Drink and Be Merry: How to Party Safer

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

It is not simply enough to say, “Don’t have sex when you are drunk.” In real life, sometimes when people party it can lead to sex. No surprise there. Sometimes people falter. Thus it is better to be aware of these tendencies and adopt some basic protocol to help you party safer and reduce risks to your sexual health and well-being.

Even if you choose not to have sex when you drink, there are important party strategies you should know.

Here are key points about partying safer, covered by Yvonne Piper at Bedsider below:

  • Studies show that when people are under the influence of alcohol, condoms and other forms of birth control are discussed less and used less.
  • Another risk is that because drinking impairs your motor skills, there is a higher chance that you and your partner will use whatever method, such as a condom or diaphragm, improperly.
  • There are birth control options that are more “party ready”, such as the IUD and Implant. But these do not protect against STIs.
  • Sometimes condoms are provided at parties. Encourage this and bring your own.

This article is written by Yvonne Piper and originally featured here.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

So you’re at a party (or a bar, or a booze-fueled picnic in the park…you get the idea) talking with someone you like A LOT. It’s pretty obvious you want to hook up. There are details to sort out, like whose place and how are we getting there? Other important questions may or may not come up: How are we preventing pregnancy? How are we protecting against STIs? Unfortunately those important questions may be less likely to come up the more you both drink.

A disclaimer: I can’t reassure you that sex while partying can be 100% safe—in some cases the best decision is not to hook up at all. For one thing, when you’re under the influence it can be tricky to be sure both you and your partner are thinking clearly enough to communicate your desires and boundaries with each other. But I also want to be real here: sometimes people party, and sometimes partying leads to sex. For folks who occasionally find themselves hooking up under the influence, there are some ways to keep yourself safer.

Does drinking affect birth control?

Alcohol can alter your judgment. You may be willing to do things (or people!) you would not normally do when sober. This may include having sex when you haven’t negotiated birth control in advance.

There’s mixed scientific evidence about how alcohol impacts birth control use. Some studies show that when alcohol is involved, birth control is discussed less often and condoms are used less, even in established relationships. Other studies show that drinking is associated with more condom use for casual partners and that consistent condom users remain consistent even when under the influence. These conflicting findings may have to do with the fact that alcohol affects people differently.

Whether drinking changes your intentions or not, it can definitely mess with your motor skills. If you use condoms, spermicide, or a diaphragm—any method that requires set up right before sex—there is always a chance of human error. When you’re drunk, the chance of using these methods improperly goes up.

Not every method of contraception is affected by partying. Many methods—IUDs, implants, sterilization, the shot, the ring, and the patch—are perfect for partying as they are in place well in advance of the fun and you bring them with you everywhere. The down side to all these methods is they don’t protect you from STIs. Luckily, condoms are portable even in the tiniest purse or pocket and may be available at bars and parties.

Playing safer

Here are 8 practical ways to play safer when partying:

1) Make a plan when you are sober and stick to it, both for drinking and for sex. If your plan says absolutely no hooking up after drinking, you can still flirt and trade phone numbers with a new potential partner. If your plan clearly says you are done after three alcoholic drinks, alternate your boozy beverages with non-alcoholic drinks, like water or soda, to help the fun last longer. And, of course, make sure you have a plan for getting home that doesn’t involve anyone driving under the influence.

2) Something that may help with #1: whether as moral support or designated drivers, enlist the help of your friends to help you stick to your plan. Here are some tips about how to do this.

3) Condoms are always the way to go for STI protection, but consider a second party-ready method to help ensure that you won’t have pregnancy scares on top of potential STI concerns.

4) Speaking of condoms, don’t rely on a partner to supply them. Even if you’re not sure you’ll need one, even if you already use another form of birth control, carrying condoms—and always using them for STI protection—is a smart thing to do.

5) Don’t leave drinks unattended. Even though it’s flattering when someone offers to buy or bring you a drink, you are safer being in control of your drink at all times.

6) Female condoms can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex, so if you suspect you may be partying too hard to use a male condom, consider trying this.

7) If you find yourself having sex in a situation where condoms aren’t available, withdrawal is always better than nothing (especially if your partner has had practice).

8) Have some emergency contraceptive pills at home in case a condom broke or wasn’t used.

If you’ve had drunk sex, it might be worth reviewing: How much fun was it for you? Did you find you had a harder time getting off when drunk? Did you notice that you had less of your natural lubrication? How about your partner’s sexual function? How does it compare to hooking up sober?

Wish you partied less?

If partying is interfering with your work, school, or relationships and you’d like some support in playing safer, Moderation Management and HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol are good resources.

Be safe and have fun!

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

Well-Women Visits: 6 Things You Should Know

Image by Bedsider

Image by Bedsider

Did you know that a “well-woman” visit is now fully covered by insurance under new law? Yes, all teen girls and women up to age 65 are recommended to schedule a well-woman visit once a year. And that has just been made easier thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

A well-woman exam is important for tracking your overall health and taking care of your body’s needs as they change over time.

Here’s a summary of must-know information about the well-woman visit:

  • It’s preventative care done by your primary care provider. It consists of a full-check up, screening and tests, and counseling to help you make informed choices.
  • Well-women visits are different from Pap smears. The Pap is recommended every three years for 20-29 year olds and are usually done by a gynecologist.
  • You don’t have to pay. Because well-women visits are classified as “preventative care”, your insurance must cover it by law, including separate visits such as a mammogram, scheduled by your doctor during the wellness exam.
  • You and your primary provider decide what happens at the appointment. Go to healthcare.gov for a full list of what is covered under a well-woman exam.

