Before You Stop Using Condoms….

before you stop using condomsIt is very common for couples to start off the relationship using condoms and then, as the relationship lasts, their reliance on condoms decreases until perhaps they wish to stop using condoms altogether. But there are some steps to take in order to make this transition away from condoms a healthy one. In this article from Bedsider, Jessica Morse lists things to consider and explains how to follow through when taking condoms out of your sexperience. Prepare to take yourself to a health care provider.

In summary, here are important points to consider if you plan to stop using condoms:

  • Condoms and internal (or “female”) condoms are the only form of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Many STIs do not show symptoms all the time. It’s worth taking a trip to the health clinic and getting a full-screen STI test. As well as making sure you or your partner’s Pap smear is up-to-date.
  • Depending on your test results, follow through with the appropriate waiting time until the next test and/or complete your treatment.
  • Have discussions with your partner. Is pregnancy a risk? Which birth control method should you use?  Are you quitting condoms in order to get pregnant?

This article was written by Jessice Morse, MD, MPH, and was originally published here

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Condoms are great— they’re available in almost any drug store or clinic and they protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). More than half of U.S. couples use a condom when they have sex for the first time, and over 93% have used condoms at some point.

The number of couples relying on condoms tends to go down as relationships last longer, so it’s safe to say a lot of couples start off using them and then switch to another method of birth control when they become exclusive. Starting a new method of birth control (maybe one that’s more effective for preventing pregnancy than condoms) doesn’t have to mean forgoing condoms. Doubling up with condoms and another method is a great option for many couples. But if you and your partner have been using condoms and want to stop, here are a few things to square away beforehand.

Get your test (GYT)

Male and female condoms are the only methods that can protect against STIs. That includes the ones that can easily be treated—like gonorrhea and chlamydia—and the not-so-easily treated—like herpes and HIV.

Just because neither of you have bumps or rashes doesn’t mean you’re necessarily in the clear; STIs can be there without you even knowing it. So even if you’re pretty sure you don’t have an STI, you should both get tested for common infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. You may also want to ask about a herpes test; your healthcare provider will usually ask questions to figure out if it makes sense to test for that too. It’a also a great time to make sure your HPV vaccine series (3 shots!) is done and your Pap smears are up to date.

All of these tests can be done without a physical exam:

  • For chlamydia and gonorrhea, you just need to provide a urine sample. Yup, it’s a simple as peeing in a cup.
  • For HIV, syphilis and herpes, it’s a blood test. That means providing a small sample of blood at a lab or clinic.

Then just a few days of awkward waiting and you’ll have your results!

Drumroll, please

Once you get your test results, you may have a few more steps to take before it’s safe to stop using condoms.

Positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis
These STIs can all be cured with antibiotics. You may take pills, get a shot, or both. The treatment depends on the type of infection. You may be done after one shot, one pill, or a week of pills. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you get tested again in the coming months to make sure the infection is cleared up. If you have any symptoms or concerns after you’ve finished the treatment, talk to your provider and decide what to do.

Positive for HIV, herpes, or hepatitis
These STIs can’t be cured, but they can be managed with medicines that reduce the viral load (the amount of the virus in your body) and a partner’s chance of getting the same infection. Although the medicines reduce the chance of giving the virus to a partner, they don’t guarantee it. That means that you’d need to talk to your partner about how you both feel taking this chance without condoms. (If you decide to keep using condoms, you’re in good company. About 10% of U.S. couples of all ages rely on condoms.)

All clear

If you’re both in the clear, you can have the “let’s stop using condoms” conversation.

If you’re not ready for kids yet: This is a good time to talk about what other method you want to use for pregnancy prevention. Obviously whoever is using the method should have final say, but it might be nice to have both partners involved in the decision. You can also talk to your healthcare provider to help you figure out which method is best for you.

If you’re quitting condoms in order to start trying for a baby: It’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider a few months ahead of time. Even for women without health problems, there are some basic things you can do to have a healthier pregnancy. For example, taking prenatal vitamins prevents certain types of birth defects. Your provider can also give you good tips for how to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Good luck!

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

3 Questions About Taking The Birth Control Pill

Photographer Monik Markus

Photographer Monik Markus

Knowing how to use the birth control pill in the most effective way can seem confusing, especially considering all the different brands and varying information out there. The most common questions tend to center around the risks of pregnancy if the pill is not taken at the same time everyday, as well as what to do if you miss a pill.

In this article, Heather Corinna clears up all confusion, explaining the basic, must-knows about this form of contraception. She clarifies how to take the pill, when it’s most effective, and when it may not be.

