We think of two things when we discuss safe sex, safe from unintended pregnancy and safe from disease exposure. Let’s briefly discuss both.
Regarding pregnancy, there is no method other than abstinence that will protect us 100% from a pregnancy, however, there are many safe methods that rate greater than 90%. Permanent methods such as tubal ligation and the Essure tubal occlusion device as well as intrauterine devices (IUD’s) have low failure rates. If a pregnancy occurs, which is rare, it is important to be evaluated for a possible pregnancy in the tubes called an ectopic which can be life-threatening. Reversible methods like the DepoProvera injection is a safe and secure method.
Birth control pills, condoms and sponges come in at about 85% as we must take into consideration the mistakes patients make including missed pills, torn condom or a condom that slips off.
Withdrawl method (pull-out) is 50% as pre-ejaculate is loaded with swimmers eager to fertilize the egg! However, combining methods such as condom use AND withdrawl or birth control pills AND condoms markedly improve the efficacy.
Douching or washing out after sex is NOT effective and often leads to other problems.
Let’s move on to disease risks. NEVER rely on your partner’s word that they have “been tested”. Always ask to see the official lab report. I always offer to test my patients and their new partners as it is easy, confidential and reassuring.