Protection is a state of mind. It starts well before you enter the bedroom. For instance, if you have a new partner, talk about getting tested early on. There’s a lot to be said about the peace of mind that comes from knowing what’s what.
Protection includes engaging in lower risk forms of sexual contact. From mutual masturbation and sensual massages all the way to sex with a condom, you can take steps to protect both you and your partners from infections.
Different types of contraception are:
- External (Male) Condom
- Internal (Female) Condom
- Cervical Cap
- Tubal Ligation & Tubal Occlusion
- Intrauterine Contraception (IUC)
Let’s cut to the chase. Using a condom decreases your chances of contracting an STI. Being able to talk about it is important.
You can say things like:
The Right Time To Bring It Up
Before sex starts
What are they?
An external (male) condom is a thin barrier (usually made of latex) that helps prevent pregnancy and protect against STIs. You’re probably more familiar with external (male) condoms, but there are internal (female) condoms and dental dams available as well.
A wide selection of lubricants on the condom to help enhance sensitivity and pleasure for both partners (i.e. warming/tingling sensations, premium silicone-base, climax-control).
Where do I get them?
Never before has it been so easy to get condoms. Plenty of sexual health clinics offer them for free, but they are also available at drug stores, grocery stores, gas stations, sex toy shops, and so on.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Condoms break, however, with lubrication the chances of them breaking are greatly decreased.
- One size doesn’t fit all. This is more for the fellas to keep in mind. Condoms come in more than one size. Experiment and find what works best for you. Even if your penis is gigantic, it’s still not too big for a condom.
- Condoms only offer partial protection against STIs that can be passed through skin-to-skin contact—they don’t protect the entire genital area. That means you’re still at risk for STIs like HPV (warts), crabs, herpes, syphilis and scabies.
External (Male) Condoms
A male condom is a thin sheath of latex that covers a hard, erect penis. It’s good because it decreases the risk of pregnancy and spreading or catching STIs.
They are worn over the penis during sexual intercourse or oral sex and they come in a variety of sizes, thinness, textures, and colours/flavours. They are also available with a wide selection of lubricants on the condom to help enhance sensitivity and pleasure for both partners (i.e. warming/tingling sensations, premium silicone-base, climax-control).
Most condoms are made of latex, but non-latex condoms are also available in polyurethane and polyisoprene. Latex, polyurethane and polyisoprene condoms are also effective for preventing most sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
But do they really work?
- With typical use (not following exact instructions), condoms are 85% effective in preventing pregnancy.
- With perfect use (following exact instructions all the time), condoms are 97% effective in preventing pregnancy.
- With use of other birth control methods (pill, patch, ring, spermicide), condoms are even more effective.
- Latex condoms are your best line of defense against STIs.
Using the Condom
A condom should never be used more than once. If there’s cum inside, there’s no more ride. Condoms should be stored at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. They can be kept in a wallet for about a month before your body heat renders them ineffective.
Condoms usually come lubed up. This makes them less likely to break and more pleasurable. If you purchase lubricant, make sure it’s water or silicone-based, and don’t use any oil products with a latex condom. While they give the penis and vagina a fantastic sheen, they’ll most likely break the condom.
How to put that condom on!
- Wash your hands
- Put a condom on before the penis touches the vulva or anus. Men can excrete some fluid before and after ejaculation, which can be enough to spread a STI or cause pregnancy.
- Before putting it on, check the expiry date. If the date has passed, don’t use it.
- Open the package carefully to avoid condom damage. If the condom looks damaged, discoloured, sticky or stiff then throw it away and use a new one.
- Put a drop or two of lubricant inside the condom for extra pleasure.
- Pinch the condom tip with one hand to squeeze out the air and leave room for ejaculate. With the other hand put the condom on the tip of the dick (erect penis). If uncircumcised, pull back foreskin before putting it on.
- Like a pro, unroll the condom all the way down to the base of the penis.
- Continue to use this hand to guide any air bubbles out of the condom
- Add lubricant to the outside of the condom to avoid excess friction which may cause breakage.
- Now you’re ready for safer sex. Have a blast!
Pull out after you cum—before the penis shrinks back to its flaccid state—and hold the base securely to make sure there’s no spill out. Tie it up and put the condom in the garbage. Do not flush the condom down the toilet. You’ll clog the pipes. And whatever you do, don’t reuse it. Condoms are only meant for one use.
If it breaks
Sometimes condoms break. If they do break they are less effective to protect against STIs or pregnancy.
