Eighty-five percent of women who use no contraceptives during vaginal intercourse become pregnant each year. The only truly safe method is abstinence or refraining from having sex. You can make your sex “safer” by becoming educated on the forms of birth control and contraceptives and choosing the method that is best for you. Other contraceptive methods can greatly reduce your pregnancy risk.
Your contraceptive needs may change throughout your life. Consider what type of contraceptive is best for you. Being sexually active increases the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases/infections(STI’s).
Contraceptives can be broken down into four categories:
- Barrier Methods
- Behavioral methods
Male Condom: The male condom is a protective covering made of latex that fits over the penis and keeps semen from entering the vagina. Polyurethane condoms are available for those who are allergic to latex. The condom is easily accessible and inexpensive. Proper use of condoms lowers the risk of STI’s and unwanted pregnancy.
Female Condom: The female condom is a polyurethane sheath that lines the entire vagina and partially covers the external genitals. The female condom can be inserted up to eight hours prior to intercourse. The female condom provides good protection against both unwanted pregnancies and STI’s.
Spermicides: These products are inserted into the vagina and kill viruses, bacteria, and other organisms. Spermicides are available over the counter and when used alone provide fair protection against STI’s and unwanted pregnancies. Spermacides can also be used as a back-up to male condoms.
Diaphragms, Caps, and Shields: These products are soft latex or silicone barriers that cover the cervix, which must be used with spermicides. They are placed into the vagina to cover the cervix and are inserted before intercourse. These methods provide fair coverage against unwanted pregnancies and good/fair coverage against STI’s.
Continuous Abstinence: Choosing to have no sex play with a partner provides protection against STI’s and pregnancy and has no medical or hormonal side effects. Abstinence can be challenging to maintain for long periods of time and when abstinence ends, it is important to use protection. You may choose to become abstinent, even if you have been sexually active in the past. Abstinence Link
Predicting Fertility: This method is when couples do not engage in sexual activity during fertile times. This method gives good/fair protection against pregnancy, but does not prevent STI’s.
Withdrawal: When the man withdraws the penis from the vagina before he “comes”, there is still a risk of pregnancy if sperm are spilled and there is no protection from STI’s. This method requires self-control and is not suited for men who ejaculate prematurely.
Hormonal (Provide no protection against any STI’s)
Birth Control Pills: “The pill” is a series of pills that prevents a woman from ovulating, or producing eggs and thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm from joining the egg. When taken properly, the pill provides excellent protection from pregnancy.
Emergency Contraception: The morning after pill is a high dose oral contraceptive that is taken immediately after intercourse and up to twelve hours later. This method is good for prevention of pregnancy after unprotected sex.
IUD: The IUD is a small device inserted into the uterus that causes sperm immobilization and speeds ovum transport. This method may be used continuously for ten years. This method provides excellent protection against pregnancy.
Patch (Ortho Evra): A thin plastic patch, which releases hormones, is placed on the skin once a week for three weeks in a row to prevent pregnancy throughout the month.
Ring (NuvaRing): A small flexible ring is inserted into the vagina for three weeks and taken out for one week each month. The ring releases synthetic hormones to protect against pregnancy.
Shot (Depo-Provera): This shot, taken every three months, prevents ovulation and interferes with sperm motility and implantation. Depo-Provera gives excellent coverage against pregnancy.
Female: This usually involves an operation, which results in blockage of the fallopian tubes. This is a permanent procedure meaning the option of future pregnancies does not exist. Sterilization provides excellent prevention against pregnancy but does not protect against STI’s.
Male: This procedure, known as a vasectomy, involves severing the tube in which the sperm travel from the testes to the penis. This procedure is permanent as reversibility is far from a certainty. It provides excellent prevention against pregnancies, but does not protect against STI’s.
For more information about contraception choices contact UND Student Health Services.
- Planned Parenthood (www.plannedparenthood.org/bc/bcfacts1.html)
- National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Women's Reproductive Health. (www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/drh/wh_women.htm)