Here are the key points discussed in detail below:

  • It is strongly advised to use the “dual method”, coupling hormonal contraception with condom use.
  • The Pill provides no protection against STIs.
  • If you aren’t using condoms and you are just starting the Pill, wait one full cycle of active pill taking before using it as your only form of birth control.
  • Ideal, perfect pill use is taking it at the same time of day within a few hours difference.
  • A “late” pill varies more in definition among sources, and to some degree from pill to pill. For all birth control pills, if you have taken a pill more than 12-24 hours late, you should consider using a backup method of birth control (i.e. condoms) for the rest of your cycle.
  • A “missed” pill is one that has not been taken within 24 hours of the last pill you took. Read below for what to do if you miss a day or more.
  • Do your research. How birth control pills are taken, when effectiveness is compromised, and what side effects and risks are most prevalent can ALL differ from pill to pill. So make sure to read the pill packet information in full and consult your health provider with any concerns.

This article was originally published on Scarleteen 

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

Anonymous asks:

I had sex with no condom 3 days before I started my period, AND 1 day after I started my period. I’m on birth control BUT I was at the end of my 1st pack I have ever took (taking the non-active pills) and I don’t exactly take them at the exact same time every day but pretty close. I was wondering what’s the possibility of me getting pregnant considering the circumstances, birth control doesn’t take effect until the first month is up, but I’m already taking my inactive pills so that technically means the month is up doesn’t it? Also, I was getting ready to start/was on my period, and I have a regular cycle so I don’t think there’s any way I could have been ovulating but I’m really worried, please help!

And Gail asks…

I’m 16 years old, and I’m on the pill. I’ve been on it for little over a month, and recently me and my partner have been doing it without a condom (we’re clean) since I’ve been on them for a month now. Question is, I’m not a perfect user. I take my pill within a 30 min. range, never exactly right on time, what’s my chance of pregnancy?

And Hockeylover asks…

I’ve been on the pill for about a year now and I’m sexually active with my boyfriend. This past month I had sex with my boyfriend and the condom didn’t break but may have leaked or something because my boyfriend seemed to think that something minor could have been wrong. A few days after that I forgot to take a pill until about 12 hours after the fact. Now, my pill pack is finished and it is time for me to have my withdrawal bleed which has always occurred at the same time. Today, however, I have experienced nothing but minimal spotting, which is unusual.

Also – just for future reference as I was always curious – I know that it is extremely difficult to become pregnant while on the pill as long as it is taken properly. However, if pills were forgotten or whatnot I realize that it is possible to get pregnant but I was wondering whether one would still experience the withdrawal bleed or whether this would not occur (just like a period doesn’t occur if someone is pregnant). Does any blood that comes during a withdrawal bleed while on the pill signify that no pregnancy has occurred? Am I at risk?

Heather Corinna replies:
Since there are so many different pill brands, so much information to sort through, and since with adolescents and/or young adults information on some aspects can vary slightly, and we get so many questions about the pill, it seems it’s high time to give the most basic rundown I can speaking to concerns about how to take the pill, when it’s effective, and when it may not be.

Let’s start with a super-simple summary of how combination birth control pills work.

First, take a look at our piece which explains how the fertility and menstrual cycle works, so you have some context. Got the gist?

So, the pill acts to alter that natural cycle so that you don’t become pregnant, via synthetic hormones (usually estrogen and progesterone) to contradict your real ones. The pill works to do that in three ways:

  • by keeping your follicles from maturing and your body from ovulating (releasing a mature),
  • by thickening cervical mucus so sperm have a terribly tough time getting anywhere near an egg if by chance one is still released, and
  • by preventing implantation of an embryo by keeping the endometrium thin in the event that both somehow still manage to happen.

At the start of your pill pack, the hormones in your pills effectively have a little chat with your pituitary gland and tell it to suppress FSH — your follicle-stimulating hormone — so that an egg doesn’t mature, nor will the cells around it grow to form a follicle that releases estrogen at the beginning of your cycle, which would stimulate your body to prepare thicker endometrial lining through the cycle to sustain a pregnancy.

Your pituitary gland (being highly impressionable, you know the type) steps it up and doesn’t produce that FSH, so that maturation doesn’t happen and the lining of your uterus doesn’t thicken the way it would to sustain a pregnancy. At the time your LH surge would normally happen — around halfway into your cycle — the way the pill controls progestin keeps that surge from happening, too, which suppresses ovulation. Thus, no egg is released to be fertilized by sperm. As a backup, it’s at the same time keeping cervical mucus thick: to get why that matters, imagine trying to push a piece of thread head first through school paste: that’d be quite a challenge, and is what it’s like for sperm to try and move through that mucus to get into the cervix.

When you go off your active pills, and into the placebo (inactive pill) period you get your withdrawal bleed, because taking those hormones away allows for the breakdown of a thin uterine lining you had there (and because the pill keeps it thinner, often people on the combination pill experience lighter, shorter periods).

And when you start your next pack, you start that cycle all over again.

But while we know that the pill, in perfect use, is highly effective, we also know that a) some people do become pregnant while on the pill and b) in typical pill use, lower rates of effectiveness have been shown in studies for adolescents than for adults. Here’s the scoop on what perfect use is, how to have the pill be as effective as possible for you, what a missed pill is and what you should do, when it’s time to worry about pregnancy and when it’s not.

