This guest blog post is by Jack Burke, an online advocate for men’s mental, physical, and sexual health. He believes the path to true wellness begins and ends with personal self-care.
Everyone knows that the key to any successful relationship is communication. Speaking openly and honestly to your partner about your opinions and preferences on any and all topics is the best way to form a close and everlasting bond. This is especially true when it comes to sex, but the conversation is bigger than favorite positions and preferences. A part of the conversation that is so often overlooked is the one about birth control; what methods are the most comfortable, effective, and preferred? Too frequently it is left to assumption that the man will just wear a condom, or the woman will be taking birth control pills. What are the real options, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Condoms have always been the most common form of birth control for men. This is due to the fact that they are widely available and, for the most part, cost effective. The current lack of diverse options in the field of male contraception has forced condoms to be perceived as the “go-to” choice. Over time, this attitude has caused men to believe that condoms are as good as male contraception can ever get, which is of course false.
Condom companies will routinely boast a 98% success rate, but after factoring in improper use and other mistakes that average drops to 82%. If you and your partner are choosing to use condoms, make sure you are using them correctly, to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STDs.
Internal condoms (aka female condoms) are also an option, but these do have a lower success rate than male condoms. They also often require adjusting, additional lubrication, and sometimes reinsertion, that can interrupt intercourse for you and your partner.
Anywhere between 1% and 6% of Americans suffer from a latex allergy, which for a woman could make sex with a condom extremely unpleasant, and even cause health issues. A sensitivity to latex may not manifest until after repeated exposure, so be mindful of any irritation you may be feeling after using condoms. Though condoms may be a familiar practice for safe sex, it is important to be open about not only the advantages, but the risks that come along with utilizing them as a couple.
Female birth control pills are in the news quite often in 2019, being unfairly politicized by one side or the other. Because they’re so widely talked about, it could easily be assumed that the majority of women are currently using “the pill”, but this is firmly not the case. According to Guttermacher Institute, only 25.9% of women are using oral contraception, while another recent survey found that a surprising 70% of women have said they had stopped taking the pill, or had considered going off it at some time within the past 3 years.
By all accounts, the pill is almost 100% effective, when used correctly, but that doesn’t mean the hassle women have to go through to get their prescriptions filled is altogether worth it. Some preferred brands of oral contraception are not covered under certain insurance plans. And even when they are available, birth control pills do have their common side effects; so it’s important that women find the one that will work best for them.
Currently, there are no oral contraceptive options for men, which we find to be unacceptable. While research is, and has been, underway for a while now, it has been a struggle for any viable solution to reach the marketplace. Until this option is commercially available, make the woman you’re with is comfortable being on birth control and is aware of any possible side effects.
When you think about it, it is pretty shocking that one of the most common forms of birth control for both men and women is surgery. The demand for a reliable birth control is so high that we are willing to have our bodies surgically altered to achieve it. This shouldn’t have to be the case, and yet tubal ligation is the second most popular form of female birth control in the US. Vasectomies, while being considered a much safer, quicker, and less invasive procedure, are much less popular. Yet over 500,000 men per year are still electing to have the operation done.
Although a vasectomy is considered a minor surgical procedure, it doesn’t come risk free. Past studies have found a statistical link between vasectomy patients and men who develop prostate cancer later in life. Also, while a vasectomy won’t physically affect your sex drive, possible psychological effects of the operation can sometimes cause erectile dysfunction. Even after a vasectomy is performed, permanent sterilization is not guaranteed, which is certainly problematic.
Undergoing any surgical procedure is a decision not to be taken lightly. You and your partner should be discussing it at length (and with a professional) to ensure that you are doing what is best for the both of you.
The Future Of Birth Control
As you can tell, none of these options are perfect; they all have their pros and cons. A day will come when we are able to boast a safe, non-hormonal, and reversible contraceptive for men, that will allow us to expand this conversation beyond what we currently know. Increasing the number of birth control methods in the future will give couples a wider range of options, and allow you and your partner to make the smartest and safest decision for your health and relationship.