This post by Chelsey Delaney was originally published on Bedsider.org.

BY BEDSIDER | Besider.org

UPDATE: Open enrollment for 2016 health coverage goes from now (November 2015) until January 31, 2016. Keep in mind, if you want coverage starting on January 1, you’ll have to pay your premium by December 15. Explore your options at HealthCare.gov!

If someone asked me a month ago what a “well-woman visit” is, I would have posited that it’s the magical time of year when you visit your gynecologist and he or she pokes around in your vagina. (Then I would have followed with the story of the time my gynecologist joked that she couldn’t find my cervix and that it probably fell out somewhere. Gullible was written all over my uterus that day.)

Unfortunately, my explanation wouldn’t have been completely accurate. In fact, for many women the poking I’m referring to—the Pap smear—isn’t required annually. For a woman like me, in the age range of 21 to 29, Paps are recommended every three years as long as there are no other factors that make more frequent Paps necessary. Also, you don’t have to see a gynecologist for a well-woman visit—you can see your primary care doctor, nurse practitioner, etc.

So, what is a well-woman visit? Well, woman, it depends. Here are six basics you should know:

1. It’s all about preventive health.

Prevention and planning, yo. Going to the doctor only when you’re sick is so last-century. As you age, your body changes and will experience new challenges. A well-woman visit is there for you to understand your own personal health risks and how to readily avoid them.

2. It’s just like a physical, only it doesn’t have to be as…physical.

Don’t just get tests—ask questions. What’s on your mind? Talk about your stress levels, your nutrition, your mood, your medications, your sex life, your family’s health history—next to nothing is off the table. Asking questions and raising concerns helps your health care provider know what’s important to you and what he or she should screen you for. Speaking of health care providers…

3. A good relationship with your provider is vital.

More than ever, health care is beginning to embrace the idea that hey, maybe providers and patients should get along and have open dialogues about stuff. Your provider should meet you in the middle and show a genuine interest in your health—no judgments. Allowing yourself to build trust into that relationship will increase the likelihood of a satisfactory visit (and you’ll also feel less awkward when you need a pelvic exam).

4. It’s not always one-and-done.

While the well-woman visit is often talked about as a single, annual visit, it doesn’t always stop there. For example, if you’ve got a history of breast cancer in your family, your provider might decide that you should get a mammogram. If the mammogram is scheduled at a different time and place, this should also be covered by your insurance. Same deal if you decide to get an IUD or implant—if you need to make a separate appointment for insertion, that should be covered too. Why is this important to know? Because…

5. You shouldn’t be charged for certain preventive services, including well-woman visits.

Don’t touch that wallet if you have health insurance and your provider is covered under your plan. Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive services should be covered by insurance with no out-of-pocket costs. Tip: Be sure to say you’re coming in for a “well-woman visit” when you schedule your appointment(s). And, while it may be tempting to tack your visit onto a sickish-visit with your provider, try to avoid it just to make sure the billing doesn’t get complicated.

6. The contents of your well-woman visit are up to you and your provider.

As far as services go, your visit(s) could include any/some of the following depending on your current health status:

  • Contraceptive counseling
  • Alcohol misuse screening
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Cholesterol screening
  • Depression screening
  • Nutrition and diet counseling
  • HIV screening
  • Vaccines and immunizations
  • STI screening

Check out healthcare.gov for a full list of services that are covered under the well-woman visit label. And if your insurance isn’t paying for services you think should be covered under the Affordable Care Act, contact the National Women’s Law Center’s hotline 1-866-745-5487 or via email at CoverHer@nwlc.org to let them know what’s going on and see if they can help.

You’re entitled to a well-woman visit every year until you’re 65. It’s not that you should stop being a well woman when you’re 65, it’s just that when you’re 65 you’ll have Medicare, and Medicare rules. Hopefully, it will act as a reward for being so well for so long!

condom ad condoms too loose

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

Breastfeed? How to Make the Switch from Birth Control to Condoms

Photo by Chris Alban Hansen

Photo credit: Chris Alban Hansen

This August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month- a time to empower and support women who have committed to breastfeed. The practice provides many health benefits to a mom and her baby, which is all the more reason mothers should take special care of themselves during this time. Choosing an appropriate birth control is often an important part of this process.

Doctors recommend an IUD or the “mini-pill” (a progestin-only birth control) starting right after birth.  For many reasons, another popular option during breastfeeding is condoms because 1) it’s non-hormonal; 2) in your new, sleep deprived schedule you don’t have to keep track and adhere to taking a pill everyday at a specific time; and 3) it’s inexpensive and, with no prescription required, it’s hassle free!

Considering the vast market, switching to condoms may seem like a daunting task. How do you choose a proper condom? How do you know which will fit right?

Melissa White, CEO of Lucky Bloke and a SheKnows expert, explains three basic steps to condom shopping. She also recommends condoms that will dramatically improve your new-found intimacy.

There are key steps to becoming a condom guru:

  • Know how to find your condom size. All you need is an erect penis and a toilet paper roll!
  • Experimenting is the best way to find the right condom that you and your partner enjoy. Sampler packs are the best, most cost effective way to explore the condom world.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of lube! Especially when your body is going through hormonal changes you may experience dryness more frequently. Lube is fundamental for increased sensitivity and pleasure. Use lube samplers to experiment.