If the condom ruptures during sex, pull out quickly and replace the condom. To learn what it feels like when a condom breaks, men can break them on purpose while they are masturbating. Or if it’s left inside the vagina, consider emergency contraception. The morning after pill is a good option to help avoid pregnancy. The sooner it is started, the better it will work. Click here to find a sexual health clinic nearby.
Internal (Female) Condoms
Female condoms are soft, plastic (non-latex) sleeves with two flexible rings on each end. The closed inner ring goes inside the vagina to cover the uterus opening. The other ring stays outside and guards the door (vaginal opening).
photo credit: iStockphoto.com/jenjen42
Used for vaginal and sometimes anal sex, female condoms decrease the risk of pregnancy by stopping sperm from getting to the egg. They minimize the possibility of contracting STIs by making sure body fluids are not passed between partners.
But does it work?
- With Typical use (not following exact instructions) a female condom is 80% effective in preventing pregnancy.
- With perfect use, (the instructions have been followed), the condom is 95% effective in preventing pregnancy.
- For extra protection from pregnancy, use the female condom with other forms of birth control (pill, patch, ring, spermicide)
- Do not use with a male condom. This increases the risk of both breaking.
- Use female condoms to lower your risks for catching an STI.
- Store condoms at room temperature and check the expiry date.
You can put the condom in the vagina for up to 8 hours before sex. Be sure to use a new condom for each time you have sex.
Use water-based or silicone-based lubricants. Only use oil-based lubricants if the condom IS NOT latex.
How to put that condom in!
- Wash your hands.
- Rub the outside of the sealed package to spread the lube evenly.
Open package carefully. You can add more lubricant inside, outside and on the penis.
Find a comfortable position for insertion (lying down, squatting, or standing with one foot up on a chair).
Squeeze the flexible inner ring at the closed end of the condom. Leave the open end hanging down.
- With your finger, push the inner ring and sleeve up into the vagina as far as it will go.
- Once in place, you shouldn’t even feel the condom. The outer ring should be hanging outside the vagina a few centimeters. It should lie flat over the genitals.
- Gently guide your partner’s rock-hard penis into the condom. Watch to make sure it goes into the condom and doesn’t accidentally sneak past.
Once you’re finished, pull the condom out gently before you stand up. Twist the outer ring to keep the cum from spilling out.
- Tie a knot at the end of the condom, and dispose of it in the garbage. Do not flush it unless you want to have an awkward conversation with your plumber.
Female condom benefits
- There are no hormones.
They’re small and concealable.
- The woman can know for sure she will have protection.
They are not made of latex (Some people are allergic).
If it breaks
Consider emergency contraception like the morning after pill if the condom breaks. Click here to find a clinic nearby.
Dental Dam and Other Barrier Methods
Okay, so what’s a dental dam and other barrier methods? Good question. It’s a thin square of latex used to prevent the spread of STIs during oral sex.
Where can I buy one?
Dental Dams are available at pharmacies, medical supply stores, sex shops, sexual health clinics and online.
How to use…
Spermicide is used to stop sperm from swimming around. It is an effective method of birth control, especially when combined with another form of birth control like condoms. That said, spermicide will not protect you from catching an STI.
Total abstinence is theoretically 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. In practice, however, abstinence is not particularly effective. Abstinence education programs have not been found to reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy, nor reduce STIs. This method is much more effective with older, mature couples and less effective when alcohol or drugs are involved and when there are strong sexual feelings between a couple.
- Theoretically the most effective method of contraception
- No cost
- No side effects
- Can be challenging over time
- Partners are unprepared if a change of mind suddenly occurs
Requires both partners to be fully committed to using the method
It means not doing the following:
While many think it’s a bit too extreme, abstinence is by far the best method for preventing pregnancy and the spread of STIs. It also means you don’t need to use birth control.
It’s the only method of protection that’s 100% effective.
People choose abstinence for multiple reasons, including the following:
Short-term needs (waiting for birth control to start working)
If someone isn’t ready for sex
- Personal, family, religious or cultural beliefs
What are some disadvantages?
The biggest drawback to abstinence is that it’s difficult to keep up. People are sexual creatures, and for some, it’s just not a viable option.
Can I just do oral and be abstinent?
No. A penis in the mouth is still a form of sex. So is a mouth on the vagina. And without protection, you may be at risk for an STI.
If you notice just one symptom, get tested.
IF LEFT UNTREATED, STIs can have lasting effects on your health and fertility.
Even without a symptom, always see your doctor or sexual health service if you think you could have been exposed to an STI.