I spend a lot of time thinking about (and writing about) how important it is for young people to be empowered to make their own choices about which forms of protection and birth control they should be using. And while I am a big, big fan of condoms, since they protect against pregnancy and STIs, there may come a time when your sexual health choices could include the decision to stop using barrier protection. Which is why it's also really important to talk about how to know you’re ready to stop using condoms as well as how to do it as safely and responsibly as possible.
But before we get into how to stop using them, let's first talk about why you may not want to ditch them after all. According to Planned Parenthood, “Condoms and female condoms are the only methods of birth control that also help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Even if you’re already using a different kind of birth control to avoid pregnancy, it’s a good idea to also use condoms or female condoms every time you have sex to protect yourself from STDs.” But what are the odds that foregoing a condom would put you at risk of contracting an STI? Well, according to 2017 report by the CDC, “STDs in the U.S. [have reached] record highs,” with over 2.2 million total cases reported in 2017. The CDC adds that some groups are uniquely susceptible to the health consequences. “Chlamydia can cause lifelong damage to young women,” the CDC says. “Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD, with approximately 1.7 million cases reported in 2017.” What’s more, young women are uniquely susceptible to the health consequences of STIs. “[They] account for nearly half (45 percent) of reported cases and face the most severe consequences of an undiagnosed infection,” the CDC reports. “Untreated STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, put women at increased risk for pelvic inflammatory disease which may result in chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and potentially a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. It is estimated that undiagnosed STDs cause infertility in more than 20,000 women each year.” The CDC also reports that one in six people have herpes. Clearly this is not a decision to be taken lightly.
While reading those stats can be scary, part of being ready to stop using condoms is being well informed about the risks associated with not using them. To help you know if you’re really ready to stop using condoms, I reached out to Dr. Misty Smith, a licensed professional counselor. Here’s what she had to say.