First starting the pill and birth control backups

With all BCPs (birth control pills), to be as safe as possible, and in the interest of having as much protection as possible, it is strongly advised to back up the pill with condom use when using the pill as birth control.

Most effectiveness rates for the pill are lower for younger women, usually because plenty of younger women are having to hide the pill and/or be sneaky in taking them, so it’s more likely that younger women, rather than older women, will miss pills and/or take pills late, which can reduce effectiveness. Too, younger women who don’t tell their general doctors they are using the pill may not be warned in advance about drug interactions with the pill and general medications (usually that’s only the case with one class of antibiotics and some herbal supplements) or that some illness can reduce effectiveness.

STIs should also be a big concern, especially when you’re under 22, since adolescents and young adults are both at the highest risk for STIs of any group, and younger women also are at higher risks of long-term complications from STIs. The pill provides no protection against STIs… and also often seems to provide a bit of a sense of false security in terms of infections, since so many women are most worried about pregnancy. Condoms provide that protection, and in addition, the one-two punch of the pill AND condoms (so long as one is used perfectly, and better still if both are used properly) almost guarantees you will not become pregnant.

If you are NOT going to back up with condoms, and are just starting the pill, we strongly advise you to wait one full cycle of active pills before using ONLY the pill as birth control, even though for many people, the pill may likely be fully effective within seven days, and for some, even sooner. If you have gone without a backup method in those first seven days and had sex with only the pill, it is advised to call your healthcare provider and ask about emergency contraception. You may also want to consider doing so if you went without a backup in that first cycle.

Two ways to start taking the pill for the first time

A first day start means you start taking the pill on the first day of your menstrual period. With a first day start, the pill may be effective as early as that first day, but waiting one full cycle before going without a backup is strongly advised.

A Sunday Start is when you start the pill on the first Sunday AFTER your period begins (or, if it starts on a Sunday, on that Sunday). When you start with a Sunday start, the pill may be effective as early as within one week, but waiting one full cycle before going without a backup is strongly advised. The Sunday Start method was devised primarily for women who would prefer they have their withdrawal bleeds (your period wile using the pill) on a weekday, rather than on weekends, as it makes that more likely.

Unless your healthcare provider suggests one way of starting is better for you, how you start is your call, based on your preferences. These two ways are ONLY relevant when you first start taking the pill. For every cycle thereafter, you’ll start your new pack when you finish the pack before.

What’s taking it on time and what isn’t?

You want to do your level best to take your pill as close to the same time every day as is possible, ideally within a window of a few hours: if you do that, every day, then you’re a perfect pill user — that doesn’t mean you get a gold star (unless you want one, in which case, by all means, star yourself!), but it does mean that unless you have any other misuse you can rest assured you have the highest effectiveness in terms of pregnancy protection possible from your pill.

To simplify that, what’s important is not that you take the pill at the EXACT same time every day (as in, “Oh god! I usually take it at 10:32, and it’s 11:03!”), but at the same time of day: for instance, always in the morning, or always before you go to bed. That gets pill-taking into your regular routines so that you’re most likely to remember to take them. For instance, Gail says she’s not a perfect user, but, in fact, she is, and it sounds like our user with the first question is, too. For that matter, even Hockeylover isn’t that far off: with combination pills, while you probably don’t want to get in the habit of taking them with a 12-hour difference, just because it can be easier to space out pills that way, but she hasn’t put her effectiveness at risk.

A “missed” pill is one that was not taken within 24 hours of the last pill you took. A missed pill should always be taken as soon as you realize you have missed it, but there is likely no risk from one missed pill or a need for EC. A “late” pill varies more in definition among various sources, and to some degree from pill to pill, but with any type of pill, if you have taken a pill more than 12-24 hours late, you may want to consider using a backup method of birth control for the rest of your cycle to play it safe.

With ALL pills if you have missed a pill, the right thing to do is to take that pill as soon as you know you missed it. If it’s on that same day, take it when you realize. if you realize you missed a pill when you go to take the next day’s pill, take both pills at the same time. If you realize you messed up and missed a pill days later — while still taking the other pills on time — then take that pill then. The same goes if you’ve missed two or three pills rather than just one. When you miss a pill, we advise using a backup method of birth control for the rest of that cycle.

If you’ve missed more than three, with most pills, you’ll want to wait to take any more pills until the following Sunday, then just start a new pack entirely, but use a backup for that cycle as well as the time in between. If you have missed several pills and have had sex in that cycle without a backup method, we advise emergency contraception. When in doubt, always contact your healthcare provider or pharmacist and ask what to do.

How do you know if you become pregnant while on the pill?

The same way you would if you were not: you’ve really just got to take a test. The most common symptom of pregnancy is a missed or late period, or a period that comes around the time you’d expect it but is very unlike what your period (or withdrawal bleed, when you’re on the pill) is usually like. So, when on the pill, if you become pregnant, you most likely will NOT have your withdrawal bleed. But ultimately, you’re unlikely to become pregnant while on the pill unless you have not taken it properly, so if you know you have not and are concerned about pregnancy, just take a pregnancy test (and the pill, for the record, doesn’t get in the way of pregnancy test accuracy).

I always tell women that I personally feel like a box of a few pregnancy tests in the cabinet is about the cheapest therapy there is: for a pretty small investment, you can have a real sanity-saver handy right when you need it. Even if you think you’re just being paranoid, there are times when spending that ten or fifteen bucks to verify you’re being paranoid is seriously worth it.

Read up and play it safe

With ALL pills, read your pill packet information. Pills — how they’re taken, when effectiveness is compromised, what side effects and risks are most prevalent, and the best ways to take them — can ALL differ from pill to pill. So, be sure if you’re on the pill, to read those inserts and to talk to your healthcare provider prescribing the pill for you and ask ANY questions you have: there’s just no reason to fly blind with your birth control.

Please understand that more often than not, we DO err on the side of caution here at Scarleteen, both because in many aspects the population we serve is unique (and largely underrepresented in many studies on everything to do with sexuality and sexual health) and because while we are not legally liable for information here, we are certainly accountable for the information we give you and want to be sure we’re doing the best we can to help you stay as safe as you want to be if you’re going to be sexually active. We always review a myriad of credible sources with our information, and do our level best to look at that information as a whole and draw whatever conclusions from all of it which we feel the most confident will help you to be the most safe.

As usual, we will always encourage you to seek out a second opinion from your healthcare provider whenever you like or feel a need. Don’t forget that part of the service your healthcare providers provide is information: when you’re starting any medication — be that the pill or something else — ask as many questions as you have, don’t hold back! It’s your doctor or nurses’ job to be sure you know how to use your medication properly and understand all you can about it.

heatherHEATHER CORINNA is an activist, artist, author and the director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sex education and information. She is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and was a contributor to the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She’s received the The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism (2007), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region’s, Public Service Award (2009), the Our Bodies, Ourselves’ Women’s Health Heroes Award (2009), The Joan Helmich Educator of the Year Award (2012), and The Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Award (2013).

Birth Control Side Effects: The Good and The Ugly

Image from Bedsider.org

Image from Bedsider.org

Hormonal birth control often comes with side effects that vary from slightly annoying to bad enough to make you switch. These include (and are not limited to) headaches, breast tenderness, nausea, decreased libido, depression…The list goes on and varies depending on the method you choose.

The folks at Bedsider remind us, however, that while side effects are not typically fun, they’re usually not that noticeable either. We can get caught up in all the pharmaceutical warnings and forget that birth control also has many positive benefits such as clearer skin and more regular periods.

If taking birth control is the right thing for you, be sure to talk to your doctor about how to manage side effects, both negative and positive. Check out Bedsider’s link to help decide if birth control is right for you.

This article was originally published here

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Side effects! Boo!

Two little words that totally freak people out. And for good reason. Nobody wants to wind up feeling crappy because they’re using a method that’s supposed to be good for them.

See through the hype

You deserve to know the real deal about side effects before you get on birth control, or any other medicine. But the hard part is seeing through the hype so you can weigh the pros and cons of each method and make an informed decision.

Positive side effects

We think it’s important to tell the whole story—the good, the bad, and everything in between. Here’s the thing, though. People tend to forget about the potential positive side effects of birth control, like clearer skin or shorter periods. (Or not having a baby before you’re ready, for that matter.) And when they hear the negative stuff, it sticks in their brain like a cheesy old song you can’t stop humming. That’s just human nature, and it happens to all of us.

Even aspirin sounds nasty

Drug companies list every single scary thing you could possibly experience with a medication. Even if it’s super rare. They have to. It’s the law. So before you run for the hills, consider this: The potential side effects of something as harmless as aspirin are pretty scary when you read them, too. Check it out.

If taking birth control is the right thing for you, we believe there’s a method that will make you feel good about using it. Find one here.

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

Reacquainting With Condoms After 11 Years On The Pill

Switching to condoms as one’s only birth control at 30 years old can be a dramatic shift in mindset from the comfort of quick-fix Pills to latexy shopping adventures with a partner. Here, Rose Crompton from the Condom Monologues collective shares her dramatic contraceptive story that spans over a decade, told in 1000 words.

Here are some things she’s learned along the way:

  • Throughout life, every person should take the time to reflect and re-evaluate their contraceptive choices as their body changes.
  • There is important knowledge about condoms that’s not taught in sex education, such as the importance of fitting and experimenting with different brands and types. There are condom sampler packs to guide your discovery of the best condoms for you and your partner(s).
  • If there is an opportunity to shop for condoms with your partner then you should. It can be like an extension of foreplay!
  • Shopping online provides way better selection and price.

This piece is originally published here.

