Safe sex: The top five facts about contraception
Contraception -- it's a topic so varied that the city of Vienna dedicated an entire museum to it!
Talking about contraception may be unsexy in the heat of the moment, but if you don't want to risk an unwanted pregnancy or get an STD, you need to think about it. To find out more about some of the options, read this edition of our top five facts.
Condoms create a barrier that stops the man's sperm from entering the vagina. There's the common male variety, which you roll over the penis before entering the vagina. And then there's the female condom which you insert into the vagina.
You need to use a new condom every time you have sex. Condoms are often easily available and a cheap form of contraception. And, more importantly, they are the only contraception method that also protects you from sexually transmitted diseases. So unless you sleep with a partner you can trust and you've both been tested for STDs, condoms are an absolute must!
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Photographs: imothy Takemoto, Yamaguchi, Japan/Wikimedia Commons
There are many different forms of hormonal contraception methods, such as the pill, vaginal rings, implants, injections and hormonal IUDs (intrauterine devices).
The hormones make the mucus around your cervix thicker so the sperm can't get through. They can also stop your ovaries producing an egg. They are usually very effective in preventing pregnancies if you use them correctly.
The downsides are possible side-effects like weight gain, mood swings or skin changes.
Image: A vaginal ring
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons
Natural ways to avoid pregnancy are more difficult to use and far less reliable than other forms of contraception. For example, you can figure out the days on which you are ovulating and have a high chance of becoming pregnant by keeping a calendar or temperature chart. Then you avoid having sex on your most fertile days.
The withdrawal method (pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation) is a natural but very unreliable birth control option. It relies on the man getting the timing right. Especially for teenagers, it can be easy to make a mistake and not pull the penis out in time.
There's an old joke: What do you call someone who uses natural birth control? A parent.
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Emergency contraception: The morning-after pill
When things go wrong, like a split condom or forgotten pill, the morning-after pill can be a good option. Taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, emergency contraceptive pills give you a high dose of the hormones that can stop you getting pregnant.
If you're already pregnant, it won't work, but won't harm the baby either. It doesn't cause an abortion.
The morning-after pill is not a regular form of contraception though, and should only be used in case of emergency!
Image: Emergency contraceptive or 'morning after' pills
Photographs: Anka Grzywacz/Wikimedia Commons
If you already have children or you are absolutely sure that you don't want any, a permanent method like sterilisation may be an option to consider. Both men and women can be sterilised. This is tricky though, as it is not reversible and you may never know for sure if you don't want to have kids again.
There may be a semi-permanent option for you though: the reversible vasectomy. RISUG is a new Indian contraceptive method for men that lasts as long as you like. It's an 'injectable vasectomy' -- one quick shot and you're infertile. But as soon as you're ready to have babies, another shot reverses the effect, and you're shooting live rounds again.
These are just some of the many options you have. But no matter which method you and your partner choose, please remember that condoms are the only method that can prevent STDs!
Image: RISUG is a new Indian contraceptive method for men -- it's an 'injectable vasectomy'
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons