Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Shuvani Sanyal, MD
It’s STD Awareness Month!
Today’s myth: ‘I don’t need to worry about STDs when taking birth control’ and why that’s so false!
We’re implementing The STI Project’s month-long myth busting series: So True, So False! Yeah, we think we’re as cool as E! Promoting awareness, education, and acceptance doesn’t always have to be super-serious.
Really, though, these myths often perpetuate big problems, because they keep people from getting tested, talking to partners, practicing safer-sex, and all around being conscientious about their sexual health. So, this is kinda serious stuff too!
For our ‘So True, So False’ series, we’re doing the research and debunking some of the common myths we hear all of the time about STDs, so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
I Don’t Need to Worry About STDs When Taking Birth Control
It’d be grand if one pill – like a birth control pill – could protect us from all unwanted consequences of sexual activity, wouldn’t it?! Unfortunately, the birth control pill, IUDs, the shot and all other birth control methods (other than condoms) don’t protect against STDs.
Don’t feel bad if you thought this was true, though.
As a teenager, I thought I was being sexually responsible by getting a birth control prescription. STDs, in my mind, were not something I had to worry about… STDs didn’t really ever cross my mind at all, actually. Which, is probably one of the many reasons I have one STD and have had others!
I was armed with those ever-popular, horribly antiquated, abstinence-only sex-ed classes, where projector slides of worst case scenarios were briefly flashed before our eyes, and then no additional mention was made about STDs and the real risks inherent in all sexual activities and how to reduce those risks.
So, once I became sexually active, I promptly got on the pill, and I didn’t think I had anything to worry about – I was doing my due diligence… or was I?
Abstinence is still ok!
Don’t get me wrong. The only real and 100% effective way to prevent both unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases is to remain abstinent – 100% abstinent (no make-out sessions, oral sex, anal sex, unclothed rubbing, etc.)…
And, if that’s how you choose to remain safe, we applaud you – not in a sarcastic, good for you, kind of way either!
Abstinence is definitely still a viable option.
But because we believe abstinence is not right (or practical) for everyone, and we advocate for the sexual health of all people, and the right to make responsible choices about one’s body and what one would like to do with it, and with whom they would like to share it with, it’s our job to provide you with the bigger picture.
So, what if I’m on birth control; what STDs do I need to worry about?
In short? All of them…
STDs are transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, genital fluids, and blood. So, any activity that involves any of those transmission opportunities is fair game. Birth control methods don’t kill the bacteria, parasites, and viruses that cause sexually transmitted infections, nor do they block them.
So, if you’re using birth control, and you’d like to reduce your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection or disease, you’ll need to ‘double-up’ and incorporate a barrier as well – not to be confused with using two condoms at once (a bad and ineffective idea).
Condoms are pretty cool!
What if your birth control method is condoms?! Well, then, you’re in luck! Condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are the only birth control method that can prevent both pregnancy and STDs! YEY!
HOWEVER. That’s a big however on purpose…
Condoms are great at reducing risk for STDs which are transmitted via genital fluids and blood, but they do not prevent transmission of those STDs which are transmitted via skin-to-skin contact.
This is why all sexually activities – even when people have incorporated a comprehensive safer-sex regimen – still impose some risk. So, being aware of those risks and knowing how to negate them as best as possible is the only way to be as sexually healthy and responsible as possible.
That means, if you’re on birth control, you still have to worry about or be conscientious of your STD risk.
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Have you heard this before? How did you learn about this myth and what was your opinion before reading this post? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!