Contraception is a vital part of maintaining your sexual health. While it can be instrumental in helping to prevent unplanned pregnancies, it also plays a crucial role in the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

However, it’s important to note that not all forms of contraception provide protection against STIs. That’s why it’s essential to use the right type of contraception for your lifestyle and circumstances and to combine this with regular STI testing.

In this blog, we’ll review several different types of contraception you can use, how they help prevent STIs, how they can be used, and who should use them.

Are you worried about STIs? Get tested today.

Understanding STIs

STIs are infections that pass from one person to another through sexual and skin-to-skin contact. They can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites and can affect anyone who is sexually active, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.

STIs are transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Some STIs can also be transmitted through non-sexual means, such as touching or kissing, from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth or through sharing needles.

STIs can be passed on even if the infected person has no symptoms or does not know they have an infection.

The prevalence of STIs

STIs including HIV are a major health concern worldwide. The World Health Organization has noted a major rise in the number of STIs in recent years, with infections of multi-resistant Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, HIV, and Hepatitis presenting serious health challenges to individuals, families, and governments.

How do STIs relate to contraception?

Contraception, particularly barrier methods like condoms, can play a crucial role in preventing the transmission of STIs. They work by creating a physical barrier that stops the exchange of bodily fluids and prevents skin-to-skin contact, thereby reducing the risk of infection.

However, no contraception method is 100% effective, and some forms of contraception, like birth control pills, don’t offer any protection against STIs. That’s why it’s essential to use contraception correctly and consistently and to get tested regularly for STIs.

Barrier methods of contraception

One of the most effective ways to prevent STIs is through the use of barrier methods. These methods work by creating a physical barrier that prevents the exchange of bodily fluids during sexual activity, thereby reducing the risk of STI transmission.

Male condoms

Male condoms are the most common type of barrier contraception worn over the penis during sexual intercourse. They are designed to catch semen and prevent it from entering your partner’s body, thereby reducing the risk of STI transmission and unwanted pregnancies.

Condoms are suitable for all sexually active men and are highly effective when used correctly and consistently. However, even though they provide effective protection, condoms aren’t a guarantee that you won’t get an infection. You can wear a condom and still get an STI.

If you have anal sex, you can consider using condoms for anal sex which are thicker.

Female condoms

Female condoms, also known as internal condoms and femidoms, are worn inside the vagina to prevent semen from coming into contact with the vaginal walls.

Like male condoms, they provide a physical barrier that helps prevent the spread of STIs. Female condoms can be a good choice for women who want to take control of their sexual health.

Dental dams

Dental dams are thin, flexible pieces of latex used during oral sex to prevent direct mouth-to-genital or mouth-to-anus contact. This reduces the risk of transmitting STIs that can be passed through oral sex.

Dental dams can be used by anyone engaging in oral sex and are particularly recommended for use during oral-anal contact.

Finger cots

Finger cots, also known as finger condoms, are small, flexible tubes that fit over the fingers. They are used during sexual activity to prevent direct skin-to-skin or skin-to-fluid contact, reducing the risk of STI transmission during manual stimulation or when applying topical medication. They can be especially effective at preventing the transmission of Syphilis, HPV, or Herpes. In the case of Herpes, the virus can enter your body through cuts in the fingers, which can result in a condition called Herpetic Whitlow.

Anyone can use finger cots, and they are a good option for added protection during certain types of sexual activity.

Stay safe during your next sexual encounter.

Hormonal contraception

Hormonal methods of contraception are highly effective at preventing pregnancy, but it’s important to note that they don’t offer any protection against STIs.

Birth control pills

Birth control pills, also known as oral contraceptives or contraceptive pill, contain hormones that prevent ovulation and thicken cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching the egg. They are taken daily and are suitable for most healthy women, but they require consistent use to be effective.

Contraceptive patch

The contraceptive patch is a small, sticky patch that releases hormones into your body through the skin to prevent pregnancy. It’s worn on the skin and changed weekly for three weeks with a one-week break.

Vaginal ring

The vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring that’s inserted into the vagina once a month. It releases hormones that prevent ovulation. The ring is suitable for most women looking to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Injectable contraceptives

Injectable contraceptives are hormone injections that prevent ovulation, usually given every few months. This method is suitable for women who want long-term contraception and prefer not to take a pill daily.


Contraceptive implants are small, thin rods inserted under the upper arm’s skin. They release hormones that prevent ovulation and can provide up to three years of continuous pregnancy prevention.

Intrauterine devices (IUDs)

IUDs are small devices that are inserted into the uterus and offer long-term protection against pregnancy.

Hormonal IUSs (intrauterine system)

Hormonal IUSs, commonly called “hormonal coils”, release a small amount of progestogen into the womb. This hormone thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg, and it can also stop ovulation. Hormonal IUDs can prevent pregnancy for 5 to 10 years, depending on the type.

Copper IUDs

The copper IUD, commonly called a “copper coil”, is a non-hormonal form of contraception. It works by releasing copper into the womb, which creates an inflammatory reaction that is toxic to sperm. Copper IUDs can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years. They are easy to remove if you want to stop this method of contraception.

It’s important to note that IUDs are not suitable for everyone. Talk to your healthcare provider to find find out what product is right for you

Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception is a method of preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure (like a condom breaking). It’s not intended to be used as a regular form of contraception, but as a backup plan.

Morning-after pill

The morning-after pill, sometimes called the emergency contraceptive pill, is a type of emergency contraception that can be taken within 72 hours (three days) of unprotected sex. It contains a hormone called levonorgestrel that prevents or delays ovulation, thereby preventing fertilization. The sooner it’s taken after unprotected sex, the more effective it is.

Don’t leave it to chance – be prepared for the next time you have sex.

The importance of regular STI testing

While the correct and consistent use of barrier-method contraceptives can significantly reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), they are not a 100% guarantee. This is why regular STI testing is a crucial part of maintaining your sexual health.

Regular testing allows for early detection of STIs, many of which can be asymptomatic in the early stages. Early detection can lead to more effective treatment and can prevent long-term health complications. It also helps to prevent the further spread of STIs.

Final thoughts

At Better2Know, we’re committed to providing you with the knowledge, services, and support you need to make informed decisions about your sexual health.

Remember, it’s your health, and you have the power to protect it. Stay safe, stay informed, and take control of your sexual health today.

Get tested at home with our selection of Home Test Kits, or at a sexual health clinic near you.

Don’t know what to get tested for? Our Full Screen tests for the UK’s 7 most common STIs.

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