control over precum and most don't even notice when it happens. It is unlikely that precum will get you pregnant, but it is something to be aware of. The biggest downside of using this method as a form of birth control is that it may decrease sexual pleasure. You can't fully enjoy sex if you have to keep thinking about what is going on down there, you know?
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