I've actually been doing a bit of research on the topic, and basically there are no good contraceptive techniques. I'm talking here about their use in a marriage situation, where the partners are using a particular technique for an extended period of time, mainly to prevent conception, rather than to prevent the spread disease. Let's take a quick look, shall we?

  • Condoms: Application disturbs progress, can reduce the pleasure for the man and/or woman, you can't use them with organic things like whipped cream ;-) and more. Plus, somewhat surprisingly, they are not that good. Over a one year period, they only have a 90 per cent success rate.
  • The Pill: Some women may be emotionally affected, may also cause cramps and other side effects. Plus, in the long term, may lead to cancer. But at least it's effective (about 98 per cent).
  • Depo-Provera: Ouch! Injections! Frig! Not to mention the emotional roller-coaster involved for the woman.
    Note: This was added after the nodes below about Depo-Provera for completeness and from suggestions from others
  • Vasectomy/Hysterectomy: A bit of a permanent choice, huh?
  • IUD's: now shown to cause nasty health problems.
  • Rhythm method: Not very effective. Usually only about 75 per cent success rate. Also inconvenient ... have to record temperatures, remember dates, etc.
  • Coitus interruptus: Leaves both the man and the woman unsatisfied. Anyway, what the point, since precum can carry semen anyway?
  • Update 28 Sep 2000: The latest contraceptive technique is to give men even more testosterone, which has the strange effect of making men temporarily sterile, while at the same time making them more horny. A little pellet of testosterone is inserted subcutaneously (i.e. under the skin) and lasts about 3 months. Great! Like I want to be more horny and I want my testicles to shrink. Not to mention having a lump underneath my skin ...
So ... maybe God designed us to have kids.

Don't forget depo provera. It's a shot, and it works for three months.

Mind you, the side effects can be prohibitive. Some women experience massive mood swings, as well as the loss of their period, spotting, or a constant period for the first three months.

After about a year, the period goes away completely, for most women... In my experience (Well, the experience of friends and my girlfriend, actually,) the side effects were just too damned harsh to make it worthwhile.

No-one wants to be a crying, screaming, emotional wreck and bleed from their genitals for three months, really.

D: While I'm sure that many women have had excellent experiences with the drug, I don't know any of them. Everyone I've spoken to on the subject has had an experience similar to the one that I generalized about above. While those symptoms may "usually subside within one month," they lasted for the full three in all of my friend's cases. In one case, a lady friend of mine actually became pregnant a week after recieving the shot, and had a fairly horrible miscarriage. I truly hope your experiences with it go more smoothly than the experiences of the people I know, but... These are not rumors and myths, these are the things that happened to people I know.
full node

re: Twiin-- most of the side effects of Depo Provera aren't that common. The most common side effect is weight gain, but only because it increases appetite. If you use Depo and don't eat any more than usual, you won't gain weight. The massive mood swings usually only occur in those prone to mood swings or depression. As for the spotting and bleeding for three months, spotting may occur during the first month, and possibly bleeding, but, those symptoms usually subside within one month. And bleeding isn't a terribly common symptom either. The crying, screaming, emotional wreck and bleeding from the genitals for three months is a massive overstatement that would scare away any woman thinking about trying Depo. I imagine that happens to less then 10 percent of the women who use Depo. Probably less than that even. I recommend that anyone interested read the literature on the following websites and consult a doctor. This drug has been around for years, but not many people know about it, so there are myths floating about. It's highly effective, much cheaper than the pill, doesn't have to be taken every day, and though it has more side effects than the pill, they're not terribly common. If a woman doesn't like it, all she has to do is let it wear off.
    Related sites:
  • http://www.plannedparenthood.org/bc/depoforyou.htm
  • http://www.teenwire.com/warehous/articles/wh_19981201p031.asp
Also, in response to Twiin's reply to my post- It's unfortunate that his friends had bad experiences with Depo, but it's important to remember that not everyone will have such experiences. Also, doctors strongly caution women to either abstain from sex or use backup protection (ie- a condom) for at least a week after receiving the injection to insure that it will be effective.

Also see Depo Provera
I went to the doctor to ask him what the best way to avoid pregnancy is. He said "Orange juice". This surprised me, as no doubt it surprised you. I didn't know that orange juice is an effective contraceptive.
I asked him when to drink it: before or after sex.
"Neither", he replied, "instead of."

The moral of this story is that abstinence is the only 100% guarantee. If you are having sex, you have to be mature enough to be responsible for your actions.

