Once you decide that you’re ready to have sex, it is important to learn about your options when it comes to birth control and about sexually transmitted infections and how you can protect yourself and your partner. Remember that safe-sex practices are important for both heterosexual and same-sex partners!
If you have questions about birth control or about sexually transmitted infections, talk to a trusted adult like your family doctor. You can also call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 and talk to one of our counsellors.
Visit our dating and sexuality section for more information about sexual intimacy and knowing when you’re ready to take this step in your relationship.
There are many different types of birth control available to you. Some you can buy over the counter at a pharmacy and some require a prescription or intervention from your doctor.
Different kinds of birth control suit different age groups and life styles. It’s important that you (or you and your partner) choose the right method for you. This will increase the chances that you will use it and use it properly.
Types of birth control
The oral contraceptive pill and the contraceptive injection are the most prescribed methods of birth control for young women and they’re also the most effective.
Like all methods of contraception, the effectiveness depends on how effectively they are used.
Note that using more than one method of contraception at the same time is sometimes recommended. For example, using a condom and a spermacide together will make it less likely that you or your partner could get pregnant. It is also worth noting that not all methods protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Contraceptive methods generally fall into one of five categories. In alphabetical order:
- The best way to prevent pregnancy is to not have sex
- The only method that is 100% effective
- Barrier methods
- Includes male condoms, female condoms, sponges, diaphragms, cervical cap
- Prevent sperm from entering the cervix
- Range in effectiveness from 82% to 98%
- Sponges and diaphragms must be placed right to be effective
- Contraceptive pill or injection (Depo-Provera)
- 97%-99% effective
- Hormones interfere with the natural menstrual cycle making conception near to impossible
- Creams, gels, and foams
- Change the chemistry in the vagina and uterus and destroy sperm
- 71% to 94% effective
- Tubal ligation prevents eggs in the female from reaching the uterus
- Vasectomy in the male prevents sperm from entering the ejaculate
- Most individuals choose these methods once they have decided they don’t want children or any children and no longer want to worry about birth control
Each method has its pros and cons. You should speak to a qualified health professional about the right choice for you. You can also visit our link library for other websites that offer information and resources or call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 and talk to one of our counsellors.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Most people don’t think that they will ever get a sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, a recent study concluded that one in every four teens having sex before graduation will get infected. Both heterosexual and same-sex partners need to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections.
STIs can be spread by kissing or touching areas that are infected and by sharing needles with an infected person. Be prepared to protect yourself - use a latex condom.
There are many different kinds of STIs. Some common ones are:
- Genital Herpes *
- Genital Warts *
- Hepatitis B
- HIV/AIDS *
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
* Some STIs can be cured with medications and others currently have no known treatment or cure and can eventually cause death.
Common symptoms of STIs include one or more of the following:
- Burning when you go to the bathroom
- Aches and pains
- Sores on genitals or mouth
It is important that you see a doctor if you develop any of these symptoms.
Remember: Sexually transmitted infections are contracted during unprotected sex. You can protect yourself and your partner by using a condom. Latex condoms with spermicide offer the best protection.
Last checked: March 2010