The in and out of condoms

The in and out of condoms

Condoms, French Letter, Rubbers, Johnny’s, Prophylactic, Love Glove, Cock Sock, Cum Catcher. Whatever you call it is one of the oldest and yet still most popular forms of birth control in the world today.

Did you know that the oldest condoms ever excavated were found in a cesspit located in the grounds of Dudley Castle and were made from animal membrane, the condoms dated back to as early as 1642 however evidence of condoms being used as a form of birth control and STI protection date back to the early 1500’s and there is even some evidence of very early versions of them being used in ancient Greek, Egyptian and Roman civilizations.

More than 5 billion condoms are sold world wide each year and today it is International Condom Day so let’s talk about condoms.

Birth Control and STI protection

The origins of condoms definitely lay in their use as a birth control however there is evidence of them being used in the 1500 to try to combat the spread of Syphilis which has swept across Europe and Asia. However in more modern times they had largely been associated with birth control and until the invention of the female contraceptive pill in the 1960’s were really the only reliable and somewhat acceptable contraception available but then HIV and AIDS was discovered in the early 1980’s and condoms usage become not just about birth control but also about saving lives and the rate of condom usage in the developed world soared.

When it comes to preventing pregnancy when they are used properly and consistently they are 97 percent effective. Condoms that break or slip accounts for the remaining 3 percent. If you don’t use them consistently or correctly then their effectiveness falls to 86%. This means that 14 out of 100 couples using condoms will become pregnant each year.

When it comes to preventing sexually transmitted infections the figures on that are a bit less clear but we do know that when used properly they are hugely successful and preventing the spread of all sorts of infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and HIV. Which means that you should always be using a condom unless you are in a fluid bound relationship with a partner where you have both been tested and that neither of you is having sex with anyone else.

Picking A Condom

There are quite literally tons of different options available when it comes to condoms. You can buy ribbed, flavoured, glow in the dark, Extra Large. You get Latex, Polyurethane and animal membrane ones. You can buy ultra thin, second skin, sensitive. You can even get coloured ones. How on earth do you know what is the right one for you? The answer is that you need to try different ones and decide which one you and your partner(s) like the best.

Putting on a Condom

Condoms come wrapped in a square or round foil packet. make sure when you tear the packet open you don’t damage the condom also always makes sure that your condom is not past it’s use by date. If it is, throw it away and buy a new one. Never use an out of date condom.

Experts say you can put a condom on both a soft and hard penis but it is definitely easier to put them on if you are hard. If the man is uncircumcised pull back the foreskin before putting the condom on. Place the rolled condom over the tip of the erect penis. Leave a half-inch (1 cm) of space at the tip to collect semen. Pinch the air out of the tip with one hand while placing it on the penis. Unroll the condom over the penis with the other hand, rolling it all the way down to the base of the penis. Smooth out any air bubbles since they can cause condoms to break.

It is also important that you take off a condom correctly too.First of all the penis should be withdrawn from the body as soon after orgasm is possible and whilst the penis is still hard as that reduces the chances of leakage significantly. Also hold the condom at the base of the penis while pulling out to prevent it being left inside the body. Then remove it from the penis and tie a knot in it to stop it from leaking. Do not flush down the toilet but dispose of it in the bin.

If your condom breaks

Sometimes it happens, the condom splits or even comes off during sex. What you do when that happens really depends on your situation but it is vital that you tell your partner that it has happened so they can decide what precautions they want to take. If you/they are using some other form of birth control as well then pregnancy is not going to be your first worry. If they are not then you might want to think about taking a Morning After Pill. They can be purchased from most chemists in the UK.

When it comes to STI’s you should follow up with your doctor or local Sexual Health Clinic and get a full sexual health check up so you can make sure that you have not got any infections. The earlier most sexually transmitted infections are caught the easier they are too treat.

Use Lube

Did you know that a few drops of lube on the head of the penis before you roll the condom on will allow the inside of the condom to move around on the sensitive head of the penis much like foreskin does. It also helps with friction on the condom on this part of the penis and reduces the risk of the condom breaking. Don’t add too much though as you don’t want it to drip down the shaft of the penis and cause the condom to slip off. You want to the wetness to stay at the head of the condom.

You should also use lube to moisten the outside of the condom to reduce friction for your partner. This is particularly important when it comes to anal sex as unlike the vagina the rectum is not self lubricating but even for vaginal sex lube can help to reduce friction and not only make it feel better but also reduces the risk of tearing and breaking.

Where can I buy them?

You can buy condoms all over the place now. Supermarkets, chemists even your local corner shop but they are not the cheapest option. Our recommendation is to try Freedoms Shop who only sell online but are part of the NHS and therefore sell them a much cheaper price than anywhere else. They have a large selection of different kinds and they ship them off to you in discreet packaging.