Sadly, the only way to find out what works for you is trial and error. Something that's great one year might be lousy a few years on. The diaphragm is just dandy when you are mighty and empowered and want to scare the boys with your knowledge and comfort in anatomy, but it's a real damn hassle if you like to indulge in rumpy-pumpy several times a day. (You lucky beast, you.) The Pill might serve you well for years, and then go haywire if you start travelling a lot. Condoms are just nifty if shagging is a rare event, but can seem all wrong if you are in a long term relationship (no reason why they should, though, but it's all down to perception). So, to expand a little on ymelup's original write up:

Barrier methods
  • Condoms
    The main cause of failure here is carelessness: fingernails or sharp jewellery puncturing or tearing the latex, oh, or not putting one on soon enough. No, scratch that, the biggest problem is that some men complain they can't feel anything when using a condom, and are therefore so unwilling to use them they'll do anything possible to avoid it. In a nicer world, though, the biggest problem, apart from the truly horrible taste they leave behind, is the strange sequence they can impose on sex. Condoms are far from perfect, but failure rates if they are used correctly are around one per cent, and they have the bonus of preventing the spread of STDs. In real life, failure rates are 2 to 4 per cent. Non-latex condoms are available for the allergic.

  • Diaphragm or cervical cap
    Once you have mastered the art of Zen and the art of diaphragm insertion, they are pretty effective. It's useful in that it doesn't have to be an interruption to sex, but you have to think about putting it in early so you don't have to vanish into the bathroom to struggle and curse at a crucial moment. Oh, and then you have to leave it in for hours afterwards. And if you want to in-and-out bit of sex more than once, you have to deal with those foul-tasting spermicidal creams and/or pessaries. Like condoms, it can enforce a particular sequence events into lovemaking. You will need to be fitted for a cap or diaphragm, and practice with it before relying on it. If you gain or lose more than about ten pounds, you'll need a new one. This is only appropriate for women entirely comfortable with dealing with their bits. Because of the hassle factor, effectiveness varies from 94 to 96 per cent. Which is on the scarily low side.

  • Female condom
    Instant hilarity. If you can avoid the one-size-fits-all discomfort, and the absurdly lound crinkling crunching crisp packet sounds, it's fine. But very expensive. Usage rates are too low to be entirely sure of failure rates, but probably in the 90-95 percent safe area.

  • Contraceptive Sponge
    Huge failure rate, even when correctly used and lathered up with spermicidal jelly. Only to be used if you are trying to reduce the chance of pregnancy, rather than determined to prevent it.

Surgical methods
  • Sterilisation
    For women, it's usually not a hysterectomy but a spot of fallopian tube tying. Very very hard to get a doctor to agree to this if you are still in your twenties. Unlike a vasectomy, it's almost impossible to reverse. Practically 100 per cent effective.

  • IUD or Coil
    The old fashioned ones are evil, vicious nasty things. They are intrusive and prone to causing serious infections. Usually only fitted to women who have already had children. That said, the new ones are more flexible and more adaptable to the body (made from copper beads or plastic) and less likely to case infection and they can have the added benefit of reducing heavy, painful periods. Some contain additional hormonal contraceptives but in general IUDs are not contraceptives--they work by irritating the lining of the womb and interupting a pregnancy at a very early stage by preventing a fertilised egg from taking up residence. 98 to over 99 per cent effective, depending on type of device.
Chemical methods
  • The Pill
    Mostly wonderful. It's effective IF you take it exactly as intended and don't mind living with your body thinking its pregnant. The smaller dose modern pills have to be taken at a precise time. Remembering this (especially if you move between different time zones on a regular basis) can be hell. Oh, and if you throw up or have an upset stomach, you're not safe against pregnancy for two weeks. During that time you'll have to use a barrier method. 99 per cent effective.

  • Depo Provera
    Marvellous stuff if it suits you. No more ovulation, and no bleeding at all after the first month or so. Four injections a year is very very low hassle. The spotting and potential weight gain is less attractive. Over 99 per cent effective.

  • Implant
    Five matchstick-sized wands inserted under the skin in the upper arm, giving slow release hormonal contraception. Lasts up to five years. Expensive, and if there are major side effects, can be hard to remove quickly. This has fallen out of vogue except in areas or situations where a single long-term solution to contraception is useful. 99 per cent effective in year one, 98 per cent effective over five years.
Other methods
  • Rhythm method
    Though popular with catholics, even with the modern, high-tech version that involves monitoring temperature and viscosity and so on, it's only more effective than jumping up and down three times and chanting Mary Had a Little Lamb in Latvian if you and your partner are extremely organised and disciplined. If you can put the effort into learning about your body and its responses, and if you can be very strict about abstaining as needed, then this can be as successful as many of the other 'good' methods, with a 97-98 per cent effective method. Otherwise you are looking at failure rates around that of the sponge (six to eight per cent). It is not appropriate at all if you have an irregular cycle.

    note: anthropod very rightly pulled me up on this flippant dismissal of something I know little about, and wrote fertility awareness which contains far more excellent information about basing conception and contraception on a knowledge of your own body than I could do justice to here.