BY ROSE CROMPTOM at CONDOM MONOLOGUES | CondomMonologues.com

“Which ones should we get?” I asked my boyfriend. Well, he’s a man and he’s the one that has to wear them, so naturally I assumed he’d know best. “I dunno,” was the mumbled response. I’d not been “hat” shopping in over a decade. For nearly 11 years I was on the Pill and in three monogamous relationships, for the majority of that time, so ‘safe’ meant not getting pregnant.

Standing there, facing a wall of johnnies, there were three main changes I noticed: the packaging of condoms 11 years on was nicer, there were brands other than Durex available, and the price was higher. No wonder the supermarket kept them in security boxes. Ten quid ($16) for 10 condoms, so a pound a fuck essentially, and me and my boyfriend fuck a lot. Giving up the Pill was apparently going to cost me in more ways than I expected!

That said, coming off the pill four months ago was one of the best decisions I’ve made and I’d like to state that this was what was right for me, not what every woman should do, although I do think every woman should take the time to stop and re-evaluate their contraceptive method as their body changes.

The biggest question I’ve faced since is what contraception should my partner and I use instead?

Long term, that’s still a frustrating debate I’m having with myself, my partner and sexual health advisers. For now though, my chap and I are only using condoms and that is how I found myself: Standing in Tesco adding ‘condoms’ to our weekly, big shop shopping list.

Just call me Goldilocks

After much deliberation we went for the clichéd ribs and dots for her pleasure style. You have to start somewhere. They were good, but not quite right. If we’re being honest (and I think we can be here) too much dotting and ribbing can lead to chaffing.

Thankfully, there’s more to safe sex-life than that one style and so the hunt began online to try something new. Scouring the sites we found a ridiculous number of options. Without wanting to sound too Disney about it, there was a whole new world opening up before my eyes. Previously my experience of condoms had been whatever was free and easy to grab from the GP or sexual health clinic as they were only ever used briefly when there was a Pill glitch.FlyingCarpetCondomsAnim

Now though, scouring the various sex e-tailers, there was this whole exotic, rubbery, latex fantasticness that had the potential to be a lot of fun. Maybe shopping for condoms would be a great, new, sexy part to our foreplay?

We came across an American brand called One and they had an interesting pack called Tantric with tattoo style patterns and extra lubrication. Oh, they sound fancy and you can never have too much lube, so we ordered some.

It wasn’t long before the boyfriend and I found ourselves back online, looking for something different the next time. We “um-ed” and “ah-ed” over the various boxes, brands, descriptions, shapes and textures for nearly as long as we’d spend trying to pick a nice bottle of wine to go with dinner.

Obviously, sex is a shared experience and if there is the opportunity to choose together, then you should. Like with any aspect of sex you should both get enjoyment out of what you’re using. There aren’t very many things that we put on our bodies that are as intimate as condoms. It’s going on his most sensitive area and in hers, so when it comes to condom shopping it’s important to find some rubbers that you’re both gonna’ love. Generally, that means experimenting.

Getting comfy with condoms

Through shopping around, I’ve learnt more about condoms in the last four months than I ever learnt at school, or was bothered to listen to after that, because they just weren’t relevant to my life. It’s a bad attitude to have, I know. It’s shocking how the “fit and forget” or pill-popping culture we have today means it’s easy to overlook the humble condom. Especially when you’re in a relationship that uses one of the aforementioned methods.

It’s been a re-education: I’m aware now about the importance of fit and how that effects sensation and minimises the risk of breakage, the safest way to take them off to avoid any ‘accidents’ and I’ll admit that I’m still perfecting my roll on method (anything billed as ultra thin is definitely the trickiest).

The biggest adjustment (and I don’t reckon I’m the only woman who’s come off the Pill to feel this) is becoming confident with the idea that condoms can keep me safe. Not from STDs as that’s not an issue in my relationship, but of pregnancy. A lot of people my age and a bit older seem keen to use Fertility Awareness Methods and the pull-out method, but for many of them pregnancy wouldn’t be so much of a disaster. For me and my boyfriend, it certainly would be.

Making the move from the pill to condoms is scary. Anything you get fitted, implanted or swallow every morning has a success rate of approximately 99 percent. Sure, there are some side effects, but you’re willing to put up with them because it’s a shared ideology that now we have these methods, why bother with condoms that have a slightly lower success rate at all if your aim is to not get pregnant?

Living with that mentality for over a decade, then changing what you use and your body changes too, is a lot to get your head around, but it is doable. On the plus side, not only has it led me to take another look at the whole contraceptive menu – not just what the GP would prefer me to use – but it’s made me and my partner look again at correct condom use and I don’t think it’s a bad thing for any couple to do that no matter how long they’ve been together.

This monologue was written by Rose Crompton (@RoseC_Liec). Monologues are independent stories. The opinions shared are the author’s own. Go here for more monologues.

