With Valentine’s Day approaching, love is in the air. Hugs and kisses, roses and chocolate, sex and... condoms. February 14 is National Condom Day and today begins the annual celebration of National Condom Week.
Condoms are not just for the prevention of pregnancy. In the US, there are approximately 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) each year, with about half occurring among teenagers and young adults. Often lacking noticeable symptoms, STIs can be transmitted through contact with partners who don’t know they are infected and may lead to other medical complications, including infertility.
The proper use of condoms is the most widely available, proven method to reduce risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, and HPV. But there is more to know about safe sex and family planning than just keeping a box of latex in your bedroom nightstand.
RA and Family Planning
Some medications used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, such as methotrexate, are contraindicated during pregnancy and special considerations must be made before a couple attempts to get pregnant. For instance, patients with RA who are planning a pregnancy (including the guys who want to father a child) must prepare in advance by making adjustments to their medications.
When I asked my rheumatologist questions about family planning, she made it clear that I would need to get off of methotrexate for at least 3-4 months before attempting to get pregnant. In the meantime, she emphasizes that correct and consistent use of birth control is very important. Drugs such as methotrexate can cause birth defects and possible miscarriage.
Male condoms are approximately 97% effective in preventing unintended pregnancy when used regularly and correctly. Female condoms are estimated to be 75-82% effective. “Condoms are the only contraceptive option which protects against both STIs and unintended pregnancy,” says Lynn Barclay, president and CEO of the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA).
Prevention of HIV and STIs
Condoms and spermicide are an effective choice for the prevention of pregnancy. However, I learned that if your primary goal in using a condom is to reduce the spread of HIV or STIs, it is important NOT to use condoms lubricated with spermicide. According to ASHA, regular use of lubricants with spermicide (nonoxynol-9 or "N-9") may cause skin irritation or tiny abrasions that make delicate genital skin more susceptible to STIs. Wow, very important piece of information to know.
Even more important is knowing how to use condoms correctly. ASHA provides detailed information, including illustrations, on proper use of male condoms and female condoms on their website. When using condoms, follow the simple “Do’s and Don’ts” recommended by ASHA.