Read Melissa White’s full article here at SheKnows.com

I’m Trans. Do I Need Birth Control?

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

All pregnancies require 4 things to get going: a uterus, an egg, a sperm, and for the egg and sperm to come together.  

Just like cis-gendered people, not all trans people use birth control to prevent pregnancy. There are important things to consider before waging your chances of getting pregnant. As Juno Obedin-Malvier, MD, explains, pregnancy depends on “what equipment you’ve got, what you’re doing with it, who you’re doing it with (and what they’ve got), and whether pregnancy is a goal or not”.

Here are important points about the possibilities of getting pregnant for trans people:

  • Testosterone isn’t both control. For many trans men, taking testosterone may halt the menstrual cycle. However, testosterone doesn’t complete end egg production from the ovaries and some trans men have gotten pregnant even without a period.
  • Birth control methods available for cis-women are equally effective for trans men.
  • Likewise, estrogen is not birth control. Trans women who take estrogen and have a penis and testicles can still get their partner(s) pregnant.
  • Condoms are a great option for trans women. Plus they are the only form of protection that helps prevent STIs and pregnancy.
  • There are many health care providers that specialize in the trans community. Check out the resources at the bottom of this article.

This article by Juno Obedin-Maliver was originally published at Bedsider.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Do trans people need to use birth control? Well, it all depends. It depends on what equipment you’ve got, what you’re doing with it, who you’re doing it with (and what they’ve got), and whether pregnancy is a goal or not.

For any readers who aren’t familiar with the terminology, here’s a primer. Briefly, being transgender (“trans” for short) is about living in a gender that is different than the sex you were born with. Being cisgender is about having that sex and gender line up. Whether one needs birth control depends on what sex you were born with and what sex your partner was born with.

Transgender folks and cisgender folks come in all shapes and sizes. But everyone—no matter whether they identify as a transgender man, transgender woman, man, woman, or another identity—is born with only one set of gametes (if any). Gametes are the cells from two different people that come together to make a baby. For humans, gametes come in two types: the sperm type and the egg type. And all pregnancies require at least four things to get going: a uterus, an egg, sperm, and for the egg and sperm to come together.

Trans men

(FTM, or folks who were assigned female sex at birth and identify on the male gender spectrum)
For those guys who were born with a uterus and ovaries (where eggs are made), if you still have those parts, you can get pregnant. So, if you’re doing someone who has a sperm delivery system (a penis and testicles) you have to think about the possibility that you could get pregnant.

Many, but not all, trans men use testosterone (T). For most, that stops the monthly visit from Aunt Flo. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get pregnant. Some trans men have gotten pregnant even when they weren’t having their periods and were still taking testosterone. How is that possible? Well, testosterone doesn’t completely stop egg production, so some guys will still release eggs even on T and even without a period. In other words, T isn’t good birth control.

So if getting pregnant isn’t in your plan, what are your options? All the methods that cisgender women may consider are also good options for trans guys. You should talk about them with your health care provider, who can help you tailor the method to your needs. If you want to get pregnant, you should also talk with your provider because there are things you can do to make sure you’re as healthy as possible before you do.

Trans women

(MTF, or folks who were assigned male at birth and identify on the female gender spectrum)
For those gals who were born with a sperm delivery system (penis and testicles)—if you still have those parts and your partner has a uterus and ovaries, you can get them pregnant. Many trans women think that if they are on estrogen they can’t get another person pregnant, but that’s not true. Though it may be harder to get an erection, make sperm, and ejaculate when you are on estrogen, it’s not impossible.

So if you and your partner have the equipment to get pregnant but don’t want to be, you’ve got to think about birth control. All the things that cisgender men think about for contraception are on the table. Condoms are especially cool because they protect against both sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy.

If you want to have kids and you’ve got sperm, you should talk with your health care provider—ideally before starting estrogen—about saving those spermies for a rainy, pregnancy-desiring kind of day.

Finding good care

If you want to talk to a health care provider about any of these issues and don’t already have one you trust, check out the providers on this list. If you’re in one of the following cities, you can go to a health center that specializes in care for the trans community:

Baltimore : Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

Boston: The Fenway Institute

Chicago: Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV Prevention at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, the Howard Brown Health Center

Cleveland: The PRIDE Clinic at MetroHealth Medical Center

Los Angeles: The Los Angeles LGBT Center

New York: Callen-Lorde Community Health Center

Philadelphia: The Mazzoni Center

San Francisco: Lyon-Martin Health Services, the Tom Waddell Health Center, the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center

Washington, D.C.: Whitman-Walker Health

There are also Planned Parenthood clinics—like the ones listed here under “What health services”—that have providers who can help trans folks with general health questions, as well as birth control questions.

condom ad condoms too loose

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

4 Apps for Tracking Your Fertility

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

One of the oldest contraceptive methods is making a big comeback these days. About 22 percent of women use fertility awareness methods (FAMs) according to the CDC, and that figure is increasing every year. More and more women are dropping condoms and the Pill, and picking up new apps that help track their fertility cycle.

In this article, Chelsey Delaney of Bedsider reviews four cycle-tracking apps—Clue, Kindara, Ovia, and Glow—to help explain how tracking your cycle works, and to help you see if there’s a FAM (and an app) out there for you.