But no matter which type you choose, or what reason you choose to use them always remember to wrap that rascal.

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NHS STI Banner for My trip to a sexual health clinic

My trip to the Sexual Health Clinic

So today. 14th January, is STIQ day. The Q stands for question and the idea behind the day is to encourage people to think about the sexual health and encourage people to get check-ups and ask questions about who they can better keep themselves safe and healthy whilst having an active sex life.

Sexually transmitted infections continue to be a major health risk for people and whilst the over all number of reported infections in 2018 fell the rates of Gonorrhoea (a 22% rise) and Syphilis (a 20% rise) have risen from the previous year and in March 2018, the first case of multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea was reported in the U.K. So now is as good a time as any to take a moment and think about your sexual health.

When was the last time you got tested?
Have you had sex with multiple partners since then?
Or maybe your partner has had sex with other people?
Maybe you and your partner have never been tested since you got together?

Unless you are absolutely sure you are in a fluid bound relationship with a single partner and have both been tested since starting that relationship or are not sexually active since your last test then you really should get yourself checked out. It can make all the difference when it comes to treatment as for many of these infections the earlier you catch them the easier it is to treat them and it can also give you peace of mind as hopefully you will discover that you are STI free.

Going for a check up can also give you an excellent opportunity to talk to a medical professional about how you can reduce your risks when it comes to STI’s but also a great time to talk about contraception and any other sexual related questions you might have. It might sound a bit daunting but it really is not, there are NHS STI clinics set up all around the UK that you can go to and they are friendly, welcoming and non-judgemental.

Don’t believe me? Then read about Monika’s recent experience of visiting her local Sexual Health Clinic.

For the past few months everywhere I looked on social media or in the news all I could see were big words shouting at me – Get Tested For STI! It just got stuck in my head and
I knew that I had to do something about it. So me being very curious and having a very deep desire to check my body I decided to actually go and get tested. I initially got an appointment by my GP  because I thought that was the best and easiest cause way but I was informed that I didn’t need to do that and the best way was to go to the NHS Sexual Health Clinic which I didn’t need an appointment for and they would see me. So I got the leaflet with the date and I was actually excited about finally going to do this.

I live in Leicester so it was easy to find the clinic where I supposed to have my tests done. The lady at the reception desk was really nice and I felt very comfortable the moment I arrived there. I didn’t have to wait too long so that was a bonus. In my head I had so many questions to ask, as I had few other intimate issues I wanted to solve. After few minutes of waiting I got invited into the room by a really nice lady. Firstly she got my details like name and address, do I have any kids and partner, when was the last time I had
intercourse when was my last period and what contraception do I use – none of the questions made me feel uncomfortable and she was really easy to talk to. I felt comfortable telling her that I didn’t currently use any birth control but I would like to change that and choose the right one for me. She explained to me all the options and I was happy to make another appointment to make it happen. What a relief!

Then it was a time to take the samples for the STI tests. It was a simple swab of my vagina. It took just a couple of minutes and was neither painful or uncomfortable. I was worried that the test would not happen because I was on my period but it didn’t matter. The test can still be done. First STI tests completed! While I’m here I might kill two birds with one stone and do a HIV test! I’ve never done before it so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I went to other room to see different lady who took a blood sample. I got informed that I have to wait 7 to 10 days for the result which was not a big deal at all.

I left the clinic with a peace of mind and a satisfaction that I have finally got tested. It was something that I always wanted to do but never made time for which was not a good thing at all. I really would recommend that you get tested for STI’s. It really was easy and has given me huge peace of mind. People at the clinic were nice and helpful they also answered some of the other questions I had about my body and contraception. It was absolutely worth doing. My advice would be don’t wait or keep putting it off like I did but make the time to do it and you will be happy that you did.

Monika

Sadly due to budget cuts in the NHS for some people their Sexual Health Clinic might be a significant distance away. If that happens to be the case for you then check out FreeTest and you might be eligible to have one sent to your home. Also Freedoms Shop who not only sell bargain packs of Condoms but also do a home HIV testing kit that you can order. m

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Play it safe

Sex with a partner can be a great thing, in fact it should be a pleasurable experience but it is hard to really enjoy it if you are worried about becoming pregnant or catching a sexually transmitted infection. There are lots of different types of options to pick from when it comes to contraception but only one of them is both a contraceptive and a protection against catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and that is condoms. Most STI’s are transmitted from person to person through unprotected sex or genital contact. Therefore only a barrier method of contraception can significantly reduce your risk of contracting something.

What is Safe Sex?

