What is contraception?
Contraception is a way to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and to lower the chances of an unplanned pregnancy.
For teens, this is especially important.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnancy and birth commonly lead to high school dropout rates among girls. Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, whereas approximately 90% of women who do not give birth during adolescence graduate from high school.
In fact, only 61% of working teen dads obtain a high school diploma by the age of 26 compared to 97% of their counterparts.
How does pregnancy occur?
In order for a pregnancy to happen, a sperm cell must fertilize an egg – most commonly through sexual intercourse.
Once the sperm has been released in the vagina, they will travel through the cervix into the uterus and eventually to the fallopian tube where an individual sperm can fertilize an egg. Following fertilization, the egg will travel into the uterus and embed itself into the uterine lining.
Just remember to always protect yourself in the event you become sexually active. Knowledge prepares you to make healthy decisions for the future.
Types of contraception
This type of contraception does not require a health care provider appointment or prescription to purchase. Over-the-counter contraceptives can be found in drug stores, convenience stores and health departments/clinics.
Prices can vary by state, so check your local store or department for pricing. Also, most health departments provide forms of contraceptives for free. For a full list of health departments near you, check out the link towards the bottom of the page.
A health care provider visit or prescription is necessary to obtain this form of contraception. This is most likely due to the regulating of hormones.
While most prescribed contraceptives reduce the risk of pregnancy, they DO NOT reduce the risk of STDs and HIV.
Forms of contraception
When used correctly, these forms of contraception help reduce the risk of pregnancy. However, reducing your risk does not avoid the risk altogether.
Abstinence means not having sex (oral, anal or vaginal).
Furthermore, it can feel difficult to wait sometimes, but waiting until you are mature enough to handle the risks of sex is always your best option. Abstinence is the only thing that offers 100% protection against pregnancy and STDs, assuming no sexual content of any kind (including genital touching).
The female condom, or internal condom, prevents sperm from entering a female’s uterus. This form of contraception comes packaged with a lubricant and may be obtained in most drug stores.
Additionally, the female condom can be administered up to eight hours before sexual intercourse.
As a note: female condoms may cause irritation of skin surrounding the genitals and does require commitment. In other words, this form of contraception must be used consistently and correctly to be effective.
This form provides a barrier method of protection made of latex (rubber) or polyurethane. It covers the penis and collects semen and other fluids, preventing them from entering a female’s vagina. When used correctly and consistently from beginning to end, condoms protect against both pregnancy and STDs, including HIV.
Condoms can leak or break if not used correctly. Oil-based lubricants (like Vaseline or massage oil) should not be used.
On average, condoms last about five years after their manufacturing date. This date is printed on the condom label.
A condom’s material degrades over time. Additionally, things like lubricant or spermicide can dry up. This means an expired condom is more likely to break during use.
Additionally, it is super important to check a condom prior to its use. If the condom is expired, has no air in its packaging or appears dry/brittle when removed from the package — use a different condom! If no other condoms available, an expired condom can still help reduce your risk, but it will not be as effective or safe as an unexpired condom.
Commonly referred to as “birth control” for women, the contraceptive pill can be provided by a health care provider. If taken correctly, the pill provides non-stop protection from pregnancy; it can make periods more regular, reduce cramps and shorten/lighten a menstrual cycle.
Birth control offers no protection against STDs. Each type of pill is different, so check with your doctor to learn more.
There is an injection for women that prevents pregnancy. It offers no protection against STDs. It requires a visit to a health care provider every three months to get the shot.
Diaphragms are dome-shaped silicone or latex cups with a flexible rim and can be obtained through a prescription from a health care provider. It won’t effectively protect against most STDs including HIV, and can increase the risk of urinary tract infections and toxic shock syndrome.
This device, made of silicone, can be obtained through a prescription from a health care provider. A female uses spermicide to coat the inside of the cap, then she inserts it into the back of her vagina so that it covers the cervix to block sperm. It won’t effectively protect against most STDs and can increase the risk of urinary tract infections and toxic shock syndrome.
Small adhesive patch
This patch helps prevent pregnancy but offers no protection against STDs. In fact, some women have skin reactions, nausea, headaches and breast discomfort. Women can obtain a small adhesive patch through a prescription from a health care provider.
Soft, flexible ring
A female can place the ring in the vagina for three weeks, followed by a ring-free week. If used correctly, the ring provides non-stop protection from pregnancy; it can make menstrual cycles more regular, reduce cramps and shorten or lighten a menstrual cycle period. The ring only needs to be changed once a month.
It offers no protection against STDs. In fact, some women have vaginal discomfort, nausea, headaches and breast tenderness.
IUD (intrauterine device)
The IUD contains copper or the hormone progestin, and a health care provider inserts this t-shaped device into the uterus. It provides effective pregnancy protection and lasts a long time – a copper IUD can stay in place for up to twelve years, and a progestin IUD lasts five years.
However, IUDs offer no protection against STDs.
A health care provider inserts a small plastic-like rod under the skin of the female’s upper arm. This device can protect against pregnancy for up to three years and can shorten or lighten a menstrual cycle and reduce cramps. However, the implant does not protect against STDs.
It may cause irregular periods, nausea, headaches and weight gain. Some women may be able to see the rod under the skin.
Emergency contraception pill
This pill can be used up to five days after unprotected sex, or if your birth control method failed. The sooner the pill gets started, the higher its effectiveness. Additionally, the emergency contraception pill can reduce the chance that a female will get pregnant if she has unprotected sex or if another method of protection failed.
It doesn’t protect against STDs and may cause nausea. If a female does not get her period within three weeks, she should take a pregnancy test.
Choosing which method to use
When deciding on which method of contraception that fits you best, it’s best to talk to some you trust. It could be a parent, a friend, a doctor or even a counselor. The most important part: talking about and learning about an important topic.
It’s okay to ask questions. Ever hear of ‘there’s no such thing as stupid questions?’ Guess what? When it comes to contraception, not knowing is understandable. But, when we seek answers and educate ourselves, studies show that we’re more likely to make educated decisions.
Contraceptive methods that don’t work
- withdrawal (pulling out before the male ejaculates)
- sex during your period
- tracking your cycle and planning around it
To reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy and STDs, choose the most effective methods to lower your risk.
A condom is the only birth control method that reduces the risk of spreading/contracting STDs including HIV.
Abstinence, or not having sex, offers 100% protection against the spread of STDs and can prevent a pregnancy.
Did you know health departments offer free forms of contraception?
The National Association of County and City Health Officials created a tool to help you search for local health departments in your area.
Sexually transmitted diseases can be a scary thing. Get the facts by visiting our page on STDs and STIs.
The statistics surrounding teen pregnancy are astounding. Learn more on our prevention page where we take a closer look at teen pregnancy prevention.
What should I do if I need help?
Contact us to learn more about the dangers of unprotected sex or how to deal with an unplanned pregnancy.
If you feel like you need immediate help, call the Centerstone Crisis Line nearest you.