This article by Chelsey Delaney was originally published on Bedsider.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Practicing “Fertility Awareness” means more than just scoping out your fertile phases. It involves mapping out your entire cycle, including your fertile phases, your sorta fertile phases, and your not-so-fertile phases (every flavor of fertile, all phases).

Following your cycle closely over time can grow fertility awareness into fertility knowledge. Identifying patterns in and across your cycles can serve a range of purposes: It can help you get pregnant, help you avoid getting pregnant, or simply get you more acquainted with the natural ebb and flow of your reproductive schedule.

To harness this multi-purpose power, consider using a Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). FAMs incorporate cycle-tracking techniques that women have used for generations to help evaluate when it’s fertile time and/or party time.

FAMs seem to be getting more attention recently, so much so that a recent Atlantic article announced the “Return of the Rhythm Method.” (The rhythm method is a well-known name for one approach to fertility awareness.) Why the resurgence? One big reason: mobile technology, baby. I reviewed four cycle-tracking apps—Clue, Kindara, Ovia, and Glow—to help explain how tracking your cycle works, and to help you see if there’s a FAM (and an app) out there for you.

1. The Calendar Method + Clue

With the Calendar Method, you document the day your periods start and end along with the number of days between periods (your cycle). Beyond that, there’s a lot of math involved. That’s where the Clue app comes in—to help simplify. The Clue app practices the art of all FAMs mentioned here (using this combination of FAMs is called the “Symptothermal” method, which you can read more about below), but it’s particularly grand at its execution of the Calendar Method.

The App: “Clue”
Ease of Use: Good
Level of Engagement: Good
Visual Style: Okay (at least there’s no pink)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Platform(s): iOS and Android

Clue’s dashboard shows your current cycle and allows you to input daily data.

Clue’s dashboard shows your current cycle and allows you to input daily data.

How it works

Clue takes what you input as your last period start and end dates and forecasts fertility based on global health statistics.

Your dashboard displays your cycle and you can choose to see it in a cyclical display or a calendar display. Input each period, plus some additional info if you feel like it, and Clue starts to learn your personal pattern, improving its forecast with each cycle. It also features a library of default reminders for your period, your fertile window, your ovulation day, and more.

Despite any app’s awesomeness, using this method alone holds no guarantees—especially for those of us with unpredictable and inconsistent flows. That’s why Clue and other apps mentioned here allow you to input your daily basal body temperature (BBT) to improve the accuracy of their predictions.

Using BBT data to understand your fertility is referred to as the Temperature Method. If you’re looking to dig really deep (into your fertile soil, if you know what I mean), consider using the Calendar Method alongside the Temperature Method.

2. The Temperature Method + Kindara

You can learn a lot about your cycle from your body temperature, particularly your BBT. To get your BBT, you should take your temperature at a time when your body is at its most rested state—usually when you first wake up in the morning (before consuming the glory that is coffee).

To fully experience the beauty of the Temperature Method, you’ll need to get a BBT read that’s accurate right down to a fraction of a degree. So, throw your average thermometer out the window (just a phrase, not a real suggestion), and get a BBT thermometer at your local pharmacy. Or, wait until Spring 2015 for the full Kindara / Wink package.

Like Clue, Kindara includes different FAMs, but it stands out in terms of the Temperature Method thanks to the app’s introduction of a super smart counterpart BBT thermometer, “Wink”.

The App: “Kindara” paired with the “Wink” BBT thermometer
Ease of Use: Okay
Level of Engagement: Good
Visual Style: Good
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Platform(s): iOS and Android

How it works

The Kindara app features a suite of data-logging tools to gain fertility insight, including:

  • A calendar to track your period and cycle;
  • A daily questionnaire to log your BBT, period flow, the state of your cervix, and more;
  • A chart tool to visually and clearly present your data over time to reveal fertility patterns; and
  • A community of other users who share tips and insights from their own experiences.

This spring (2015), the people behind Kindara are releasing “Wink”, a super accurate BBT thermometer that automatically syncs with your Kindara app. You can pre-order it here.

Using the combination of the Temperature Method and the Calendar Method should start to reveal some patterns about your fertility, as you can see with Kindara’s chart feature. Kindara (like many other apps) also incorporates another method for even more informed revelations: the Cervical Mucus Method.

Kindara’s dashboard offers quick-and-easy input of your BBT.

Kindara’s dashboard offers quick-and-easy input of your BBT.

3. The Cervical Mucus Method + Ovia

The, ahem, appropriately named Cervical Mucus Method involves investigating the physical form of your (you guessed it) cervical mucus, as well as determining the position and feel of your cervix. The Ovia app isn’t just about tracking cervical mucus, but it is particularly thorough in its mucus-tracking efforts compared to the other apps I reviewed. (I’d love to see what a trophy for “Most Thorough Mucus-Tracking” would look like. Or, I wouldn’t.)

The App: “Ovia”
Ease of Use: Okay
Level of Engagement: Okay
Visual Style: Good
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Platform(s): iOS and Android

Ovia’s dashboard displays timely information about the state of your cycle and a feed of miscellaneous diet and exercise recommendations.

Ovia’s dashboard displays timely information about the state of your cycle and a feed of miscellaneous diet and exercise recommendations.

How it works

Similar to Kindara, Ovia features a large suite of tracking tools. In fact, it’s a really, really huge suite: It asks you to enter a daily log of things as detailed as how many glasses of water you drank, how many servings of protein you had, how many steps you took, etc.