 

condom-monologuesCONDOM MONOLOGUES Affirming safer sex and sexuality one story at a time… Condom Monologues dispel harmful myths about safe sex and sexual stereotypes that permeate our ways of understanding what is “healthy sexuality”. They accomplish this through sex-positive, pleasure-focused approaches to sexuality that affirm the diversity of people- genders, sexualities, kinks and relationships.
Find them on twitter @CondomMonologue. Share your story

Can Pre-Ejaculate Cause Pregnancy?

Photographer Zen Sutherland

Photographer Zen Sutherland

Can pre-ejaculate cause pregnancy? This is an important question for anyone who can become pregnant, or is having sex with someone who can get pregnant. Particularly for those who use the “pull-out” or fertility awareness method, understanding the risks involved is fundamental to making proper health choices for yourself.

The answer to this question, however, is not so certain and still under going research. In this article, Heather Corinna explains what exactly we do know for certain about pre-cum and how best to approach risks with the information that is out there.

Here are her key points:

  • There is far less sperm in pre-cum than there is in ejaculation.
  • Chances of sperm in pre-cum are lowered if one has recently urinated and has not ejaculated before intercourse.
  • Pre-cum can transmit infections.

This post was originally published on Scarleteen.

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

Jess asks:

Can a woman become pregnant off of pre-cum fluid alone?

Heather Corinna replies:

The short answer is that it is possible, yes, but is not very likely.

The longer answer is that there are a lot of variables, and we still need more study to be done on this to give a better answer.

Do we know that pre-ejaculate fluid can contain sperm? Yes, we do. We also know that there are far, far less sperm in pre-ejaculate — when there are any at all — than there are in a full ejaculation: a full ejaculation contains as many as 100 million sperm, whereas when sperm is in pre-ejaculate, it’s more like a few million, if that many. But it only takes one active sperm and a few hundred helper sperm to create a pregnancy, so sometimes there may be more than enough sperm in pre-ejaculate when sperm are present in it to make that happen. However, sperm also need the fluid they’re part of to create a pregnancy, so the limited volume of pre-ejaculate is also an issue, as is the far fewer sperm which may be (and often are not) part of it.

There’s no 100% way to know at the time if pre-ejaculate contains sperm, but it’s generally agreed upon that it is most likely or only likely to when a man has recently ejaculated and has not urinated afterwards (urine flushes the urethra out, removing traces of sperm). It’s generally considered to be least likely to contain sperm when a man either hasn’t ejaculated in a while and/or has recently urinated before he’s pre-ejaculating.

Since you’ll often hear a lot of argument when it comes to whether sperm are or are not present in pre-ejaculate, here’s what some other credible folks have to say on the matter:

Go Ask Alice at Columbia University says:

Sperm could be in pre-cum, but only after a recent ejaculation, after which some sperm may be left hanging around in the urethra. “Recent” means masturbating earlier and then having sex with a woman, or during the same sexual episode of the recent ejaculation. Urinating in between ejaculations flushes the urethra of stray sperm and makes the way clear for the sperm-less pre-ejaculate fluid. If sperm remains after a prior ejaculation, then it’s possible that they can enter the vagina and make their way to meet an egg.

The Feminist Women’s Health Center says about it:

During sex, the penis releases two kinds of fluids. The first is pre-ejaculate or pre-cum, a lubricant made in a gland in the penis. This fluid usually contains no sperm, but can transmit infections. The second, released with ejaculation, is semen, which is made in the testicles and carries thousands of sperm in addition to any sexually transmittable infections that may be present.

Many sources that discuss the ineffectiveness of withdrawal argue that pre-cum can contain sperm. This is because previous ejaculations can leave some sperm behind in the folds of the penis. While there is a need for further study, it is likely that urination before intercourse washes leftover sperm from the urethra, the tube from which both urine and semen exit the penis.

Here’s what Student Health Services at Oregon State University has to say:

Pre-cum is the pre-ejaculate fluid that can be released from the penis during sexual activity. It is usually released before the male reaches orgasm, which results in the ejaculation of semen. Pre-cum prepares the urethra for the semen and helps in lubrication during sexual intercourse. Also the pre-cum may contain sperm. Since the pre-ejaculate can contain sperm, a pregnancy can occur if the man’s pre-cum comes in contact with the woman’s vaginal canal.

However, there is inconclusive evidence as to where the sperm in the pre-ejaculate comes from. Many researchers suggest that the sperm in the pre-ejaculate comes from leftover sperm from a previous ejaculation of semen. These researchers suggest that urinating after the ejaculation of semen will remove any sperm from the urethra, so as to prevent the pre-ejaculate from containing sperm. However, research is still being conducted to support this widely accepted idea.

And here’s what Contraceptive Technology has to say:

Some concern exists that the pre-ejaculate fluid may carry sperm into the vagina. In itself, the pre-ejaculate, a lubricating secretion produced by the Littre or Cowper’s glands, contains no sperm. A study examining the pre-ejaculate for the presence of spermatozoa found none in the samples of 16 men. However, a previous ejaculation may have left some sperm hidden within the folds of the urethral lining. In examinations of the pre-ejaculate in a small study, the pre-ejaculate was free of spermatozoa in all of 11 HIV-seronegative men and 4 or 12 seropositive men. Although the 8 samples containing spermatozoa revealed only small clumps of a few hundred sperm, these could possibly pose a risk of fertilization. In all likelihood, the spermatozoa left from a previous ejaculation could be washed out with the force of a normal urination. However, this remains unstudied.

