Getting smart about staying safe

Whatever your sexual experiences have been — whether you're a (self-proclaimed) expert or a beginner — one thing is for sure: you need to know how to be safe, not only for yourself but for your partner. Sex should be fun, not scary, so here are the details on keeping your bits and pieces healthy.

Please remember that while many of these methods prevent pregnancy, they do not prevent STIs, so it's always a good idea to use a back-up method, especially if you don't know the sexual background of your partner.

Don't do it! If you're not comfortable, you feel pressured, choose not to — if your partner is a decent person, they'll respect your choice. And if you want the truth, not everyone is doing it.
COST: Free
PREVENTS: STIs, pregnancy, feelings of regret when you're not ready

Dental Dam
These protect you during oral-vaginal sex and oral-anal sex. You can also use everyday kitchen wrap or slit-open condoms to create a barrier.
COST: Can be anywhere from $2 to $5. You can also make them with products from home
WHERE CAN YOU GET IT: Drugstore or home
PREVENTS: STIs like herpes and HPV

Contraceptive Patch
This patch, when attached to skin, releases estrogen and progestin into the bloodstream. Essentially, it stops pregnancy by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg, while also thickening the cervical mucus to make it harder for sperm to get through.

It is worn on the skin for seven days, and on the fourth week of the month it is removed to allow for a period. It can be worn on your butt, stomach, back or upper arms but not your breasts, and the location should be changed up a little each week.
COST: Around $32 a month
WHERE CAN YOU GET IT: Prescription required
PREVENTS: Pregnancy but NOT STIs

Male Condoms
They've got a type for everyone, thin, lubricated, ribbed and more — whatever your personal preference. They're also for any type of intercourse, whether it's vaginal, anal or oral.
COST: Depends on your preference, but can be up to $15 for a pack. They are always free ones at the Fowler Kennedy Medical Clinic in the Student Centre as well
WHERE CAN YOU GET IT: Walmart, Shoppers, most stores carry them and you don't need to get them over-the-counter
PREVENTS: Pregnancy (when worn properly) and STIs (but NOT HPV or herpes)

IUD (Intrauterine Device)
There are two types of this T-shaped device: ParaGuard and Mirena. ParaGuard is wrapped in copper, which acts as spermicide and should not be used by anyone with an allergy to copper. Mirena releases synthetic progesterone in small amounts to decrease the bleeding and cramp pains some women with an IUD experience during their period. The IUD is inserted by a physician after an evaluation. IUD runs the risk of possibly falling out for women who have not had children.
COST: $200 to $400, plus the cost of the doctor inserting it and check-ups, but it is effective for several years
WHERE CAN YOU GET IT: Must have consultation with a physician
PREVENTS: Pregnancy but NOT STIs

Vaginal Ring
This soft, flexible ring is inserted into the vagina and releases estrogen and progestin for three weeks.
COST: About $30 to $35 a month
WHERE CAN YOU GET IT: Prescription required
PREVENTS: Pregnancy but NOT STIs

The Pill
If you can remember to take the pill every day around the same time (setting an alarm can help!), this might be the method for you. To get a prescription, you need to have an exam at the London Health Unit or your family doctor, and there you can discuss which brand is best for you.
COST: Depends on what type you get, but can range from $7 to $15 a pack at the London Health Unit. They come in 28-day packs or 21-day packs (you stop taking the pill for seven days for your period and start a new pack on day 28)
WHERE CAN YOU GET IT: Through your family doctor or the London Health Unit
PREVENTS: Pregnancy but NOT STIs, so use a condom if you're not sure about your partner's sexual history

Plan B (Morning After Pill)
These two pills are taken orally the day after you engage in unprotected sex, if the condom breaks or any other situation where there's a fear of possible pregnancy. Most effective 72 hours after intercourse.
COST: $40 but is covered under most health plans, public and private (but not covered by your student health plan)
WHERE CAN YOU GET IT: Over the counter - you don;t need a prescritpion
PREVENTS: Pregnancy, but NOT STIs. If you had sex without a condom, it is best to get checked for STIs in addition to acquiring Plan B

Depo Provera Shot (DMPA)
This shot, which must be injected by a physician every three months, injects progestin into the blood stream. It prevents ovulation, which means no babies.
You must schedule appointments so the shot is administered every 12 weeks. It's a good idea to also use a back-up method like a condom.
COST: Around $45 every three months
WHERE CAN YOU GET IT: Physician, after physical evaluation
PREVENTS: Pregnancy but NOT STIs

*Please note that most methods of contraception can be covered by your FSU Health Plan, but inquire first.
**Follow manufacturer's instructions closely and read all package inserts for warnings and cautions prior to use.