While the app’s attention to detail might not work best for those of us who favor a quick open-submit-close experience, its use of visuals and icons provide greater context for how to interpret the consistency of your cervical fluid. And, knowledge (about cervical fluid) is power.

Of course, the Cervical Mucus Method isn’t ideal for women who don’t produce much mucus. Either way, it will take time to get the hang of interpreting what your mucus means—it’s mucus. So, combine this method with other methods to start, or combine all the methods together. Which brings us to…

4. The Symptothermal Method + Glow

When you combine the Calendar Method, the Temperature Method, and the Cervical Mucus Method together, you get the Symptothermal Method. That’s some deep body math, people.

The Symptothermal Method is for the hardcore DIY fertility scientist inside of you who really wants to nail this thing down. Most fertility apps out there make use of the Symptothermal Method, but Glow does an especially great job of keeping it easy and fun.

The App: “Glow”
Ease of Use: Good
Level of Engagement: Good
Visual Style: Excellent
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Platform(s): iOS and Android

Glow’s dashboard shows the current state of your cycle as well as an overview of your latest data log.

Glow’s dashboard shows the current state of your cycle as well as an overview of your latest data log.

How it works

The Glow dashboard shows relevant information about your current cycle day and a prompt to log your basic information regarding temperature, periods, sex, and cervical mucus to form its fertility predictions.

The more you input over time, the more Glow learns about you. It then provides you with daily tips and statistics-based insights related to what you log about your lifestyle and your cycles.

Glow also features a lively community, the ability to set custom reminders, and even the ability to share your fertility progress with your partner. Except, it doesn’t have a cool BBT thermometer counterpart… yet?

If you want to use a FAM for birth control…

If you’re serious about relying on a FAM for pregnancy prevention, it’s always a good idea to use a non-hormonal back-up method like condoms while you’re getting the hang of tracking your cycle. You’ll also need a back-up method—even if it’s just not having sex, though that can be a challenging one—to use during your “fertile window.”

If you want to validate how well you’re using your FAM, you can always purchase an ovulation test and/or fertility monitor. If you want to learn more about fertility awareness and FAMs in general, check out our article that explains the basics of fertility tracking, or visit the site of fertility expert Toni Weschler, which goes into depth about “Taking Charge of Your Fertility.”

And if you have an app you love for fertility tracking, tell us about it in the comments. Happy new-age cycle-tracking!

Unsure what size

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

5 Myths About the Pull-Out Method, Corrected

"Pull and Pray" video by Bedsider

“Pull and Pray” video by Bedsider

The pull-out method (also known as “withdrawal” or “coitus interruptus”) involves the one with the penis to pull-out before he ejaculates. Health professionals do consider this a true method of birth control. Did you know that if the pull-out method is done correctly every time, it is almost as effective as using condoms to prevent pregnancy? However, it has to be done correctly every single time. Because of this, withdrawal is not the right birth control option for everyone.

We do not recommend relying on the pull-out method if you are not in a committed long-term relationship, are unaware of your and your partner’s STI status, do not keep tract of fertility cycles, and are not experienced in controlling your orgasms. That’s a lot of stipulations to think about!

Here is Bedsider on the frank facts about pulling-out:

  • It can be easy to make mistakes using the pull-out method which is why, out of 100 couples using withdrawal, approximately 22 will become pregnant in a year.
  • Pulling-out is common, but that stats on it are questionable because there hasn’t been much research done and people tend not to admit that they rely on this form of birth control. Bedsider cites a study that found that 60% of women age 15-44 have used withdrawal.
  • Aside from being a less effective form of birth control, the pull-out method comes with benefits, such as no hormones, no costs or prescriptions, etc.
  • Withdrawal does not prevent the transmission of STIs and HIV.
  •  We know that there is less sperm in pre-ejaculation. However, there is little known about the risk of pregnancy from precum. So the best approach is to be prepared that it might.
  • Read the article to learn how to use withdrawal like a pro. It takes practice, communication and back-up plans.

This article by Yvonne Piper originally appeared on Bedsider

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Before he busts a nut, allow us to bust these withdrawal myths. (Sorry, we can’t resist puns.)

The withdrawal method, a.k.a. pulling out, sometimes gets a bad rap—some people don’t even consider it a “real” method of birth control, even though 60% of couples have used it at least once. Because pulling out is often dismissed as “better than nothing” by researchers, we don’t know as much about it as we do about some other methods. But before you write it off, make sure you’ve got your facts straight.

Myth 1: Pulling out doesn’t work, so don’t even bother.

Out of 100 couples who were withdrawal rock stars—meaning they pulled out correctly every time they had sex—about four of them would get pregnant in a year. But it can be a challenge to pull out for lots of reasons, and most people have days when they’re not feeling like rock stars of any kind. That’s why out of 100 average couples using withdrawal, 22 will get pregnant in a year.

It’s not that pulling out doesn’t work in principle—it’s that it’s challenging to pull out just right every single time. Condoms and the pill aren’t so different that way—they’re great in a world where we always use them perfectly—but the reality of our lives is often busy, complicated, and not so perfect. Still, pulling out is a lot better than nothing—in fact, it’s nearly as effective at preventing accidental pregnancy as condoms alone.

Myth 2: Pre-cum is safe—it doesn’t have sperm in it.

