Sexuality is a normal part of life. Whether you are a young person just starting to experiment, an adult with an active sex life or somewhere in between, sexuality is inherent to human development and contributes to both our physical and psychological well-being.
But sexual activity goes hand in hand with sexual health. Having a healthy, satisfying sex life means being safe and responsible every time you engage in sexual intercourse.
Protection and contraception
Condoms are the only method of contraception to prevent both unintended pregnancies and reduce the risk of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) – but only if used correctly. They are affordable, easy to use and reliable (97 percent effective under perfect conditions). How do you use them? What can you do if it breaks? We have the answers here.
How to use a condom
Here are some tips on the effective use of condoms:
• Carry a condom with you at all times.
• Do not expose condoms to heat, cold, humidity or light in order to keep them from getting damaged.
• Check the expiry date before using them.
• Select the right size based on the width of the penis. If the condom is too tight, it may break; if it is too wide, it may slip off.
• Use silicon- or water-based lubricants, never those made with petroleum jelly or oil; these substances can compromise a latex condom’s effectiveness.
• Always put on a condom before any form of penetration.
Instructions before and after sexual intercourse:
• Carefully open the package. Do not tear it open with your teeth or nails as this could damage it.
• Determine which way the condom is rolled.
• Gently pinch the reservoir at the tip of the condom.
• Roll the condom all the way to the base of the penis. You must keep the condom on during the entire sexual act.
• After ejaculation, hold the bottom of the condom while withdrawing the penis.
• Remove the condom and discard it in the trash.
• Use a new condom every time you have sexual intercourse or if alternating between different types of sex during the same encounter (vaginal, oral, anal).
Condoms come in many different varieties: lubricated and non-lubricated; various sizes; latex or polyurethane; ultra-thin, ultra-sensitive, textured, ribbed, curved, etc. If you find it difficult to choose, ask your family pharmacist for help.
People with a latex allergy have the option of using polyurethane condoms, which offer the same protection against STBBIs as their latex counterpart. Note that natural membrane condoms (e.g. lambskin) will not protect you from hepatitis, herpes or HIV.
You should be protecting yourself from STBBIs during all types of sexual practices. This includes vaginal penetration, anal sex, fellatio and genital contact without penetration.
As for cunnilingus (stimulation of the clitoris with the tongue) and anilingus (stimulation of the anal area with the tongue), it is best to use a dental dam or square piece of latex made from a condom.
The female condom is a polyurethane sheath with a flexible ring at each end. It is worn internally by the woman during sexual intercourse. While it is more expensive than the male condom, it does have one advantage: it can be inserted into the vagina a few hours prior to sex. When used correctly, it is 95 percent effective and is the only woman-controlled method of contraception to protect from both unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Female condoms can also be purchased at the pharmacy.
What to do if the condom breaks
Did the condom break during intercourse? Did sperm spill from the condom after taking it off? This can lead to pregnancy if the woman is not using any other form of birth control (e.g., the pill). If a possible pregnancy is not a desired outcome, there are two types of emergency contraception that can be used: oral contraception (in pill form) or a copper IUD.
Your family pharmacist can prescribe* emergency oral contraception, known as the morning-after pill. Don’t wait before consulting your pharmacist, since the drug must be taken within 3 to 5 days of unprotected sexual intercourse. And the sooner you use it, the more effective it is.
According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), emergency oral contraception does not cause an abortion, since it works by blocking fertilization prior to implantation.
If it has it been more than 5 days, you can also use a copper IUD for up to 7 days after unprotected sex. Once inserted, it can be kept in as a regular method of birth control. You will need to speak to your doctor to get one.
Emergency contraception methods will prevent unintended pregnancies, but will not reduce the risk of acquiring an STBBI after unprotected sex or a sexual encounter involving a broken condom.
If you have had unprotected sexual intercourse, consult your family pharmacists as quickly as possible to discuss your options. Remember that they can prescribe* emergency contraception. Then, if you need a regular form of birth control, they can also prescribe* hormonal contraception (such as the pill) under certain conditions. A consultation will be required so the pharmacist can make sure you meet the prescribing criteria.
To avail yourself of this service, you may need to book an appointment with your family pharmacist. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more details. Some Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer an online appointment booking service. To locate the store nearest you providing this service, click here.