On the Pill? It Doesn’t Mean You Should Abandon Condoms


September 30, 2015

Read the prescribing information that comes along with your birth control and you are bound to see a reminder that oral contraceptives DO NOT protect against STDs. While this may seem obvious, this warning touches on a very important point and having the reminder there in writing is not a bad idea at all.

Just because you can now have sex without getting pregnant (the pill is 99.9% effective when taking as directed), it doesn’t mean that you should abandon other forms of contraception altogether.

Sexually transmitted disease are still a very real risk.

Every year in the U.S. there are 19 million new sexually transmitted infections reported and young people between 15-24 account for half of these. Whether you are on birth control or not, you are at risk. While many of us feel a strange sense of security when taking the pill thinking “well, at least I know I won’t get pregnant,” that’s not the only worry we should have.

Unless both you and your partner have been tested (and have not been with any other partners since being tested), you are putting your health (and your partner’s health) at risk when you forgo using a condom or any other barrier methods.

STD Statistics from the American Sexual Health Association 

  • Over half of all sexually active people will have an STD/STI at some point in their lives. 
  • The estimated total cost of treating STIs annually in the U.S. is $15.6 billion. 
  • Every year one of out four teens contracts an STD/STI.
  • One out of 20 people in the U.S. will be infected with hepatitis B during their lifetime. The hepatitis B virus is 100 times more infectious than HIV. 
  • There are nearly 3 million new cases of chlamydia reported each year. The majority are among young people. 
  • Using condoms consistently provides a substantial barrier against many STDs including HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis. 
  • In a national survey of physicians less than 1/3 routinely screened patients for STDs/STIs

Many people believe that any time their blood or urine is tested for something unrelated to STDs, that they are also being screened for STDs and STIs. The truth is, unless you ask specifically for an STD screening, you are not getting one.

The other common misconception is that if you have no symptoms, you have no STDs. Some of the most damaging infections have no symptoms. For women, many of these can lead to infertility if left untreated. Once diagnosed, many can be treated through a simple course of antibiotics.

How to Overcome Obstacles When it Comes to Condom Use

Using a condom with a new partner (or when in a non-monogamous relationship) is the most effective way to keep yourself healthy, regardless of whether you are on the pill or not.

Too often we hear things like condoms are “uncomfortable” “don’t fit right” or “take away all feeling.” Your health is important, so don’t let any of these excuses persuade you from keeping your health at the forefront of your mind.

In an ideal situation, sexual history and the subject of most recent STD testing would always be discussed prior to sexual activity. There are many times however when this simply doesn’t happen.

So how do you talk to your partner about putting on a condom?

Having an idea of how you will respond to any objection in the moment can help you feel more confident standing by your decision to abstain from having sex without a condom.

Here are some tips for making it easier from the American Sexual Health Association

  • If your partner becomes defensive when you suggest using a condom claiming that you should “trust” him, you can assure him that you DO trust him but that sometimes people may not even know that they have an infection and so it’s better to be safe than sorry so that you can BOTH protect your health. 
  • If your partner says he doesn’t like the way it feels to wear a condom or that “sex just isn’t the same” with one, tell him that you don’t feel comfortable NOT using one and that it will still be good, especially since the risk of getting an STD will be off of both of your minds. 
  • If your partner says “I don’t have a condom,” eliminate the temptation to go without by always keeping some on hand so you can simply reply “I have one right here!” 
  • If your partner says he doesn’t know how to use one, offer to help him and put it on for him. 
  • If your partner asks to just do it one time without a condom, remind him that it only take once to spread an STD. 

By using birth control and a barrier method you can enjoy having a sexual relationship without jeopardizing your health in the process.