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Contraception 101
Protect Against Pregnancy and STDs.
Represent staff

For those of you who are or will be sexually active, protect yourself and your body by knowing how to get and use condoms and other birth control. According to the Centers for Disease Control:

• Each year, millions of teenagers in the United States are infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

• Sexually active teenage girls in the U.S. who don’t practice safe sex have a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year of first having intercourse.

By using condoms and another method of birth control together, you reduce two risks at once: the chance that you’ll get an STD and the chance of unplanned pregnancy.

We’re hoping that the information on the following pages will help you make informed decisions about your sex life.

But even the combination of condoms and other birth control won’t give you 100% protection against pregnancy and STDs. The only surefire way to prevent pregnancy and STDs is to not have sex.

Talk About It

Because you are putting your body on the line when you become sexually active, talk to your partner about condoms and other birth control before you get physically involved. Talk about each of your sexual histories. Share your feelings and concerns about sexual activity. You want to make sure that you are making a decision that you won’t regret later.

If you become sexually active, you’re exposing yourself to a whole new range of possible medical conditions. It’s more important than ever to maintain your health. If you’re a woman, get annual gynecological (GYN) examinations and STD tests. If you’re a man, get a regular check-up, including STD testing.

The Male Condom

Description: A cover, usually made of latex, that fits over the penis and catches semen before, during and after a man ejaculates, preventing it from entering his partner’s body. (Some condoms are made of animal tissue, like lambskin, but these don’t help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.)

The condom (for men) and the female condom are the only contraceptives that protect against STDs.

Effectiveness: About 15% of women whose partners use condoms when they have sex become pregnant during the first year of typical use. Typical use rates take into account that most people won’t use condoms correctly every time. (That means putting it all the way on before the penis ever gets near the vagina—and keeping it on.) Only two in every 100 women will become pregnant if condoms are used perfectly.

Because condoms help protect against pregnancy as well as HIV and other infections, anyone who is sexually active or thinking of having vaginal, oral, or anal sex should use (or tell their partners to use) them. But don’t depend on a condom alone to prevent pregnancy.

Because it can break or slip off if not used correctly, the condom is more effective as birth control when used with a spermicidal (sperm-killing) foam, film, cream, insert, or jelly.

For anal sex, do NOT use condoms that come with spermicides because they will irritate the lining of the rectum. Extra-strength condoms are recommended, as is the use of a water-based lubricant.

Pros: Condoms help prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs. They are inexpensive and easy to get. You can buy them at any drugstore without a prescription, and many clinics and some high schools make them available for free.

Since condoms are small and lightweight, it’s easy to carry them with you at all times. They make it possible for men to take responsibility for birth control. They may also help a man stay erect longer.

Cons: You have to use one every time you have intercourse. Putting the condom on may feel awkward, since it must be put on immediately before having intercourse. It may also dull sensation for either partner. It may burst or come off during intercourse, especially if it’s not put on correctly.

Possible Side Effects: There are none, except for people who are allergic to latex. (They can use plastic condoms, which are just as effective as latex.)

Cost: The price per dozen ranges from $7 to $12, depending on the brand. You can also get them for free at Planned Parenthood and at many community health clinics and public schools.

The Female Condom

Description: A plastic baggie-like pouch that has flexible rings on each end. The female condom is made of latex. One ring is inserted deep into the vagina (like the diaphragm—see p. 43) and the other ring stays open outside the vagina. The rings help to hold the condom in place.

The female condom collects semen before, during and after ejaculation, keeping sperm from entering the vagina and protecting against pregnancy.

Female condoms should not be used at the same time as male condoms.

Effectiveness: Female condoms are typically 79% effective in preventing pregnancy. With perfect use, they can be 95% effective.

Pros: Because the female condom helps prevent many sexually transmitted infections (including HIV and AIDS), any heterosexual female should consider using it. Anyone—man or woman—who is going to have anal sex should also consider it.

When used in the vagina, the female condom allows the woman to protect herself from pregnancy and STDs (as opposed to depending on the guy to wear a condom). When used in the rectum, it can help prevent STDs.

The female condom can be purchased at a drugstore without a prescription.

Cons: Female condoms can sometimes be noticeable and tricky to use.

Female condoms can be about three times more expensive than male condoms. In addition, unlike male condoms, many female condoms don’t come with spermicide.

Possible Side Effects: Condoms have no side effects except for people who are allergic to latex. One to 2% of women and men have such allergies. They may use plastic condoms instead.

Price: Female condoms start at about $3 each. Some family planning centers give them away.

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