The best defense is a good offense. This timeless adage holds true for both sports and sexual activity. If you’re currently sexually active or planning to be, it’s smart to be familiar with methods of protection. Some of these methods require a little pre-planning, while others can be obtained at your average grocery store.
No matter your preferences or plans, understanding what methods of protection are available to you is important. And knowing which ones you’d be comfortable using is a key component to your overall sexual health. The time to consider protection is not in the heat of the moment. Use your downtime to research various methods and explore uses to find options that suit you and your lifestyle.
1. Oral Contraceptives
One of the most common methods of sexual protection is oral contraceptives. Commonly referred to as “the pill,” these prescription medications adjust hormone levels. This change in hormone levels essentially tells the body it’s pregnant when it’s not, deterring the release of an egg. Available in estrogen and progesterone or progesterone-only doses, the pill offers about 91% effectiveness in preventing pregnancy as typically used.
While the pill is a reliable method of pregnancy prevention, it offers no protection for sexually transmitted diseases. Users of the pill would benefit from considering a secondary method of protection, especially in non-monogamous relationships. Today, birth control may be obtained online, as can other sexual health offerings like lubricants and genital herpes treatment. Licensed providers give consultations for an array of issues, making it simple and convenient for people to get needed care.
2. Physical Barriers for Men
The male anatomy requires specific barrier protection such as condoms. Condoms cover the penis with a material that provides a protective layer between it and another person. They are typically made of latex but are also available in materials like polyurethane, a boon for those with latex allergies. Physical barriers often include a spermicidal lube or spermicidal treatment which also aids in killing sperm on contact.
Condoms are 85% effective at preventing pregnancy in real-life practice, while also blocking the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases between either partner. Condoms are readily available, inexpensive, small, and easy to use, making them a valuable method of sex protection. They may also be obtained free of charge from health clinics, contraception clinics, and general practitioner’s offices.
3. Physical Barriers for Women
Female barrier protection is also available but can be difficult to use. Female condoms are inserted into the vagina and feature an external covering to reduce physical contact between genitals. Some manual support may be needed to keep the barrier in place. Internal condoms are 79% effective as used in general practice. Female condoms shouldn’t be used in conjunction with male condoms for additional protection as it increases the risk of breakage.
Users of female condoms can also add a spermicidal lube to help reduce friction and increase overall effectiveness. For oral sex, dental dams provide a barrier between partners while using their mouths. This barrier method also requires support from a participant to keep it in place and is for one-time use only. These should not be used with spermicides or other lubricants as they may cause irritation or break down the material.
4. Long-Term Contraception
Birth control pill users who struggle remembering to take their medication on the required schedule may benefit from long-term contraception. Birth control implants in a recipient’s arm release hormones on a schedule similar to ingesting a pill. These implants eliminate the need to take a pill every day.
Other methods include the intrauterine device, which is available in hormonal and non-hormonal formats. IUDs trump most other contraceptive methods in pregnancy prevention, with 99% effectiveness. Non-hormonal IUDs are made with natural spermicide copper, but the physical component functions the same as with hormonal IUDs.
IUDs can be removed at any time, and the user is typically able to conceive shortly thereafter. Neither IUDs nor birth control implants provide protection against STIs. These methods would be best used with barrier protection or in a monogamous relationship where both partners are STI-free.
5. Emergency Contraception
Individuals who believe an unexpected pregnancy is likely can access emergency contraception over the counter. Often called Plan B, this method temporarily stops the release of an egg to decrease the likelihood of fertilization. While not a guarantee, emergency contraception is readily available and is up to 95% effective at preventing pregnancy if taken within 24 hours. The effectiveness decreases the longer a user waits after a sexual encounter.
Unfortunately, for those who suspect they may have been exposed to an STI, there is no emergency STI treatment. In these cases, a person should seek medical care to determine whether they have contracted an STI. If you need treatment, consider consulting your physician or an online provider. No matter your choice, know that STIs and herpes are very common, and you should seek treatment without embarrassment.
Choosing the Right Protection for You
Thankfully, there are many options when it comes to protection methods for sexually active individuals. Some methods are best for preventing pregnancy while others are rockstars at protecting against the transmission of diseases. When used together, they often have the best chance at preventing unintended consequences from sexual activity.
Both casual and regular partners should feel confident using protection methods that work for their sexual preferences and their body’s needs. Armed with accurate information and the essentials, you can present your partner with the protection of your choice. With protection taken care of, you can focus on your pleasure.