When you think about birth control, your mind probably goes to the pill for women. Researchers are working on one for men, too, but it’s not a reality yet. Still, men have several options to help avoid an unplanned pregnancy.
Why consider male contraceptives? For one thing, the pill isn’t foolproof. Or your partner may not be able to take the pill because of side effects. Or they may not use any forms of birth control.
Women also tend to bear most of the responsibility and cost of birth control, and female methods tend to be more expensive than those for men. If you want to play a more equal role, talk with your partner about the best way to do so.
Condoms can work up to 98% of the time to block conception. They also protect you from sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, like herpes and chlamydia. That’s not true of any other method.
But if you don’t wear condoms the right way every time you have sex, your chances for an accidental pregnancy can be surprisingly high. Some estimates put it at nearly 1 in 5.
To make sure your condom gets the job done, you should:
Use only latex or polyurethane condoms that you’ve kept in a cool and dry place. Condoms made with lambskin or different materials may not protect against HIV and other viruses.
Avoid carrying condoms in your wallet, where heat and friction could damage them.
Check the expiration date on the wrapper to be sure the condom isn’t too old. Use lubricants that are water- or silicone-based. They’re less likely to break the condom than those with oil. It’s also important to follow these steps when you put on and take off a condom:
1. Place the condom on the head of your hard penis. Pinch out any air that may be trapped in the tip, and leave a little space there for your semen.
2. Unroll the condom all the way to the base of your penis.
3. If you’re uncircumcised, pull back your foreskin before you slide down the condom.
4. When you finish intercourse, grab the base of your penis and hold the condom in place while you pull out.
5. Throw away the condom.
Spermicide is a chemical that prevents pregnancy by killing sperm so they can’t fertilize an egg. The only spermicide available in the U.S. is nonoxynol-9 (N-9). You can get it as a foam, jelly, tablet, cream, suppository, or dissolvable film. You can use spermicide by itself or combine it with other methods.
It’s best to use the chemical with some devices designed to block sperm from fertilizing an egg, such as cervical caps and shields and also condoms.
Spermicide does not help prevent the transmission of STDs.
Spermicide condoms: These are regular condoms coated with N-9, which can also act as a lubricant. They are an effective form of birth control but don’t have any benefit over condoms without spermicide. There’s no evidence that spermicides cause birth defects, and spermicide condoms are safe to use when you’re pregnant.
There are some downsides to this type of condom, however. Spermicide is known to lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs) in some women. And they may have a funny taste if you’re having oral sex.
Because spermicide condoms often cost more, expire quicker, and have potential for irritation, other types of condoms, such as those lubricated with silicone, are often a better choice. If you’re unsure, talk with your doctor.
How to use spermicide: Different types of spermicide may require different steps and timing, which is why you need to follow the directions on the package carefully. In general, most types tell you to:
- Insert the spermicide deep into the vagina.
- Wait 10-15 minutes before you have sex.
- Don’t wait any longer than 30-60 minutes to have sex.
- Leave it in for at least 6 hours after sex.
Spermicide effectiveness: Although you can use spermicide alone, it works better when you combine it with a condom or diaphragm. Spermicide used alone is about 70% to 80% effective.
Spermicide condoms prevent pregnancy 87% of the time with typical use. And when used perfectly (wearing them properly, putting them on before sex, storing them properly in a cool, dry place, etc.), they work 98% of the time.
Vasectomy is also known as “male sterilization.” A surgeon cuts and seals off the tubes that your sperm pass through to reach your testicles. It’s the most effective birth control option for men. Only about 15 out of 10,000 couples get pregnant in the year after a man has the surgery.
After a vasectomy, it takes about 3 months for your semen to be sperm-free.
- It’s simpler, cheaper, and works better than female sterilization.
- You can go home the same day of the surgery.
- It doesn’t change the way sex or ejaculation feels for you or your partner.
- Your semen doesn’t look, smell, or feel any different.
- Vasectomy is pretty much permanent. You’ll likely never be able to have kids again. You can try to undo your vasectomy with another surgery, but this “reversal” doesn’t always work.
- You’ll still need to wear a condom to protect against STDs.
- As with any surgery, you have a small chance of swelling, bleeding, infections, and other complications. But they’re rare and usually not serious.
This term includes all the different kinds of sex or foreplay that don’t involve your penis entering your partner’s vagina. Outercourse can mean:
- Dry humping (a.k.a. grinding)
- Oral or anal sex
As long as you keep your penis and semen away from your partner’s vaginal area, conception can’t happen. But the obvious downside is that you can’t have vaginal sex. Also, if you’re having oral or anal sex, you can still get an STD.
Withdrawal (Pulling Out)
It’s called “coitus interruptus” in Latin. Withdrawal is one of the oldest and simplest forms of birth control, but one of the least effective. You pull your penis out of the vagina before you ejaculate.
The pull-out method has a few things going for it. It has no side effects and it costs nothing. And going bare doesn’t interfere with your sexual sensations.
But the method works only if you do it right. That means you need to pull out soon enough so no semen gets on or inside your partner’s vagina. You have to time it right and be quick enough. That can be hard to do, especially if you’re young and haven’t had much sex.
That’s why the pull-out method alone works just 78% of the time. So in a given year, 22 out of 100 couples who rely on it for birth control will end up with a pregnancy.
And the withdrawal method doesn't protect you from STDs.