Choosing a method of birth control is an important decision for almost every woman of childbearing age. While most forms of birth control have an effectiveness rate of up to 99.9% against pregnancy when used correctly, a number of forms don’t offer protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Being knowledgeable about STIs is an essential part of your sexual health. Darin L. Weyhrich, MD, offers this guide about STIs and birth control.
Preventing sexually transmitted infections
Protecting yourself from contracting an STI is just as important as preventing pregnancy. Below are some of the ways you can help prevent getting an STI.
The only 100% effective method
The only method of birth control that’s 100% effective is abstinence from sex. Even if you use alternate methods, such as oral sex or anal sex, you can still contract an STI. However, if you get tested, agree to be monogamous, and stick to it, you will reduce your chances of getting an STI.
Barrier methods of contraception prevent pregnancy by blocking the sperm from getting to the egg. Barrier methods also offer protection against STIs. Barrier methods include the following:
- Cervical caps
Barrier methods have to be used consistently and as intended in order to offer protection against both pregnancy and STIs. Your partner must be on board to make sure that these methods are used in every encounter.
Combining birth control methods
Many couples use more than one type of birth control at the same time to prevent STIs and pregnancy. One popular combination includes using the birth control pill or an IUD along with condoms.
Another combination that could provide extra protection against STIs is to use condoms with diaphragms. A diaphragm is a rubber cap that fits over the opening to the cervix and can be reused. Diaphragms alone aren’t the most effective method against pregnancy, but this combination could work for you if you can’t take hormonal contraception, such as the birth control pill.
What are the symptoms of STIs?
STIs are caused by bacteria, parasites, or viruses. One such virus that is extremely common is human papilloma virus, or HPV. This virus can cause genital warts, but it may lie dormant in your body for years. It can lead to cervical cancer in women and penile cancer in men.
Some STIs don’t produce any symptoms at all, which is part of why prevention is so crucial. You often can’t tell that a man or woman has any symptoms of an STI, so you can’t assume that because someone looks “clean” that they don’t have a disease. Untreated STIs in women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can impact your fertility and cause significant pain.
However, when symptoms of STIs are present, they can include the following:
- Itching on your genitals
- A rash, sores, or blisters on your genitals, anus, or mouth
- Discharge, which may be white, green, or bloody and may or may not have a smell
- Lower abdominal pain or pain in your groin
- Burning or pain during urination
- Pain during sex
If you have any of these symptoms, you should abstain from sex until you get examined.
If you want to see if you have an STI, or if you have an STI and need treatment, or if you want to learn more about prevention, book an appointment over the phone with the office of Darin L. Weyhrich, MD, today.