“The Talk” with Ari: Contraceptives: here’s to no STIs and no kids

This is the first installment of TMN staff writer Ari Klokic’s recurring sexual health advice column. 

Somewhere in the world today, someone is becoming a parent. While it may be a joyous occasion for them, I find that not many 20-something-year-olds want to be parents this early in life. 

Lucky for you, multiple birth control methods exist to protect against STIs or pregnancy. There are 16 birth control options available, excluding surgeries like vasectomies or tubal ligations, according to bedsider.org. Each one is categorized with its own rating, including most effective and best protective measure against STIs. 

The most effective method to protect against both pregnancy and STIs is one we have all heard of: abstinence. Wouldn’t it be funny if I ended the column there? While it tends to be the one discussed most often, especially in secondary school’s sex education, one contraceptive method doesn’t suit everyone. The abstinence method is often referred to as “no sex,” but Planned Parenthood includes “outercourse” as any sexual/intimate behavior, such as anal or oral sex, without vaginal penetration. As long as there is no risk of pregnancy, it is considered outercourse. 

Another familiar contraceptive option is condoms. Condoms have been around forever. You can buy lambskin condoms — which do not protect against STIs —  latex condoms, flavored condoms and glow-in-the-dark condoms. Bedsider rates the effectiveness of condoms at about 98%, but 87% effective in typical use. In order to reach the 98%, be mindful of how you store your condoms. Typical users will store condoms in wallets, car compartments, bathrooms or leave the condoms out near sunlight. Planned Parenthood recommends storing your condoms in a safe spot where sunlight, warmth and sharp objects cannot reach them. Heat and moisture can be the difference between an effective condom and one that can tear or break. 

But what about the other 14 methods of birth control? None of the other methods are effective at preventing STIs, unless used with a condom. Some popular forms of birth control include the pill, the shot, the implant and the IUD. IUDs and implants are the best at protecting against pregnancy, the longest lasting and the least worrisome because they automatically release hormones. Both methods last at least 3 years, and you can talk to your doctor about which is best for you. 

The next most effective method is the shot, Depo-Provera. It lasts for three months at a time, and is 94% effective according to Planned Parenthood. It is more effective if you receive the shot on time, every time. 

The pill and the ring are next in line. While the pill doesn’t protect against pregnancy as well as the two above, it could be as effective if taken every single day at the exact same time. While the pill is an oral medication, the NuvaRing requires insertion. When placed inside the vagina, it releases hormones for three weeks and builds up cervical mucus to prevent pregnancy. During the fourth week, you take it out and repeat the process each month. 

I will pay homage to the other forms of birth control and emergency contraceptive —  like Plan B — in my next article, along with birth control myths. Until next time, stay safe Bulldogs!