Safe sex is all about taking precautions and making sensible decisions to help reduce the risk to both you and your partner(s) of getting at STI. Most people assume that safe sex means just wearing a condom but actually good safe sex practises extend beyond just condom use.

Condom and dental dams

Clearly the key to safe sex is to take actual physical precautions when having sex with another person. Wearing condoms is a must for both vaginal and anal sex. Both male and female condoms provide protection and so it is up to you which one you want to use. However most people prefer male condoms for anal sex but make sure you use plenty of water based lube. This not only makes anal sex more comfortable but it also reduces the risk of the condom tearing and exposing you to potential infection risk.

However condoms alone are not enough. Many STI’s can be transmitted through oral sex and that is where dental dams come in. They are thin square pieces of latex that can be placed over the genitals, such as the vulva or anus to create a barrier between the person giving oral sex and the one receiving. Likewise when performing oral sex on a person with a penis a condom should be worn.

Regular testing

Getting regular STI tests is a vital part of safe sex. Taking precautions is obviously a key step but getting tested really helps to reduce the spread of infections. Many sexually transmitted infections have little or no symptoms and it is very easy to have contracted an infection and have no idea about it. Regular testing means that you are keeping a check on the situation and if you have contracted something then you can get the right treatment for both you and your(s) to stay healthy.

Low risk sexual activity

Another way to reduce your risk of contracting an STI is to engage in low risk sexual activities only.

Low risk  sexual activities include kissing, touching your partner’s genitals with your hands, using sex toys with a partner, dry humping (grinding) without clothes, and oral sex. But it is vital to remember that certain sexually transmitted infections can be contracted from oral sex and so using condoms and  dental dams to avoid contact with skin and fluids whenever possible.

There are a few totally risk-free ways to get share sexual pleasure with a partner(s) such as mutual masturbation (when you watch each other masturbating, and dry humping (grinding) with your clothes on. Of course not engaging in any sexual activity at all with another person will also work but for most humans this is just not a happy, healthy option and so learning about good safe sex practises is the best option so that you can have an enjoyable sex life.

 Talk to your partner

One of the key areas of safe sex is being able to talk to your partner(s) about the subject. Clearly this is not always easy and really depends on the type or longevity of a relationship. If it is a one night stand then the likelihood is you are not going to have a particularly in-depth talk about it, but that is the time that you should take all the physical precautions that you can and that does not mean you shouldn’t mention it at all. Far from it, stating clearly your safe sex practices and making sure a partner understand what that means for them before you both start taking your clothes off is really important.

If a relationship develops beyond that then there is more opportunity to discuss safe sex. It is a subject that many people find difficult to bring up but being able to have open and honest conversations about it with your partners is a vital step in being able to make sensible plans together for to keep everyone as healthy as possible.

Some tips for talking to your partner.

  1. Sit down and write a list of the things you want to discuss with them and have it close to hand during the discussion that way you won’t forget anything and you don’t have to memorise it all beforehand.
  2. Be open and honest. Tell them you want to discuss it because you like spending time with them and want to be able to share your thoughts with them on this subject.
  3. If you find it really difficult to do maybe try bringing up the subject in an email or text and hopefully that will be a stepping stone to an in person conversation.
  4. As well as being heard it is important to also listen. Try to create an environment where you both feel comfortable, confident and relaxed about sharing.

Ideally you want to work towards being tested together and sharing your results. If you are in an open relationship where one or both of you has other partners then you should be setting up a schedule to have this done regularly but if you are in a closed relationship then testing might be something you do less often.

What is fluid bound?

When a couple (it is usually couple but there is nothing to stop it being a three people or even more) decide to be in a closed relationship together. In other words they commit to only having sexual relationships with each other and no one else, if they all go and get tested at that point and the results are negative then they can decide to stop using barrier methods and they can be referred to as being fluid bound. As long as no one strays outside that bond and has sexual contact with anyone else then all the people within that bonded group can have risk free unprotected sex.

Getting Advice

If you have had unprotected sex, or been exposed to someone who has an STI then you seek medical help. There are lots of Sexual Health Clinics you can attend in the UK or even just go to your GP and discuss it with them.

In the USA depending if you have insurance you might be able to go to your GP but if you don’t have any insurance or not sure if your insurance covers it then your best bet is to go to your nearest Planned Parenthood center.

Getting advice is very important but if you think you might have an STI getting tested and finding out for sure is the key to your future health. If you want to know more about different types of infections, how they can be spread and the possible symptoms associated with them then check out this comprehensive guide. Many STI’s can be treated easily with medication and the earlier you catch them and the easier they are to treat and even those that can’t be cured can be well managed with medication but again, early diagnosis is vital, so be smart, use protection, get tested and encourage all your partners to do the same thing.

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