Sexually Transmitted Infections

STIs (sexually transmitted infections) or STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are acronyms that are often used interchangeably to refer to bacteria or viruses usually transmitted by sexual activity with an infected person.  Here are some of the key differences between the two terms:

An infection of bacteria, parasites, or viruses can live in a person without manifesting symptoms.  Someone who has contracted an STI may not show any visible signs or feel sick, and therefore, would not think of getting treated.

A disease usually means that an infection has progressed and is causing the person to feel ill and notice symptoms.  Once the symptoms are noticed and the person is alarmed, he or she will seek treatment.

Not all STIs and STDs are transmitted through the exchange of sexual fluids, some can be passed on through genital, or skin to skin contact.  With the exception of viral infections, that is, Genital Herpes, Genital Warts, Hepatitis, and HIV infection, most STDs can be cured.  Learn about some of the more common STIs from the Mayo Clinic website.  Always be protected during sex and get tested regularly.  Many STIs don’t show symptoms, but the infections may cause more health problems in the future if left untreated. 


    Cervical Cap

    A cervical cap is a silicone cup you insert into your vagina to cover your cervix and keep sperm out of your uterus.  The "cap" is about an inch and a half wide and one inch high.  One super important thing to remember: You need to use a cervical cap with spermicide for it to be most effective.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org

    • Immediately effective, no hormones, and can be inserted up to 6 hours before sex.
    • The cervical cap is fairly effective—better with spermicide.
    • Must be in place every time you have sex.

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    Condom

    Condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control available.  They slip over the penis to prevent pregnancy and lower the risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) by keeping sperm inside the condom and out of the vagina. (There are also internal condoms that go inside the vagina.)  Condoms come in hundreds of shapes and sizes, with lube and without.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org

    • The only form of birth control that protects against STIs/STDs.
    • They don't require a prescription and are inexpensive.
    • The condom is so-so the way people typically use them—better when used perfectly.
    • You have to use one EVERY time.

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    Diaphragm

    A diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped cup made of silicone.  You insert the diaphragm into your vagina so that it covers your cervix and keeps sperm out of your uterus.  One super important thing to remember: For a diaphragm to work effectively, you need to use it with spermicide.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org.

    • Effective immediately, can be put in hours before sex, doesn't affect your hormones.
    • The diaphragm's fairly effective—better with spermicide.
    • Has to be put in place every time you have sex.

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    Emergency Contraception

    Emergency Contraception (EC) can stop a pregnancy before it starts.  (That means the EC pills are not the same as the abortion pill.)  There are four types of EC to choose from and they all work up to 5 days (or 120 hours) after unprotected sex. Use it sooner rather than later to reduce the possibility of getting pregnant.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org.

    • EC provides the possibility of prevention after the fact.
    • Different types of EC have different limitations and levels of effectiveness.

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    Implant

    The implant (Nexplanon is the brand name; previously Implanon) is a teeny-tiny rod that's inserted under the skin of your upper arm.  It's so small, in fact, most people can't see it once it's inserted, which means it can be your little secret, if you're so inclined.  The implant releases progestin, a hormone that keeps your ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens your cervical mucus, which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.  It prevents pregnancy for up to three years. For additional information, please see bedsider.org

    • It’s easy, incredibly effective, long-lasting, and reversible.
    • The implant is among the most effective methods.
    • Quick insertion and you're set for 3 years.

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    Female Condom a.k.a Internal Condom

    An internal condom is a pouch you insert into your vagina. Internal condoms work the same way that condoms do, except that you wear one on the inside instead of putting it on a penis.  They keep the guy's sperm inside the condom and out of your vagina. For additional information, please see bedsider.org

    • Give women more control and are good for those with latex allergies.
    • More effective with spermicide.
    • You have to use one EVERY time.

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    IUD

    The IUD is a little t-shaped piece of plastic that gets put into your uterus to interfere with the way sperm can move and prevent them from fertilizing an egg.  Sounds odd, but it works like a charm.  IUDs offer years of protection—between three and twelve years—depending on the type you get.  And if you want to get pregnant, you can have the IUD removed at any time.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org.  

    • You can choose hormonal or non-hormonal IUDs.
    • It's one of the most effective methods.
    • It's inserted once and lasts for years.

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    Patch

    The patch is a thin, beige piece of plastic that looks like a square Band-Aid.  It's a little less than two inches across.  You stick the patch on your skin and it gives off hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs.  The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org.  

    • Easy to use and works like the pill, but you only have to worry about it once a week.
    • The patch is really effective when it's changed on time each week.
    • Patch change required once a week.

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    Pill

    "The Pill" is a pill.  Some people call it "oral contraception."  You take it once a day, at the same time every day.  There are lots of different kinds of pills on the market, and new ones come out all the time.  Most work by releasing hormones that keep your ovaries from releasing eggs.  The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org.

    • Been around for 50 years, easy to swallow, can have positive side effects.
    • The pill is really effective when taken perfectly.
    • You must take it Every. Single. Day.

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    Ring

    The ring is a small, bendable ring that you insert into your vagina.  You leave it in place for three weeks at a time, and then take it out for the fourth week.  The ring works by giving off hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs.  The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org

    • Easy to insert, works like the pill, keeps you protected for a month at a time.
    • The ring's pretty effective the way most people use it.
    • Ring in. Wait 3 weeks. Ring out. Wait 1 week. Repeat.

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    Shot

    The shot is just what it sounds like—a shot that keeps you from getting pregnant. Once you get it, your birth control is covered for three full months—there’s nothing else you have to do.  Some people call the shot “Depo,” short for Depo-Provera. The shot contains progestin, a hormone that prevents your ovaries from releasing eggs.  It also thickens your cervical mucus, which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org

    • Long-lasting, private, and a good hormonal option for those who can't take estrogen.
    • The shot is super effective—as long as you get each shot on time.
    • You have to go for a shot every 3 months.

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    Spermicide

    “Spermicide” describes a bunch of different creams, films, foams, gels, and suppositories that contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving.  You insert it deep in your vagina, so it also keeps sperm from getting through your cervix and into your uterus.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org.  

    • Easy to find, no hormones, and no prescription needed.
    • Spermicide is not so great on its own. Much better with another barrier method.
    • Have to apply it every time you have sex.

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    Sponge

    The sponge is a round piece of white plastic foam with a little dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top that looks like shoelace material.  It's pretty small—just two inches across—and you insert it way up in your vagina before you have sex. The sponge works in two ways: It blocks your cervix to keep sperm from getting into your uterus, and it continuously releases spermicide.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org.

    • No hormones, no prescription, and can be inserted up to 24 hours before sex.
    • The sponge isn't the most effective method—especially if you've already had a kid.
    • Have to put it in every time you have sex. 

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    Sterilization

    Sterilization is a procedure that closes or blocks your fallopian tubes so you can't get pregnant. (Your tubes are where eggs and sperm meet.)  Guys also have a sterilization option—a vasectomy blocks the tubes that carry a man’s sperm.  This is even safer and more effective than female sterilization.  For additional information, please see bedsider.org.

    • A permanent solution for those who are sure they don't want a future pregnancy.
    • Once and you're done.
    • Incision and non-incision options, along with temporary and permanent options.

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     Birth Control Data Courtesy of Bedsider.org

    Birth Control Data Courtesy of Bedsider.org