Thursday, March 31, 2011

Condoms and Emergency Contraceptives

Not only do condoms offer excellent protection from STIs, they also act as a great back-up to other forms of birth control.  But again, it is critical to use condoms consistently & correctly in order for them to work.  Condom tips include:

  • Read the instructions.  Again, may seem like an elementary step, but in a day and age of abstinence-only education, it’s not wise to trust that your partner knows what they are doing.
  • Check the date.  Sure, it may seem impossible that you will not use this condom before the 2-3 year expiration date, but things can happen. Better to be safe than smug.
  •  Let’s be clear: if your partner pulls a condom out of his wallet and brushes the spider webs off of it, this is a deal breaker. Over time the body heat from keeping a condom in a back pocket condom can weaken the latex of a condom, making it prone to tears. The best place to store condoms is room temperature in a dry place. Keeping a condom in a wallet for a night or the weekend will not have consequences, but after months (or even years) a condom can suffer from wallet storage.
  • Join the condom club. As a woman you are in control of your own reproductive health, so why not have a few condoms on hand? Many health centers on college campuses have free condoms, as well as free health clinics and gynecologist’s offices.

Ultimately, only you can decide what form of birth control works for you.  You may find that it takes trying a few different kinds before finding the best fit. You may find that what you want in birth control changes over time.  Of course, you should talk with a doctor before choosing or starting a new birth control and if you are experiencing side effects (big or small, a slight change in dosage can make a big difference).

In the event that something goes awry, despite these awesome tips, and you’re nervous that your BC might not be working at its maximum potential, back it up with emergency contraception. Plan B One Step and the generic version NextChoice are available over the counter for those 17 or older and works the best if taken within 3 days after sex.  It can be taken up to 5 days after sex, but the effectiveness decreases. A new form of EC, ella, is only available by prescription and effective consistently for up to 5 days after sex.

Also be sure to check out our comprehensive reproductive health guide (available in both English and Spanish) Choices!

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