For some people, talking about sex can be uncomfortable. We remind ourselves about the importance of physical and mental health: limiting alcohol, not smoking, eating a balanced diet, staying active. What about our sexual health?

Love and intimacy are essential parts of our lives, and sexual health, like other areas, requires well-informed decisions. If you are sexually active, the contraception talk is crucial. You need to consider the factors of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy, and explore the options – including their benefits and downsides – to protect yourself.

Forget the embarrassment. Remember what’s at stake: your health.

Exploring Your Options

Along with popular methods like the Pill and condoms, contraceptive options include intrauterine devices, diaphragms, and the transdermal patch, to name a few.

Many forms of birth control do not protect you from STDs. The Pill, for example, while a very effective method of birth control, does not protect against STDs, and may include side effects. Yet the benefits of taking the Pill include protection against acne and PMS symptoms, and reducing the risk to certain cancers.

It’s always best to speak with your doctor whenever you are planning to use contraception, since certain options may not be advisable for you if you have a health condition.

Emergency Options

While emergency contraception reduces your chance of pregnancy following unprotected sex, it does not protect you against STDs.

The Copper T Intrauterine Device (IUD) is a device made of plastic and copper, which is inserted into the uterus. The presence of the copper device makes the uterine environment hostile to implantation. It can be used as emergency contraception up to five days after unprotected sex. The copper IUD is the most effective method for emergency contraception. It can prevent over 95 percent of unwanted pregnancies within 5 days of unprotected intercourse.

While the initial costs of insertion are higher than the use of progesterone pills as emergency contraception, the device is extremely effective for up to 10 to 12 years after insertion. It does not protect against STDs, and should only be inserted and removed by a health care professional. Should you later decide to have children, you will be able to start immediately once the device is removed. 

“The Morning After Pill”

If you have had unprotected sex, or believe your birth control might have failed, taking this pill up to five days after sex will reduce your chances of pregnancy. Some forms require a prescription, though there are over-the-counter options. The pill is made up of varying doses of the hormone progesterone; this can help prevent implantation and pregnancy.

Plan & Prepare

As you would prepare for a job interview, plan questions and anticipate your partner’s responses or questions. Choose a comfortable, private spot where the two of you can talk, minus distractions.

Be ready to discuss that if you are constantly worried about not being protected, you will be unable to fully enjoy sex. Being protected means being safe and having peace of mind.

Rather than focusing on contraception taking the pleasure from your sexual life, think about how it can help. Discover ways to involve each other in the process. Applying contraception together, like a condom, could provide an opportunity for the two of you to bond more, allowing you to commit to the relationship and enjoy your sexual intimacy.

Voice Your Needs

Now is the time to honestly discuss your needs with your partner.

  • Are you using birth control because you aren’t ready for kids yet, or mainly as a preventive measure against STDs?
  • Do you plan on having children some day? If so, choosing a non-reversible measure will not be in your best long-term interests.
  • Many forms of birth control do not protect against STDs. What options have you discovered that will work best?
  • Be prepared to listen to your partner’s needs, which may differ from your own. How will you be prepared to handle any differing viewpoints? 

Talk More

Being honest about your anxiety can help to lighten the mood. While this is certainly a serious matter, you don’t want to be so overwhelmed that you can’t even talk.

Maybe this will be a series of conversations. Devoting small chunks of time – whether 15 minutes or half an hour – to discuss contraceptive methods may work best for you. With each talk, you will open up more. Breaking through the awkward barriers means creating a fulfilling sexual life.

It may seem hard at first: baring sexual pasts, discussing unromantic contraceptive methods. But sexual health includes more than physical desire. Women tend to seek closeness and emotional intimacy through their sexual relationships. Talking with your partner about the various contraceptive options will enhance your sexual health by empowering you to make smart decisions.