Category Archives: Birth Control

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does: Part 2, Condoms

packets of individual condoms

Welcome to the second installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does.” In this series we will highlight Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl doesn’t know about.

It’s National Condom Week! So it’s only fitting that the second installment of our “Over 90 Percent” series honors the humble condom, that mainstay of anyone’s safer-sex arsenal. By providing a barrier between body parts and reducing skin-to-skin contact, condoms dramatically decrease risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection (STI). On top of all of that, their use during heterosexual intercourse can keep sperm from entering the vagina, making them essential components in family planning. Condoms can be used in a wide variety of sexual activities — they can be worn on penises or put onto sex toys, and with a couple of scissor snips they can be converted into dental dams. They are inexpensive and widely available without the need for a prescription. If you need to replenish your condom supply, or if you’re using them for the first time, you can walk into any Planned Parenthood health center to pick them up.


Learning how to use condoms correctly will maximize their effectiveness. Are you aware of the finer points of condom use?


There are tons of contraceptive options for people with uteruses, from pills to IUDs, but condoms are one of the few options that people with penises have — although there is exciting research being done on expanding these options. If you are heterosexually active and capable of getting someone pregnant, using condoms consistently and correctly will allow you to take control of your reproductive future. In a given year, 2 out of 100 females whose male partners use condoms will become pregnant if they always use condoms correctly — with imperfect use, this number increases to 18 out of 100. Combining condom use with other birth control methods, like diaphragms, birth control pills, or IUDs, will dramatically boost the efficacy of your contraception. Continue reading

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Taking Birth Control Pills Properly

Failure to take birth control pills properly can cause a lot of anxiety, and even lead to pregnancy. Follow the manufacturer's directions for best results.

Failure to take birth control pills properly can cause a lot of anxiety, and even lead to pregnancy. For best results, follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Oral contraceptives (also known as birth control pills or BCPs) are used to prevent pregnancy. Taken properly, they are about 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. They are even more effective when used in combination with other birth-control methods, such as condoms.

There are many different brands of birth control pills. Most contain a combination of the two female hormones estrogen and progesterone, but there are some BCPs that only contain progesterone. These different brands may need to be taken in slightly different ways and may have different benefits and risks, but whichever type you use, it’s very important to take them properly to get the most benefit.


You cannot take a birth control pill only when you remember to or just after you’ve had a sexual encounter — they must be taken daily.


First of all, it’s important to know which oral contraceptive you are taking. These pills usually come in packs of 21, 28, or 91 tablets and need to be taken daily.

  • Packs of 21: Take one pill each day until all 21 are gone, then don’t take a pill for seven days – this is when you should have your period. After seven days off, start a new pack of 21 pills.
  • Packs of 28: Take one pill each day, and when you finish with the pack start a new pack the next day. Sometimes these packs have pills with different colors that contain different doses of the hormones or inactive ingredients, vitamins, or minerals. They must be taken in order.
  • Packs of 91: The 91-tablet pack is larger and may contain three trays – take one pill each day until all 91 pills have been taken and then start the new pack of 91 pills the next day. Continue reading

Expanding Options for Male Contraception

Condoms are the only contraceptive device that does double duty in preventing pregnancy and STI transmission. But will men’s birth-control options expand?

Condoms are the only contraceptive device that does double duty in preventing pregnancy and STI transmission. But will men’s birth-control options expand?

Many have wondered why there is not a male equivalent to the Pill. The short answer to this question is that the release of one egg is easier to prevent than the flow of millions of sperm. The longer answer to that question includes a litany of failures in the search for such technology. Currently, however, there are some interesting developments in male birth control.

The condom, of course, is the only birth-control method to do double duty in reducing risk for both pregnancy and STI transmission, but many heterosexually active males would like more options than the tried-and-true rubber, and their female partners, despite having expanded contraceptive options – including the Pill, the patch, and the IUD – might prefer for the men in their lives to help shoulder the birth-control burden.

One method under investigation is ultrasound, a technology that has been around for quite some time. Though scientists have been aware of its contraceptive potential since at least the 1970s, most studies have been conducted on nonhuman animals (though human trials could be on the horizon). Ultrasound involves the application of high-frequency sound waves to animal tissue, which can absorb the sound waves’ energy as heat. The possibility for ultrasound’s use for contraception operates on the idea that briefly heating the testes, which in mammals are normally kept a few degrees below core body temperature, can halt sperm production, leading to temporary infertility for about six months. Additionally, ultrasound could affect cells’ absorption rates of ions, which itself could create an environment unfavorable to spermatogenesis. Its extremely localized effects on animal tissues make ultrasound an attractive candidate for research.

