Condom-Curious Boyfriend

Friday, May 26, 2006

Question

I am 22 and my girlfriend is 18. We are having intercourse on a regular basis. She's on the pill and I always wear a condom. Is there a time when it's less likely for her to get pregnant if we don't use a condom? Would the week or two after her period be safe? We have our goals set. Our parents have their grandparenting goals (LOL), but we are gonna wait to have children for five more years, at least. We would like to try having intercourse without a condom every now and then. Is there a time when it would be peak to do this?

Also, I was wondering if the rumor about someone taking five or six of their birth control pills at once is similar to the morning after pill. Neither of us have STDs. We are only for each other.

Answer

Most monogamous couples that I know would not use condoms at all if the female half of the couple was conscientious about taking her birth control pill. The effectiveness of the pill is that high. You both should be aware that certain medications might decrease its effectiveness—antibiotics, anti-seizure medication, treatment for migraines, and tuberculosis meds. If she is taking any such medication, use condoms and spermicidal gels or foams as a backup.

But I applaud you for also thinking about STDs and wanting to be 100% sure that the two of you can control your own life plan. There are also a few girls out there who can get pregnant if sperm just lands in their panties, even if they are using the pill, a condom, and a dozen other things.

Not using the condom means slightly increasing your chances of conception. Before deciding to do this, you and your partner should talk about what your plan would be if that should happen. How do you both feel about abortion? Giving a baby up for adoption? Having a sudden change in your vision for the future? Do you both feel comfortable taking this risk?

When you say you are both healthy, do you know that for a fact? If you were both virgins when you got involved, that's proof of no STDs right there. But if you were sexually active with others prior to this relationship, do you just believe you're healthy because you have no symptoms? Or have you been tested? Get checked out for herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis, etc.

There are several problems with calculating a "safe time" during a woman's menstrual cycle. One is that periods can be irregular. Since she is using the pill, her cycle will be 28 days, so that's less of a worry. Count fourteen days since the first pill she takes after her last period. That would be when we might expect her to be fertile, if she was not taking hormones that persuaded her body it was already pregnant. The pill should suppress ovulation. She shouldn't be releasing an egg that could be fertilized with your sperm. But some women, as I noted above, manage to do this nearly impossible feat. So you should avoid condomless intercourse with her for a week on either side of that 14-day midpoint. If spermicidal foams or gels don't irritate her vagina (or the delicate skin on the head of your penis, for that matter), you can use those as a backup form of contraception and still get all of the sensation of condomless sex.

Birth control pills can be used as emergency contraception (EC). It's much better to do this under medical supervision. Pharmacies in Canada (other than Wal-Mart) stock these kits and sell them with a doctor's prescription. The trick is getting the medication fast enough. EC can be attempted up to five days after unprotected intercourse, but works the best within 24 hours. This burst of a high dose of hormones will either suppress ovulation, or prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. This is not something your girlfriend should have to go through every time the two of you have sex without a condom. It's hard on the body, and may at a minimum cause nausea and diarrhea.

If you want to check out the DIY approach, perhaps because you live where your only pharmacy is a Wal-Mart, the Feminist Women's Health Center website is informative. See it at:
www.fwhc.org/birth-control/ecinfo.htm.