First off, we have very limited scientific information about pre-cum so there can be confusion about it even among experts. Three small studies from years ago found no sperm in pre-cum, but there were only 43 guys in all of these studies combined. Some of the men in the studies had health problems, and it appears that the pre-cum samples they provided were not analyzed immediately so it may have been it difficult to tell if their sperm were swimming normally.

A more recent study had 27 healthy guys, some of whom gave multiple samples of pre-cum. The researchers analyzed the samples immediately and found that about a third contained live, swimming sperm. Popular advice says that sperm found in pre-cum may come from a previous ejaculation and can be flushed out when a guy pees, but the guys in this study who had peed after their last ejaculation still had sperm in their pre-cum. The bottom line is that this study can’t tell us whether pre-cum can cause a pregnancy, but it does tell us that it might. It also suggests that pulling out may work better for some guys than others—but unless you have a pre-cum sample and awesome microscope skills, you can’t tell which group a guy is in. This may be part of why even withdrawal rock stars sometimes have accidental pregnancies.

Myth 3: Only irresponsible people use the “pull out” method.

Sixty percent of women ages 15-44 in the U.S. have used withdrawal at some point. In the most recent U.S. national survey, 5% of couples using any type of birth control were relying exclusively on pulling out. If you count couples using another method plus pulling out, about 10% of people use withdrawal. Because people sometimes don’t consider pulling out a method, they may not mention it when asked about birth control use, so even this number may be low. In other words, people of all ages in all types of relationships are using withdrawal to prevent pregnancy.

Myth 4: There’s nothing good about pulling out.

Pulling out may not be the most effective method, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have perks. No hormones, no cost, no advance preparation, no prescription, no visit to the store or clinic, can be used spontaneously, great option when you don’t have another plan… people have all kinds of reasons for using it. For women who have struggled with vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis, pulling out may also help prevent recurrent infections.

Myth 5: Pulling out is easy.

It takes practice, learning, communication, and back-up plans to use withdrawal like a pro:

  • Do some withdrawal dress rehearsals while your guy is wearing a condom. Does he know when he’s about to cum? Can he pull out in time? If not, consider another method.
  • Know your STI status, and make sure your guy knows his. Withdrawal can work for pregnancy prevention, but it does not offer protection against STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
  • Communicate! Talk about what the plan is in the event of an accident, an accidental pregnancy, or an STI.
  • Have back up supplies. Keep emergency contraception around for those times when accidents happen, and condoms for times when pulling out doesn’t seem like the right choice for a particular guy.
  • Know your cycles. If you have a smart phone, check out some of the apps that help you track your fertile times. Consider using condoms in addition to pulling out during high fertility days of the month.

If effectiveness is your #1 priority, withdrawal might not be right for you—maybe not right now, maybe not ever. But a lot of your sisters are out there doin’ it for themselves, and not everybody hates it or gets pregnant on it. Is it perfect? Nope. But it is an option that you can use any time, anywhere.

Unsure what size

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

Can I Get Pregnant If…? A Pregnancy Scare Companion

pregnancy scareDo you think you (or your partner) might be pregnant?

We get a lot of questions from readers wondering, “Can I get pregnant if…”. Bottom line: You can’t get pregnant from activities like petting or oral sex, only from activities in which semen comes in direct contact with the vagina. But what if there was pre-cum, or ejaculation near the genitals? What if you are late for your period even though you used a condom?

If you are not sure if you experienced real risks of pregnancy, this post is for you. Heather Corinna of Scarleteen provides information and resources based on your unique situation. Whether you are late for your period, or tested positive for a pregnancy test, or don’t know where to find emergency contraceptives, this article will help you figure out the next best steps.

Here’s a quickie on how pregnancy happens:

  • Pregnancy can happen when semen (ejaculation or cum) or precum gets inside the vagina.
  • Emergency contraceptives (the morning after pill) can prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex.
  • You can reduce the risk pregnancy by not having direct genital-to-genital contact, or using condoms and birth control every time you have sex.
  • Read the article below for more information about the type of sexual activities that increase  risk of pregnancy.

This post was originally published on Scarleteen.

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

In the thick of a pregnancy scare? Freaking out? Not sure what to do? We know how scary this can be, and we’re here to have your back in it.

Take a few deep breaths (really: do some good, slow breathing, you’ll feel better and be able to think more clearly once you do), and have a seat. Based on your unique situation, we’ll walk you through your next steps, give you some extra helps, fill you in on some common self-sabotagers, and do our best to help you chill out and pull it together so you can get through a scare without losing your mind and your well-being in the process.

Is your (or your partner’s) menstrual period not yet due?

In other words, a period isn’t late or missed, because it’s not even due for another few days or weeks. Click here for your next steps.

Are you (or your partner) due for a menstrual period around now, but it’s not late yet?  Click here for your next steps.

Are you (or your partner) currently experiencing a late or missed menstrual period?

In other words, a menstrual period has not yet arrived and was expected at least five or more days ago. Click here for your next steps.

Do you (or your partner) have irregular periods, so you can’t really answer the questions above?

If your (or your partner’s) menstrual periods are irregular, or you (or your partner) use a method of contraception that often causes skipped or missed periods, click here for your next steps.

Have you (or a partner) had a menstrual period since the risk you are concerned about?

A menstrual period is happening now or has occurred since the risk you’re concerned about, but you’re still worried about pregnancy. Click here for your next steps.

