Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of columns discussing healthy relationships and sex lives from The Daily in partnership with the Gender + Equality Center, Goddard Health Center and Norman’s Adam & Eve. Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
We’ve always been told “safety first,” so why don’t we apply that to sex, too?
Many grew up learning about abstinence only, and while that’s the best way to assure no pregnancy or spread of infections, it’s important to know what other options exist.
The Daily asked Leanne Ho, one of Goddard Health Center’s Sexperts, about what contraceptives there are and what resources are available on campus.
What all does the Women's Health Center at Goddard help with/cover?
Goddard offers women’s wellness exams, which include pap tests. Despite the name, women’s wellness exams are not only for women. Anyone with a cervix, regardless of gender identity, should get pap tests starting at age 21 or whenever they become sexually active. During a wellness exam, a patient can receive a basic breast exam, contraceptive counseling, testing and treatment for infections, and general health checkups for things like irregular, painful, or heavy periods. More information about gynecological exams can be found in our Patient Education Library.
What kinds of contraception are there and what, and how, does that protect against diseases?
There is only one kind of contraception that protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs): condoms. External condoms, which are usually made of latex, go on a penis. Internal condoms, which are made of synthetic latex, go inside a vagina or anus. Some condoms are made of animal intestines, but those condoms only prevent pregnancy, not infection transmission.
There are many other kinds of contraception that can regulate menstrual cycles and prevent pregnancy. The intrauterine device (IUD), which can be hormonal or non-hormonal, is placed in the uterus by a healthcare provider and is effective for three to 12 years depending on the type of IUD. The implant, which is about the size of a matchstick, is placed under the skin in the arm by a healthcare provider and is effective for three years. These two forms of contraception are generally more effective because they minimize the possibility of user error. However, because the IUD and implant are not for everyone, here are some other forms of contraception that you might want to ask a healthcare provider about: the pill, the mini-pill, the ring, the shot, and the patch. Bedsider.org is a great resource if you want to explore what options could work best for you.
Another important kind of contraception is emergency contraception. Emergency contraception is, as the name suggests, used in emergencies to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. If you are already pregnant, emergency contraception will not affect your pregnancy. It is not an abortion pill.
What contraceptives, if any, are offered by Goddard?
Contraception is covered by the Student Health Plan. Goddard offers all FDA approved methods of contraception including the IUD, the implant, the pill, the mini-pill, the ring, and of course, Goddard always provides free condoms!
What should people who identify as LGBTQ+ consider about safety before being intimate?
As far as contraception goes, LGBTQ+ people should know that men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women can still be at risk for unplanned pregnancy. You should consider birth control if you are having any kind of sex that could result in pregnancy. Trans women (women who are assigned male at birth) may still be able to get someone pregnant, and trans men (men who are assigned female at birth) may still be able to get pregnant.
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