So again, the only right answer we can give right now is a maybe.

But we also do know that withdrawal isn’t one of the most effective birth control methods, in either perfect or typical use, and that enough people report using it perfectly — saying they withdrew well before ejaculation — and still becoming pregnant (including my parents as well as a close friend of mine, for a personal perspective), that we’d be remiss to rule out pre-ejaculate as a pregnancy risk. Bear in mind that during the Baby Boom in the United States — a period in history when we had more births than any other — that withdrawal was the most common method of birth control people were using. Of course, many of those pregnancies may well have been due to men who said they pulled out on time not realizing they had actually ejaculated, and we have no way of knowing what the real deal was. What we can know, for sure, are the success and failure rates of withdrawal as a method, however it is practiced, and know that most other methods of birth control are more effective.

Too, unprotected sex, period — ejaculate or no — poses risks of all sexually transmitted infections, which should be just as great a concern as pregnancy. And pre-ejaculate can transmit the HIV virus just as much as full ejaculate can.

So, having unprotected sex, period, just isn’t a good idea unless you are trying to become pregnant AND you and your partner have both been practicing safer sex for at least six months, monogamously, AND each have at least TWO full and clear STI screens under your belts. While it’d be nice if we had more data on pre-ejaculate at this point, at the same time, it’s not all that essential. We already have the essential information we need, which is that ANY unprotected intercourse presents risks of pregnancy and STIs, and that people who want to prevent pregnancy achieve that best with the most reliable methods of contraception, used properly and consistently, or by abstaining from the kinds of sex which present pregnancy risks.

If you want to engage in intercourse safely, you need a condom at a minimum, and if, for whatever reason, that or some other reliable method is not an option, then the only good choice is to choose not to have sex until sound contraception can be used.

Here are some extra links to grow on:

heatherHEATHER CORINNA is an activist, artist, author and the director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sex education and information. She is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and was a contributor to the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She’s received the The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism (2007), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region’s, Public Service Award (2009), the Our Bodies, Ourselves’ Women’s Health Heroes Award (2009), The Joan Helmich Educator of the Year Award (2012), and The Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Award(2013).

 

scarleteenSCARLETEEN is an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support organization and website. Founded in 1998, Scarleteen.com is visited by around three-quarters of a million diverse people each month worldwide, most between the ages of 15 and 25. It is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online and has held that rank through the majority of its tenure.
Find Scarleteen on twitter @Scarleteen

The Greatest Misunderstanding About IUDs- Corrected

The IUD (with the less appealing name, Intrauterine Device) is one of the most effective and reversible long-term birth control options. Currently, there are three IUD product options: the Mirena, ParaGard and Skyla. Yet despite how wonderful this device is, many women (and some doctors!) still believe that you must be over a certain age in order for an IUD to work.

Bedsider sets the record straight with quick, accurate IUD must-knows.

Watch and be rest assured. For more IUD myth busting, visit Bedsider’s 5 Myths About IUDs

This video is published with Besider’s permission.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

Emergency Contraceptives: Setting The Record Straight

Photograph: Gilbert Rodriguez

Photograph: Gilbert Rodriguez

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

In the wonderful world of sex, things don’t always go as planned— Condoms break, pills are forgotten, folks get drunk and reckless. When these things happen, Emergency Contraception (EC) can mean the difference between a brief panic and an unplanned pregnancy. However, before you can protect yourself with EC, it’s important to know your options and how they work. This is trickier than it should be though, as rumors, myths and misapprehensions regarding EC are rampant.

So let’s clear up some of the confusion, shall we?

What’s in a Name?

Emergency Contraception frequently goes under another name that confuses the issue greatly – The Morning After Pill. That name on its own confuses people on three separate issues:

  • “The” implies that there is only one kind of EC. Nope!
  • “Morning after” makes it sound like you must take it immediately or you are screwed. Not so!
  • “Pill” leads us to believe that EC only comes in pill form Incorrect! (That’s right folks, pills are not your only choice.)

There go three big fallacies before we even get past the introductions!

So, what are your options? How do they work? Where can you get them?

Well, they range from over-the-counter one-dose pills to IUDs (for real, IUDs can be used as EC!). To get the skinny on what’s out there, how you can get it and how much it might cost you, check out the Emergency Contraception page from our friends at Bedsider. It includes an emergency contraception locator and guidelines on following the Yuzpe Regimen – a way to use your regular BC pills as EC.

Mistaken Identity

Also, EC suffers from a huge case of mistaken identity! There are a lot of folks out there who think that Emergency Contraception and medication abortion are the same thing or that EC is an “Abortion Pill”. This is just plain wrong.

Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy, it does not end it.

Here’s how I like to think about it: Imagine you are a car and sex is driving (go with me here). In this world, EC would play the role of your brakes – there to prevent an accident. Medication abortion fits in the same category as things like air bags- there in case said  accident occurs. For more information on medication abortion and what it actually is, head over to Planned Parenthood’s Abortion Pill page.

The New Ella and The Great IUD

So, those are the big misconceptions but they are far from the only ones. Thankfully, once again, Bedsider to the rescue with 5 myths about the emergency contraceptive pill, busted. A quick disclaimer about this one, it does include one out-dated piece of information, which is that all of the pill options become less effective the longer you wait to take them. There is one pill, Ella, (which is the newest and available by prescription only) that doesn’t decrease in effectiveness.

Finally, be aware that the IUD is the only method that, once inserted, protects you against future pregnancy. Also, it is the most effective in terms of the pregnancy you are currently trying to prevent. Check it out:  IUDs Work Best for Emergency Contraceptive.

JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting

Hello, Birth Control!

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

All of us who need birth control want to find the right method that fits perfectly in our lives. Each of us have different needs, and those needs change throughout life. Thankfully, there are many effective methods to choose from today. Before you start deciphering between different brands, you should first look at what method are available. Take into consideration your lifestyle, personality, self-agency, sexual relationships and health history. It’s important to match the right method with all these aspects.

Because when it comes to birth control, you’ve got a lot to choose from.

Some health care providers divide methods up into 10 to 12 choices. Bedsider, however, has one of the most accessible schemes, breaking down birth control options into four simple categories.

This post was originally published here.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Birth control may seem like a modern idea, but it’s actually been around for thousands of years.

They say women in ancient Egypt used crocodile dung suppositories to avoid pregnancy. (Um… ew!) Condoms made of animal intestines were used in Europe as early as the 17th century. And guys have been “pulling out” for as long as anyone can remember.

Lucky for us, there are lots more effective methods to choose from today. And remember, if a certain method doesn’t fit your life or your body, it’s easy to find another one that will.

Hormonal Methods

There are a bunch of hormonal methods out there—not just the pill. There’s the ring, the patch, the implant (or Implanon), and the shot (Depo), too. All of them release hormones into your body, but they work in slightly different ways. Check out their individual pages to learn more.

Intrauterine Devices

Okay, first of all, “Intrauterine Device” is a horrible name for a really effective method. Intrauterine just means “in the uterus.” IUDs are little, t-shaped pieces of plastic (some also contain copper) that get put in your uterus to mess with the way sperm can move and prevent them from fertilizing an egg. Sounds odd, but they work like a charm.

Behavior-Based Methods

“Pulling out,” or withdrawal, is a method of birth control. So are Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (which means observing your body and counting the days of your cycle to figure out when you’re fertile). Both methods work better than nothing, but before you rely on one of them, consider this: These methods take a lot of self-control and 100% consistency on the part of both partners. Like, A LOT. You can’t say “just this once” and you can’t have any “oops” moments.

Barrier Methods

These methods literally block sperm from getting to the egg. The male condom is a perfect example. There’s also the diaphragm, the sponge, the female condom and the cervical cap. (Some of these have to be used with spermicide, which is a barrier method itself.) The only tricky bit with barrier methods is that you have to remember to use them every time you have sex. And sometimes, when you’re in the heat of the moment, finding a condom is the last thing on your mind.

 

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

The CSPH: Will The Nuva Ring Affect How I Have Sex?

oh megan nuva ringThe Nuva Ring is used now by around 1.5 million women worldwide and has been hailed as a wonder contraceptive by many. The birth control makes reversible hormonal contraception simple as the user can insert it for a period of 3 weeks to help prevent pregnancy.

However, the Nuva Ring is not a widely known contraceptive and those interested in learning more or are new to using the product may have some questions.

In this video, sex educator Megan Andelloux addresses some of those questions and tells the viewer:

  • The Nuva Ring fits into the back of the vagina and is held in place by the vaginal muscles.
  • The penis likely won’t feel the Nuva Ring although a finger may.
  • Removing the Nuva Ring for 4 hours still leaves you protected from pregnancy if you don’t want to risk it interfering with sex or you don’t want your partner to know you are wearing it.
  • Silicone lube and toys can be used with the Nuva Ring and will not affect it’s quality.

This video was originally published on the CSPH website.

BY The CSPH | theCSPH.org

Like all forms of contraception it’s important you know the full risks and advantages of using the Nuva Ring and talk with a medical professional about it’s suitability for you.

megan_andellouxMEGAN ANDELLOUX  is a Clinical Sexologist and certified Sexuality Educator, listed on Wikipedia as one of the top sexuality educators in America, her innovative education programs, writing, social media presence, and ambitious speaking schedule has made her one of America’s most recognized and sought-after experts in the growing field of sexual pleasure, health, and politics.
Follow Megan on twitter @HiOhMegan

 

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.