One small study conducted on five dogs applied ultrasound to the canine testicles three times over a period of a few days. The researchers compared sperm count before the procedure to two weeks after the procedure. After the ultrasound treatments none of the canine sperm samples contained sperm. Side effects included tender testicles that had been reduced in volume. Continue reading

IUDs: We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Remember the Dalkon Shield? Use the phrase “Dalkon Shield” and you conjure up all kinds of horror stories regarding the intrauterine device (IUD). Times have changed, and so has the IUD.

There are two types of IUDs available now, and both are considered very safe to use. Both IUDs are small, T-shaped, flexible plastic devices with threads at the end that are inserted into the uterus through the cervix by a health care professional.

The Mirena IUD is a hormonal device and the Paragard is a copper IUD. The Mirena IUD releases a small amount of progestin, which thickens cervical mucus, on a regular schedule and works by preventing sperm from joining an egg. This device is considered 99.8% effective in preventing pregnancy.

The copper IUD (Paragard) contains no hormones and also works by preventing sperm from joining an egg. Paragard is soft, flexible plastic, with copper wrapped around the ends of the T bar and the base of the T. This device is considered 99.2% effective. Continue reading

Women’s History Month: Thank Goodness for The Pill!

How could we discuss Women’s History Month on a Planned Parenthood blog and not bring up the history of The Pill?

Oral contraception was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960.  The FDA approval of the birth control pill enabled a radical shift in the United States – the proof being that over 12 million women currently use The Pill as their preferred method of birth control.  The New York Times has advocated that birth control should be available for over-the-counter distribution. Loretta Lynn even wrote a song about how awesome The Pill is. All of this is for the pure and simple reason that birth control gives women control over their reproductive destiny.  It enables them to determine when, and if, they become pregnant.  And it has increased women’s access to both higher education and the paid labor force. Continue reading

Who Controls Your Birth Control?

On the day after Valentine’s Day, the National Domestic Violence Hotline released a report about disturbing behavior that may be displayed by many abusive partners. According to the New York Times, the hotline collected stories of abusers sabotaging their partners’ contraception, whether by hiding their birth control pills, poking holes in condoms, or refusing to use condoms altogether:

[A]bout a quarter [of respondents] said yes to one or more of these three questions: “Has your partner or ex ever told you not to use any birth control?” “Has your partner or ex-partner ever tried to force or pressure you to become pregnant?” “Has your partner or ex ever made you have sex without a condom so that you would get pregnant?”

One in six answered yes to the question “Has your partner or ex-partner ever taken off the condom during sex so that you would get pregnant?”

The survey was not part of a scientific study. The respondents were not made up of a representative cross-section of the general population, but rather were a self-selected group, already in abusive relationships and willing to talk about their experiences. From the data released by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, it is impossible to tell how widespread such forms of abuse are in society as a whole. Despite this, the data collected do point to a disturbing way that intimate partner violence can manifest itself. It is important to recognize interference with one’s birth control — and therefore one’s bodily integrity — as abusive behavior.  Continue reading

Condoms, Caps and Dams . . . Barrier Methods for Everyone!

February is a time full of candy kisses, love, and romance. It’s a time for couples to express their love for each other with chocolate, flowers, diamonds, and yes . . . lots of sex. It’s no wonder then that February is also National Condom Month.

Barrier methods are great forms of birth control because they don’t have the same side effects as hormonal birth control. They function by keeping the sperm from ever coming in contact with the egg, preventing fertilization of the egg. Some also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).

Male Condoms
Condoms are one of the most common and widely used of all the birth control methods and the only one that can protect against STI’s. They are generally made from latex or animal membranes, such as sheep skin. The material is shaped like a penis, with an opening on one end in which the penis can be inserted. This should be done prior to any intercourse, oral or anal sex, to prevent pregnancy. The condom will then collect any semen from the penis, thus avoiding pregnancy. Latex condoms also provide a barrier between body fluids to prevent contact with STIs.

Aside from a lack of side effects, condoms are a great form of birth control for several reasons. They are cheap and easily accessible, come in a variety of options to enhance pleasure (flavored, shaped, texture, etc.), may delay premature ejaculation, and can be used with virtually any other birth control to enhance the effectiveness of pregnancy prevention. Condoms are available at almost any pharmacy, most grocery stores, and at Planned Parenthood and other health/family clinics. Planned Parenthood also services condom vending machines in the Tucson area, which has condoms available for $0.50 at various locations. The cost can vary, but generally runs about $1 per condom; at some clinics and educational programs, condoms may be available at little or no cost. Continue reading