Believe it or not, everything you know about sex may not be right on target. This is especially true when it comes to birth control; a lot of those "alternative" birth control methods you've picked up from friends, siblings, Gandhi, and the guy at the gas station just won't do the trick.

The taking of proper birth control precautions is VERY SERIOUS. When you have sex, you're messing with bringing a life into this world, and if that's not your goal, you might have to make some very difficult decisions that no one should ever be forced to make. So please, we beg that you be responsible and use your brain. Unless you are actively trying to have a baby, ALWAYS use birth control, or just cross your legs and don't engage in sexual relations until you're ready for baby-making.

One extra-important note: birth control is just as important for boys as for girls. If a man doesn't understand the basics of birth control, he won't be able to act responsibly. So while most of these methods do focus on female biology, it is essential for males to be just as much in the know. But also keep in mind that the woman is the one who will be using most of these methods, so she must be comfortable with her decision. Yeah, it sounds like we're contradicting ourselves, but whoever said that a loving relationship was easy?


Barrier methods are exactly what they sound like: they involve putting something between the sperm and the egg.

The condom

The condom is the one birth control method with which men will have to engage in the protective action (it usually doesn't affect men whether their partners use the pill, the shot, the diaphragm, etc). We probably don't have to tell you what a condom is. You probably learned plenty about them on a very special Beverly Hills 90210. But we must tell you that a latex condom is the best protection out there (next to not having sex) against STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). Also, condoms with spermicide provide better pregnancy protection.

Condoms are best for people who want to protect themselves against STIs, STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), or those who are lazy (they don't involve taking pills or getting shots). They're cheap (about a buck each), and they're often free at clinics (go to the CondomUSA page for free condoms). The bonus of pregnancy protection is great, but keep in mind that during the first year of typical use, 14 out of 100 women will get pregnant. So it's a good idea to supplement any birth control method with condom use.

Both men and women should know how to properly put a condom on. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Store your condoms in a cool, dry place.

  2. Put a drop or two of lubricant inside the condom.

  3. If the penis is not circumcised, pull back the foreskin before rolling on the condom.

  4. Place the rolled condom over the tip of the hard penis, leaving a half-inch space at the tip to collect the semen.

  5. Pinch the air out of the tip of the condom, as air bubbles may cause the condom to break.

  6. Unroll the condom over the penis with the other hand all the way down to the base.

  7. Smooth out any air bubbles.

You can find funny illustrations, as well as more condom info, at the Planned Parenthood site.

The female condom

The female condom is useful for women whose partner who doesn't like wearing a male condom (many wimpy men complain about discomfort). The female condom basically works the same way as a male condom, except that it's larger and fits into a woman's vagina and over the vulva, capturing the semen. The female condom also interferes with sexual sensation less than the male condom.

However, the female condom is not as effective as the male condom (against either STIs or pregnancy), and they cost more (about $2.50 each). So it's up to you to decide whether the woes of Mr. "I-Just-Can't-Feel-It" are worth the extra dough and worry.

From this point on, the birth control methods we list in this SYW DO NOT provide protection against STIs or STDs (except for abstinence). Therefore, the rest of the methods are either for women in committed relationships (your partner has been tested and you are 101% sure that he will not cheat on you) or for women who want added pregnancy protection when using a condom.

The diaphragm

A diaphragm is a soft, rubber dome that fits over the cervix, and it MUST be used with spermicide each time you have intercourse (even if you have sex two, three, or 100 times in an evening). You'll have to have to be fitted for a diaphragm by a gynecologist and shown how to insert/extract it. Diaphragms can be really hard to insert properly, especially because they're greased with spermicide. Practice makes perfect, so practice popping it in and out while you're watching Friends (just make sure your friends aren't over watching it too).

Diaphragms must be inserted at least 6 hours before sex, and should stay in place 6 to 8 hours after intercourse. 18 out of 100 women get pregnant using diaphragms during the first year of use. They cost about $20 (plus the cost of the examination and the spermicide - $10 a tube).