Have you (or a partner) had a pregnancy test with a positive (pregnant) result? Click here for your next steps.

Have you (or a partner) had a pregnancy test with a negative (not pregnant) result? Click here for your next steps.

Has it been less than 120 hours since your risk?

If you would like to reduce your risk, you or your partner can use a method of emergency contraception (EC) to reduce the risk by as much as 95% with oral medications designed as EC, and as much as 98% using a copper IUD. EC is most effective when used within 24 hours, so you want to get a move on if you can and want to use it. For information on emergency contraception, click here. To find the kinds of EC available in your area, or which kinds of oral contraceptives you can use as emergency contraception, and how to use them that way, click here.

Not sure if you or a partner have had a real risk of pregnancy or not?

In order for pregnancy to be a possibility, the kind of contact that has to happen is:

  • Direct (with no clothing, at all, covering anyone’s genitals) genital-to-genital contact between someone with a penis and someone with a vulva, such as genital intercourse or otherwise rubbing genitals together OR
  • Direct contact with ejaculate (semen) and the vulva, vaginal opening or anus.

BUT (and it’s a really big one): If either of those kinds of contact did occur, but one or more reliable methods of contraception was used properly, that risk is radically reduced, by a minimum of 70%*, and as much as 99.9%. And even if you used two methods, any two reliable methods at all — like the pill plus withdrawal, or a condom plus a Depo shot — only typically, rather than perfectly, you still will only have had about a 10% risk of pregnancy at a maximum.

Scenarios like these are NOT how pregnancy happens:

  • Masturbation or mutual masturbation (masturbating in the same space with someone else)
  • Being in the same space as someone with a penis and doing things like using their towels, sharing a toilet, touching their clothing, or sharing a bed to sleep or rest in
  • Sitting somewhere where someone did or may have ejaculated
  • Taking a shower, bath or swim with someone with a penis
  • Thinking about sex or fantasizing
  • Kissing, making out or fondling
  • Dry humping (rubbing genitals together when one or more people involved have some kind of clothing on that covers the genitals)
  • Oral sex or manual sex (fingering or handjobs)
  • Contact with pre-ejaculate, but NOT during intercourse or direct genital-to-genital contact
  • Touching yourself after you touched someone whose hand has touched their penis
  • Having someone with a penis ejaculate on some part of the body other than your genitals, like your buttocks, back or breasts
  • Direct genital-to-genital contact or direct contact with ejaculate when you and a partner have the same kinds of genitals (like each of you having a vulva or each of you having a penis).

Situations like these are ways pregnancy can theoretically occur, but where it is not at all likely:

  • Rubbing the vulva with hands that have recently touched semen
  • Intercourse or other direct genital-to-genital or genital fluid contact where two (or more) reliable methods of contraception were used properly
  • Unprotected anal sex without ejaculation

Are pregnancy scares a constant for you, or occurring even when you’re not having the kinds of contact that can result in pregnancy in reality?

1) Do you know the facts about how pregnancy happens, and what can and cannot present real risks of pregnancy? If not, you can educate yourself here or here. If you already know the facts, or find that now that you have them, you still feel scared or can’t believe them, then this probably isn’t about a lack of education about reproduction.

2) Do yourself a solid and take any kind of contact that is freaking you out like this off the table ASAP for now (that you can: for instance, if living in a house with family members who have a penis is freaking you out, you can’t very well ask them to leave so you can deal). If you are not in a relationship where you feel you are allowed to have any limits you need with sex of any kind, that’s a cue you’re not in a healthy relationship or dynamic, or just not yet able to assert yourself enough to manage sexual activity, so may need to get yourself away from that relationship, period.

3) Take some real time — not hours or a few days, but a week or two or even a few months or more, whatever you need — to figure out what you need to have these kinds of contact comfortably and without panic. Only engage in that kind of contact again when you CAN have what you need to be comfortable, whether that’s two methods of contraception, a different partner or kind of relationship, or counseling or therapy to help you with assertiveness, sexual fear or shame or an anxiety disorder.

4) If none of the above has any big impact on your fears over the next few weeks or months, then it’s time to seek out some help from a qualified mental health professional, like a counselor or therapist.

Want more information about pregnancy scares, pregnancy, contraception and making sexual choices you feel comfortable with?

Pregnancy Scared?
Human Reproduction: A Seafarer’s Guide
On the Rag: A Guide to Menstruation
Let’s Dial Down Some (Maybe) Ovulation Freakouts
Chicken Soup for the Pregnancy Symptom Freakout’s Soul
You’re Not Pregnant. So, Why Do You Think You Are?
Peeing on a Stick: All About Pregnancy Tests
Birth Control Bingo!
The Buddy System: Effectiveness Rates for Backing Up Your Birth Control With a Second Method
Have a Little Faith in BC
Who’s Afraid of Sperm Cells?
Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist
Risky Business: Learning to Consider Risk and Make Sound Sexual Choices
Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You’re Moving Too Fast

Here’s some information from other credible sources:

Can I Get Pregnant If…? (Options for Sexual Health)
Could I be Pregnant? (Teen Health Source)
How Pregnancy Happens (Planned Parenthood)
Am I Pregnant? (Brook)

*Effectiveness rates for methods of contraception are figured for one full year of use. Figures presented here and elsewhere about effectiveness, with the exception of emergency contraception methods, present effectiveness rates over one full year of use, not per use or per day.

condom ad condoms too loose

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

Good to Know: STI Prevention Hacks

Photo credit: Peter Gerdes

Photo credit: Peter Gerdes

There is nothing worse than getting your sexy on only to realize that you don’t have any condoms (or dams). Preparation makes safer sex very easy to practice without interrupting your groove.

