Does the pill stop you getting an STI?
In the UK, the pill is a really popular type of contraception, mainly because it’s so easy to get hold of and easy to use. Unlike other types of contraception like the implant and the IUS (hormonal coil), the pill doesn’t need to be administered by a healthcare professional, and doesn’t involve any kind of invasive procedure.
You can even get certain types of the pill over the counter in pharmacies, meaning you don’t have to make an appointment with your GP or a contraception clinic to get your birth control when you need it.
Despite all the benefits of the pill, however, it can’t offer any protection against sexually transmitted infections. For this reason, if you’re going to be having sex with new or casual partners, and you aren’t sure of their STI status, you should always use condoms.
How the pill works
The pill is designed to prevent pregnancy. Combined types work by stopping ovulation, thickening the cervical mucus so sperm can’t reach the egg and by making it harder for an egg to be fertilised and to implant in the womb. Progestogen-only types like Hana and Lovima work in a similar way.
There is no type of contraceptive pill – including the morning after pill – that can prevent STIs.
How STIs spread
If you want to avoid STIs it’s important to understand how they spread. There are lots of different types, but generally they spread in one of two ways:
- Through bodily fluids like semen, pre-cum, vaginal fluid and blood
- Through intimate skin-to-skin contact
This means you can catch STIs through any of the following types of sexual activity:
- Vaginal sex
- Anal sex
- Oral sex
- Sharing sex toys
- Intimate touching
- Fingering and mutual masturbation
Types of contraception that prevent STIs
There are two types of contraception that can prevent STIs:
- Male condoms
- Female condoms
Male and female condoms are barrier contraception i.e. they form a physical block between your genitals and your partner’s genitals. They work as birth control because they prevent sperm from entering the vagina. They also protect against STIs by blocking bodily fluids and covering the skin.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that condoms can’t protect against all types of STIs. Genital warts and genital herpes are spread by skin-to-skin contact, which means any intimate touching between your genitals can spread the infection.
Other ways to stay safe during sex
In addition to using condoms during sex you can also try dental dams. These are thin, flexible squares of plastic that you can put over the genitals or anus when you’re giving someone oral sex. Other than condoms and dental dams, remember the following: Wash sex toys between uses or always cover them with a condom Look out for symptoms in your partner like sores, rashes, lumps or unusual discharge Avoid sex if you notice any symptoms in yourself
What to do after unprotected sex
If you’ve had unprotected sex, you might be concerned about unwanted pregnancy and STIs, and wondering how to tackle both at the same time. There’s no treatment that can protect you from both, but there are two emergency options available:
- The morning after pill or the emergency IUD to prevent pregnancy
- Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV
You can also get tests for STIs like chlamydia a few weeks after exposure. Online Doctor stocks home test kits for people who think they may have been exposed to an STI, but who aren’t experiencing any symptoms.
For more guidance, read this article: What to do if a condom breaks.
Using routine contraception
Routine contraception like the pill is a good idea if you’re having regular sex and you don’t want to get pregnant.
You can find out about your contraception options by visiting a contraception clinic, speaking to your pharmacist or GP, or checking out the pills, patches and vaginal rings available at Online Doctor.
Just remember: using the pill won’t keep you safe from STIs, so whenever you have sex with a new or casual partner, have some condoms to hand!