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How to Prevent Pregnancy and STDs: Exploring the Condom and the Diaphragm as Methods of Contraception

The conservative views of sex in some cultures around the world and inadequate sex education in schools does not prepare the younger generation adequately in sexual health, which too often results in unplanned pregnancy and the transmission of STDs. This is reiterated by Fu Wen in an article written for the Global Times China entitled, “Global Sex Survey Shows Many in the Dark.”

She states, “Results of the questionnaire survey…showed that only 47 percent took birth control measures during their first sexual experience… 29 percent of sexually active students regularly use some form of contraception…many students do not think occasional sex can lead to pregnancy…12 percent of college students have no idea about birth control measures.”

Two common methods of birth control are:

  1. the male and female condom
  2. the diaphragm and cervical caps

The Male and Female Condom

The condom prevents pregnancy by preventing sperm from meeting an egg by creating a barrier. The male condom is made from very thin latex or polyurethane, which is plastic, and is slipped over the erect penis before sexual intercourse. The female condom, also make of very thin polyurethane and known as the femidom, is inserted into the vagina and lines the vaginal cavity, trapping semen within it as long as the penis stays inside the condom.

Advantages of the Condom:

When used correctly, it is one of the only methods that will protect both partners from sexually transmitted infections and diseases.

  • There are no side effects.
  • The male condoms are easily available, and they come in various forms of sizes and varieties.
  • The femidom can be inserted any time before intercourse.

Disadvantages of the Condom:

  • Care must be taken when handling and putting on condoms, as they can easily split or slip off if not used correctly.
  • Condoms used in conjunction with a spermicide may exacerbate and lead to genital infections due to the chemical present in spermicides, Nonoxynol 9.
  • When using a female condom, both partners must ensure that the penis enters the condom and not the space between the condom and vaginal wall.
  • Lubricants with an oil base cannot be used with condoms, and the chemicals in the latex may create allergens or infections, although these cases are rare.
  • They can only be used once.

Note: Information on condoms was obtained from NHS Online UK (National Health Service)

The Diaphragm and Cervical Caps

These are barrier birth control methods, designed to cover the cervix. Diaphragms are circular domes and are made of thin soft latex or silicone, whereas caps are smaller but made of the same material. These methods must be used with a spermicide in order to make them more effective, which is applied to the outside of the cap before insertion. The diaphragm or cap must be left in for six hours to longer after intercourse.

Advantages of Diaphragms and Cervical Caps:

They have no adverse side effects as it is only used when intercourse takes place.

  • They can be inserted more than three hours before intercourse.
  • They work immediately, is easily reversible and cannot be felt once inserted.
  • When used correctly, they can be from 92 to 96% effective.

Disadvantages of Diaphragms and Cervical Caps:

  • They cannot be used during menstruation and can be difficult to insert.
  • One must always make sure they are in place over the cervix as they may be pushed out of place during intercourse.
  • For women using a diaphragm, cystitis may be a problem. This can be solved by changing the size of the diaphragm or cap or getting one with a softer frame.
  • If intercourse takes place three or more hours after the cap is inserted, the spermicide will need to be replaced.
  • Irritations might occur due to the chemicals in the spermicide and latex.
  • They only provide partial protection against sexually transmitted infections.

Note: Information on the diaphragm and cap was obtained from NHS Online UK

Sex Education, the Main Contraception

With the key to effective sex education lying in knowledge, it is left up to parents, and were they fail, schools, and were they fail, health practitioners, and were they fail, the internet and so on it goes. Changing the attitudes towards sex in traditionalist societies will go a long way to helping young teenagers and adults make informative decisions about their sexual health, which will lead to reduced risks of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.