But did you know that there are quick solutions if you do find yourself unprepared?

Bedsider here sharing five ways to expedite your access to safer sex tools. Only one thing we would add to this list: Purchase easy-travel pillow packs of lube so that you can have them with you anywhere you go.

This post was originally published here.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Think STI prevention kills the mood? Or that it’s always kind of a hassle? No way.

A little planning makes it very easy to protect yourself against an unintentional pregnancy and STIs. But what do you do when there’s no time to plan ahead and you really, really want to have sex? These hacks can help you stay safe in the moment without losing a minute of sexy time.

Stay healthy and happy,
Bedsider

P.S. Curious about the implant or shot? Our Real Stories feature women and men talking about the methods they use.

condom ad condoms too loose

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

Birth Control When You’re Living With HIV/AIDS

Photo credit: Jacinta lluch Valero

Photo credit: Jacinta lluch Valero

Taking medication for HIV? Here’s what you should know to avoid an accidental pregnancy.

If you are one of the 1.1 million people in the U.S. living with HIV or AIDS, you might have heard that your choices of birth control are somewhat limited. The good news is that many methods—including some of the most effective ones—should still work well for you. What you can use for birth control when you’re living with HIV/AIDS depends on whether you are taking anti-retroviral medicine (ARVs) and what your overall health is like. In the following article, Merrie Warden, MD, MPH, at Bedsider, talks details about what you should know when it comes to HIV and contraceptive methods.

Here are some key facts from the article below:

  • The IUD is the most effective form of birth control and is not impacted by the type of medication you are using. However, the IUD does not prevent STI and HIV transmission.
  • Condoms are the only contraceptive today that helps prevent both HIV transmission and accidental pregnancy.
  • The shot, implant and IUD are safe and effective to use with any HIV medication you are using.

This article by Merrie Warden, MD, MPH, was originally published on Bedsider.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

I have HIV but I’m not on meds right now. What are my birth control options?

If you’re not taking medications for HIV, the sky’s the limit. You can use any method of birth control, including combined hormonal methods like the pill, the patch, the ring, or more effective methods like the shot, the implant, or the IUD. Just keep in mind that none of these methods prevent the transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so it’s important to use condoms too.

Why use condoms + another method of birth control?

If you’re living with HIV or AIDS, using condoms every time you have sex can help protect you and your partner. Doubling up with condoms and another type of birth control is even better since:

  • Some birth control “side effects” may be a benefit for you. Some birth control methods can make your period lighter, less painful or go away altogether. Others offer long-term prevention of certain types of cancer.
  • Peace of mind that you won’t have an accidental pregnancy feels good. If you’re relying on condoms for birth control, they can slip or break. And planning for pregnancy can give you the ability to have a healthy pregnancy when you want one: less than 1% of pregnant women with HIV give the virus to their babies when taking a special set of medications.

I’m taking HIV medication. What birth control can I use?

The shot, implant, and IUD are effective regardless of what HIV medication you’re on. Whether you can use other types of birth control depends on what type of medication you’re taking.

Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs). If you’re taking a type of ARV called a “nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor,” like zidovudine or tenofovir, it’s safe to use any type of birth control, including combined hormonal methods like the pill, the patch, or the ring. The scientific evidence shows that these meds and birth control don’t mess with one another. Here’s a list of NRTIs to see if you’re taking one.

Non-nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNTRIs). There’s some limited evidence that “non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors” like efavirenz or nevirapine may cause small changes in how the pill, patch, or ring is metabolized in your body, though they don’t appear to decrease the effectiveness of these methods. Here’s a list of NNTRIs to see if you’re taking one.

Protease inhibitors. If you’re taking a type of medication called a “protease inhibitor” like combinations of medications containing ritonavir, the medication may make the pill, patch, or ring less effective. Protease inhibitor meds may also mess with the progestin-only or mini pill.

There’s also some evidence that the pill, patch or ring changes how a protease inhibitor with ritonavir is broken down by the body. These changes may make the medication more likely to cause minor problems with your liver or other side effects. Always talk with your doctor about using any of these HIV medications with the pill, patch, or ring. Here’s a list of protease inhibitors.

HIV makes me more vulnerable to infections. Is it safe to use an IUD?

IUDs are the most effective reversible birth control we have, and they do not increase the risk of a pelvic infection. In fact, this is a great method to use to prevent an accidental pregnancy while getting your body healthy on medications.

  • If you have HIV and are healthy, you can use any kind of IUD.
  • If you have AIDS, we usually recommend that you wait until your infection is under control before starting to use an IUD.
  • If you already have an IUD in place and develop AIDS, it is safe for you to keep using it.

I’ve heard that using the shot may increase the risk of transmitting HIV. Is that true?

Health researchers all over the world are working hard to make sure we have the right answer to this important question. It’s possible that there is an association between using the shot and increased risk of getting HIV, but more evidence is needed. Current guidelines from the World Health Organization say that it’s safe for HIV positive people to use the shot, but that condoms should always be used to prevent HIV transmission. For more information just for women living with HIV, check out:

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

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