Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Saurabh Sethi, MD, MPH
This guest post was written by Kimberly Dougherty, Esq., a Partner and the Managing Attorney at the Boston office of Janet, Jenner & Suggs.
Birth control refers the practice of avoiding unwelcome pregnancies through different contraceptive techniques. An analysis by the Guttmacher Institute revealed that nearly half of the 6.7 million U.S. pregnancies every year aren’t planned.
Apart from unwanted pregnancies, birth control may also be used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). STDs continue to affect sexually active people with nearly 1.4 million cases reported for chlamydia, 20,000 cases reported for P&S syphilis, and 350,000 cases reported for gonorrhea across the country based on STD data from the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC).
Types of Birth Control/Contraception Options Available
There are several varieties of birth control contraceptives available for people who are sexually active, which can lower the risk of unwanted pregnancies. While most birth control contraceptives are targeted for pregnancies, very few can be used to prevent STDs.
Birth Control Pill
The birth control pill is one of the most effective contraception methods, which can prevent pregnancies more often than not. There are two types of birth control pills – progestin-only pills and combined oral contraceptive pills. While it is effective for pregnancies, the pill doesn’t protect sexually active people from STDs at all.
Male and Female Condoms
Male condoms have proven to be effective for both preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Male condoms are typically made from latex or polyurethane and are one of the only birth control options that offers protection from STDs. In fact, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the male latex condom offers the best protection from STDs, including the HIV virus. Female condoms are also available over-the-counter and offer some protection from STDs, but they are not as effective as male condoms.
Essure is considered a birth control procedure that involves implanting steel coils in a woman’s fallopian tubes in order to create scar tissue and prevent pregnancy. Although marketed as a permanent birth control solution, BirthControlProblems.com notes that thousands of women have experienced severe side effects from this method. Not only have some women experienced serious side effects, but this type of birth control does not offer any protection from STDs.
Diaphragms are another barrier type of contraception method where the device is inserted inside the vagina to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. These are prescribed contraceptives from qualified doctors. Even though the diaphragm is a barrier contraception method, a diaphragm doesn’t protect against STDs.
Cervical caps are thimble-shaped cups made from latex and are smaller versions of diaphragms. Cervical caps must remain in the vagina for several hours after sex, but it must be removed within the prescribed time. These contraceptives serve as useful alternatives for women who get bladder infections from diaphragms. These caps offer only partial protection against STDs.
Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
There are two types of IUDs – copper and hormonal devices. These long-term contraceptive solutions can be left inside a vagina for several years once prescribed by a doctor. They need to be inserted professionally, and users must follow instructions for maximum safety. They are highly effective against pregnancies, but provide no protection against STDs.
Contraceptive implants offer long-term protection from unwanted pregnancies, but offer no protection from STDs. These implants contain progestin, which is the same hormone as a birth control pill. The hormone is released into the body to offer a similar effects as pills. They must be removed after a few years.
Contraceptive sponges are round-shaped polyurethane foam pieces placed deep in a vagina. They contain spermicide to prevent sperm from getting past them. They must be removed within a day of having sexual intercourse. These sponges do not offer any protection from STDs and are often used as backups to other contraceptive methods because they can be bought without prescriptions.
Contraceptive injections are injected into the body, which lasts for several weeks to produce similar effects as contraceptive pills. They are highly effective against pregnancies, but they provide no protection from STDs. Once a shot is given, a woman is technically infertile for up to 3 months based on the effects of the injection.
Contraceptive patches are similar to contraceptive pills, but they are available as a patch. They provide effective protection from unwanted pregnancies, but no protection from STDs. Women will need to wear the patch for three weeks and take it off for a week to allow a normal menstrual cycle to take place. There may be a risk of skin irritation for some women.
Can All Types of Contraception Reduce STDs?
From the above information, it’s clear that all types of contraception cannot reduce STDs. Facts from the CDC have shown that latex condoms offer barriers to some STD pathogens – presently, they offer the best protection from STDs. But people who are sexually active must realize that they cannot entirely prevent these diseases either. Some experts advocate the consideration of abstinence or monogamy as the most reliable way to prevent the transmission of STDs from one person to the next.
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Kimberly Dougherty, Esq is a Partner and the Managing Attorney at the Boston office of Janet, Jenner & Suggs, which is a national plaintiffs’ law firm. Kim has taken on a number of large corporate defendants in her career, handling multiple lawsuits involving dangerous prescription drugs and medical devices. She is also the President for the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association.
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Did you think all contraceptives protected you against STDs? Where did you learn about contraceptives and STDs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!