by Charlotte Wood
(last updated March 25, 2009)
When you talk about or research contraceptives, most of what you encounter or learn about is contraception for women. Contraception is often a blanket term for anything used to prevent pregnancy or fertilization as a result of sexual intercourse, and many don't often think of specific gender when they think of contraception. There are contraception methods for males and for females, each of which do a slightly different action. The more you understand about contraceptives, the more informed decisions you'll be able to make.
Most contraceptives actually are for women: the pill, intrauterine devices, diaphragms. The responsibility of preventing pregnancy often seems to fall more on the woman than it does on the man. This doesn't seem quite fair, because sex is most often a consensual activity, and therefore, both people involved should shoulder equal responsibility. Fortunately, men can take some responsibility for contraception: while their own methods are more limited than the methods available for women, it never hurts to use more than one form of protection.
The male contraceptives available are withdrawal, using a condom, and having a vasectomy. Withdrawal is pretty simple and has been use for centuries as one of the more primitive forms of birth control. The withdrawal method is actually pretty self explanatory: the male withdraws from the woman just prior to ejaculation. The idea behind this method is that if the male withdraws before ejaculation, then no semen enters the uterus and no sperm can fertilize an egg. The risks to this method are pretty easy to spot: it wouldn't be difficult to slip up when using this method of contraception. The man can either not withdraw in time or some semen could still get inside the vaginal tract.
Using a condom is the most common form of male contraception. A condom is a shield placed over the penis to prevent any semen from entering the uterus during intercourse. This is what most men use, and it should always be used as a part of safe sex. The last form of male contraception is getting a vasectomy. A vasectomy is a simple surgery that cuts the male reproductive parts that release the semen—it's essentially sterilization. Obviously, a vasectomy is a permanent form of contraception, so you and your partner will only want to go through with this option if you don't want anymore children.
So, while the current forms of male contraception are limited, they should still be used as much as they can. There are also other forms of male contraception currently being researched and tested, so perhaps within the next few years, the contraception world will have a few more birth control methods available to men. Until then, make sure that you take your part in the responsibility of having sex.
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