  • Morning after pill
    Emergency contraception, if something fails (e.g. an exploding condom, or an outbreak of idiocy). Not to be relied on in general, but useful to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Morning after is a terrible misnomer: you actually have about 72 hours of safety in which to take this. It's just a few old-fashioned very high hormone dose pills. It does the trick. Doctors advise that you shouldn't resort to this more than three or four times.
Despite of the availability of the contraceptives, there's still a high rate of unwanted (teen) pregnancies. I've read an article about the "three best ways to prevent it before discussing surgical or chemical contraception at all”. And those so-called social contraceptives are quite amazing I think (but my view may be blurred, because it was discussing the Dutch policy too).

1. Keep girls in school uniforms for as long as possible. This is to prevent youngsters to become much too sexualised at too young an age. Meaning, young chicks wearing tight t-shirts and short skirts dress themselves too sexy: their body may be up to it, but they're not psychologically ready for it and don't understand the consequences fully. And they "challenge" the boys too much. This aspect made me think about the Islam: Muslim woman have to cover themselves partially or fully as a way to protect themselves from men who otherwise may get sexually aroused. So women have to hide their femininity because otherwise we're not capable of dealing with it?
2. A culture of gossip. Aka: women don't want to be known as a slut. In smaller communities there's more social pressure and control of who's doing what with whom, the gossip circuit. Not wanting to have such a bad name ought to make women think twice about their intended actions. Second aspect of the gossip is, at least in the Netherlands, that teen pregnancies are just not done. It is regarded as totally stupid (because of the abundant contraception propaganda), people will think of you as a loser, somebody with problems and not being able to cope with themselves in a proper manner. It is not regarded as immoral, but as a failure. And who wants to be a failure?
3. Adult supervision. According to the research of this professor, most girls get pregnant in their parent's home when they are unsupervised. In other words, it is ok for the father and mother to go out to work when the girls are really young, but when they're in their teens, one of them have to be at home to keep an eye on the activities of their offspring. On the other hand, doesn't it give a bit more excitement when you can get caught?

One thing about all this what irritates me most is that all three aspects are directed towards the behaviour of girls/women. As if! What about the responsibilities of the men involved? Wouldn't it be a good way to prevent pregnancies to educate men what harm they can do? It seems like men's behaviour is taken for granted, as a fact. But, hello, two people are involved here, and they both do have the responsibility to prevent unwanted (teen) pregnancies.

The three “social contraceptives” mentioned are from the research results of Prof. Malcom Potts (Emeritus Professor in sexology at the University of Berkeley in California), the explanations are my interpretation.
I must also add to all of those very well researched comments, that any sex manual will recommend combining two of the methods, doing prior research that they work well together.

For example, combine the pill with a condom, those are the two most effective methods (save a sterilization or such), or at least use spermocide with the pill. This is the best way, because the chances or getting pregnant between the two are next to none.

I used this method ever since I started having sex, though recently I went off the pill for personal reasons, so now me and my boyfriend use condoms along with spermocide. It's less effective, but it's something I am doing with the man I love, and we are able to handle the consequences if the condom rips, or anything like that.

Not being on the pill, I would stay away from casual sex, even though I always used condoms.

Some methods cannot be mixed, for example, a diaphragm is not to be used with a condom. A latex condom hitting a latex diaphragm during intercourse can cause cracks in both.

As for the Morning After pill that so many have mentioned above...


Contraception is prevention BEFORE sex, the Morning After pill is an emergency treatment for cases when the condom rips and the person is not on the pill, and more importantly, rape victims, (if they so choose).

It screws up your body a lot greater than any regular birth control pill, and is very dangerous to use more than once every few months.

It should not be viewed as birth control.

True, non-of those methods are safe (I had 2 pregnancy scares while using spermocide condoms and the pill).. But neither is abstinence. If you do everything else, but don't have intercourse, there is still a chance one can get pregnant from a not very careful move or such, if some sperm that has not been exposed to oxygen, gets into the birth canal. Such freak cases tend to occur in the shower or a bath, if the male ejaculates into the water, and happens to be close to the female, there have been reported cases of conception.

People who had a vasectomies have been known to impregnate, and women with a hysterectomy have been known to get pregnant with a fallopian tube pregnancy, which is very dangerous.

So once you have sex, you have responsibility, you should know that to do if you DO get pregnant, before it happens. And if you are not ready to think about such things, you are not ready to have sex.

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