Healthy Life Choices

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Contraceptive Choices, Preventing STDs, and Pregnancy

How Contraceptives Work

Contraceptives are methods of preventing or ending pregnancy, also referred to as “birth control,” and work in three ways:

Prevent Fertilization (the union of a man’s sperm and woman’s egg):

These contraceptives create a barrier to block sperm from reaching an egg. Male and female condoms and intra-uterine devices (IUDs) are examples.

Uterus Hostile to Implantation:

IUDs are contraceptives that prevent the baby from implanting in the mother’s uterus.


Typically referred to as “hormonal,” synthetic steroids like the pill mimic hormones to prevent pregnancy in three ways:

  • Prevent release of the egg each month
  • Prevent fertilization by producing less and thicker mucus in the cervix, so that sperm cannot easily enter the uterus.
  • End a pregnancy by affecting the uterine lining, making it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant.

The oral birth control pill and Depo-Povera are examples of chemical contraceptives. Depo-Provera is administered as an injection, patch or implant and may prevent pregnancy by suppressing ovulation or by thickening cervical mucus.

Minimize Your Risk – 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

What are my life goals?

What are some ways my sexual behavior is helping me reach those goals?

What are some ways my sexual behavior is hindering me from reaching those goals?

“The most reliable way to avoid transmission of STDs is to abstain from oral, vaginal, and anal sex or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner known to be uninfected.”10

-Centers for Disease Control

Contraception and STDs

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are infections spread by sexual contact with skin, genitals, mouth, rectum or body fluids. Although some STDs can be treated, others cannot. People with an STD may not know they have it.

Chemical methods of contraception provide no protection against STDs and can actually increase your risk of getting an STD by making your reproductive tract more vulnerable to infection.1

As your number of partners and sexual encounters increase, your risk of contracting an STD, including HIV, increases dramatically.3

1 in 4 sexually active females aged 15-24 has an STD.2

Effectiveness, Risks and Side Effects

  • Male Condom: 87% effective at preventing pregnancy.4
  • Female Condom: 79% effective at preventing pregnancy.4
  • Diaphragm or Cervical cap: 83% effective at preventing pregnancy.4
  • Birth Control Pill: 93% effective at preventing pregnancy.4 There is an increased risk for blood clots and high blood pressure.5 Estrogen is a Class 1 carcinogen for increasing risk of cancer.6
  • Depo-Provera Shot: 96% effective at preventing pregnancy.4 Use of Depo-Provera is associated with decreased bone mineral density.7
  • The Patch: 93% effective at preventing pregnancy.4 There is an increased risk of blood-clotting problems, heart attack, stroke, liver cancer, gallbladder disease and high blood pressure.8
  • Implant: 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.4 There is a risk of high blood pressure, ovarian cysts, serious blood clots and cancer.9

There is no contraceptive method that is highly effective in simultaneously preventing pregnancy and STDs.2


  1. Baeten, J.M., Nyange, P.M., Richardson, B.A., Lavreys, L., Chohan, B., et al. (2001) Hormonal contraception and risk of sexually transmitted disease acquisition: Results from a prospective study. AJOG; Vol. 185(2): 380-5.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). STDs in Adolescents and Young Adults. Retrieved May 2021 from
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). STDs and HIV – CDC Fact Sheet. Retrieved May 2021 from
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Contraception. Retrieved June 2021 from
  5. Office of Women’s Health (2021). Birth Control Methods. Retrieved on June 2021
  6. International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization (2021). List of Classifications, Agents classified by the IARC Monographs, Volumes 1–124. Retrieved June 2021 from
  7. American College of Obstetricians and & Gynecologists, Committee on Adolescent Health Care and Committee on Gynecologist Practice (2020). Depot medroxyprogesterone acetate and bone effects. ACOG; 123(602): 1398–402.
  8. Mayo Clinic (2019). Birth Control Patch. Retrieved May 2021 from
  9. Merck Sharp & Dohme B.V. (2021). Side Effects of Nexplanon. Retrieved May 2021 from
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015) Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. MMWR; 64(No. RR-3): 1-137.
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