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Methods That Don’t Require a Doctor’s Visit


Condoms:

Male condoms are latex or polyurethane sheaths that fit over the penis and prevent both pregnancy and STIs. For condoms to be effective, they must be put on before any genital contact, and they shouldn’t be taken off until sex is over.

There are also female condoms, which are like the male condom but are larger and made to be inserted into the vagina. The female condom is held in place by a plastic ring (like the NuvaRing), and it works to block the sperm from coming into contact with an egg.

Condoms have a lot of benefits—you don’t need a prescription to get them, and they protect you against sexually transmitted infections. But they are only effective when used consistently and correctly, so here are a few things you (and your partner) need to know:

  • Never use two condoms at the same time, whether using a male and a female condom or two male condoms. While it might sound like extra protection, using two condoms at once actually increases the chances a condom will break.
  • Always check the expiration date, because latex can weaken over time.
  • If you or your partner has a latex allergy, polyurethane condoms are another option.  Stay away from condoms made from animal skin—they won’t protect you from STIs!
  • Make sure condoms are stored in a place that doesn’t expose them to extreme temperatures (such as a car glove compartment).
  • Never use condoms with anything other than a water-based lubricant (like KY jelly).  Other types of lubricants (like Vaseline, lotions or massage oils) can break down the latex.
  • Never reuse a condom.
  • Male Condom Effectiveness: Perfect Use–98 percent; Typical Use–82 percent
  • Female Condom Effectiveness: Perfect Use–95 percent; Typical Use–79 percent

Spermicide: 

Spermicide refers to a variety of foams, creams and gels that work by preventing the sperm from moving, which means they can’t reach an egg to fertilize it. What’s important to know about spermicide is that it has a high failure rate when used on its own—only 29 percent—but it is a good option to use to boost another method’s effectiveness, like condoms. 

  • Available at drug stores
  • Does not require a prescription
  • Does not protect against STIs

Sponge:

The contraceptive sponge is a round piece of foam a woman inserts into her vagina before sex. It releases spermicide, and it also covers the cervix, making it difficult for sperm to get through. The sponge is one-size-fits-all, and is made to use only once.

  • Available at drug stores
  • Does not require a prescription
  • Does not protect against STIs
  • Effectiveness: Between 76 percent and 88 percent, with typical use

Emergency Contraception (also known as the morning after pill):

Emergency Contraception, or EC, is a way to prevent pregnancy after either having unprotected sex or if your birth control method fails. EC is not, nor should it be used as, a replacement for a regular birth control method, and no form of EC is effective in preventing STIs.

There are several kinds of emergency contraception; some require a prescription and others don’t, depending on your age.

Plan B One-Step and Next Choice:

These work up to five days after unprotected sex, but its effectiveness decreases each day. If you or your partner is 17 or older, you can get Plan B One Step or Next Choice over the counter. Those 16 and under will need to go to a clinic to get a prescription.

For more information, visit the womenshealth.gov fact sheet on emergency contraception.

Real talk—
get vaccinated.


Getting routine shots from your doctor is never fun, but getting HPV is worse.

Protect yourself by getting vaccinated. The HPV Vaccine is cancer prevention. Ask your doctor about what you can do to stay safe, or call 865-215-5000 to schedule a vaccination appointment at the Health Department.