No matter how frequently or rarely women of childbearing age engage in sex, pregnancy is always a possibility. For women who are sexually active and want to control exactly when they get pregnant, finding the right contraceptive is essential.
Women who are in a committed monogamous relationship often choose daily or long-term birth control for the convenience. These birth control methods – including the pill, implantable contraceptive devices and various IUDs – can take the guesswork out of pregnancy prevention and allow men and women to be intimate whenever they wish.
For women who engage in sexual intercourse less often, a daily contraceptive can be anything but convenient. Additionally, most daily and semi-permanent contraceptive methods work by altering the hormones in the body. Those hormonal methods of birth control can create a number of unwanted side effects, from inconveniences such as headaches, spotting and changes in mood to more serious side effects such as the increased risk of heart disease, blot clots and certain forms of cancer.
Barrier methods are often the better choice for women who engage in sex less frequently. A women who does not wish to get pregnant but wants to avoid artificial hormones and daily hassle has a number of options. The chosen method will depend on several factors, including her preferences, her partners’ preferences and the convenience of each option.
Common barrier methods of birth control include condoms, cervical caps, the sponge and the diaphragm. Each method of birth control has its own unique advantages for different women, and it is important for every woman to research her options and choose the contraceptive that works best for her.
This method is often worn by the male partner, but female condoms are also available. Condoms can have their advantages, especially for women who engage in sexual intercourse infrequently. Using a condom can shift some of the burden to the male partner, makes it easier for both partners to be spontaneous and offers protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Of course that means at least one partner will have to remember their birth control and have it available and cover the penis when it gets near the vagina, or vice versa, as fluids released from the penis before ejaculation contain many sperm. Condoms are also subject to breakage, which increases the odds of an unwanted pregnancy. Having a second barrier contraceptive at hand can also provide secondary protection against an unwanted pregnancy and give both partners peace of mind.
The Cervical Cap
The cap is a soft dome-shaped cup made of silicone that fits tightly around the base of the cervix. Women can insert the cervical cap 15 minutes to several hours before intercourse. According to the Center for Young Women’s Health, if women use the cervical cap every time they have intercourse and follow the instructions every time, it is 96% effective against pregnancy. This method is a good option for women in a committed relationship, as it does not protect against STIs.
This round piece of white plastic foam has a dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top that looks like shoelace material. It blocks the cervix to keep sperm from getting into the uterus, and it releases spermicide continuously. According to Bedsider.org, women can put the sponge in up to 24 hours in advance and can have sex multiple times while it’s in, which increases the ability to be spontaneous. However, this method is also ineffective to protect against STIs, and some women have a hard time inserting or experience vaginal irritation when using the sponge.
This birth control method is a shallow, dome-shaped cup made of silicone. It covers the cervix and keeps sperm out of the uterus, and it must be used with a spermicide to work effectively. While women can choose a number of barrier methods of birth control, those who engage in less frequent sex often prefer the diaphragm to other less convenient alternatives. Diaphragms are hormone-free, easy to use, convenient and economical. Additionally, diaphragms such as the Caya® diaphragm have been designed to comfortably fit the female anatomy and provide ease of use, both for insertion and removal. Those advantages make this type of barrier birth control an excellent choice for women of all ages.
No matter how frequently or seldom you plan to engage in sexual intercourse, it is important to use protection every single time. Even a one-time slip could result in an unwanted pregnancy and require you to make some difficult choices. Preventing an unwanted pregnancy is vastly preferable to the alternatives, and selecting the right birth control is the best way to protect yourself, your partner and your reproductive future.