If you have a vagina and you're having sex with someone who can get you pregnant, you've probably weighed pros and cons of all the different contraceptive methods. But you still might be wondering: Do you need condoms if you’re on hormonal birth control? Considering that, according to Planned Parenthood, condoms are 85 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, they shouldn't be your only resource. Using an additional form of birth control can give you extra peace of mind: the Pill is 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy if taken perfectly (or 91 percent or less if taken on a less than perfect schedule), an IUD is 99 percent effective, and a vaginal ring is 91 percent effective.
The risk of STIs also something you should keep in mind. Although having the STI talk with your partner may feel awkward — especially if you just started hooking up with them — it's a critical convo to have. The conversation shouldn't just cover your partner's sexual past, but also their sexual present. Dr. Adeeti Gupta, gynecologist and founder of Walk In GYN Care, says, "You still can get STDs, even if you are on hormonal birth control." This is where condoms come in.
Condoms are a prime addition to your contraceptive arsenal because they do double the work. Dr. Laura Alsina-Sanchez, an OB-GYN at Partners in Women's Health, recommends "consistent use of condoms and reliable hormonal birth control" together. "Condoms should be used to prevent STIs, as hormonal birth control does not protect against STIs," Alsina-Sanchez emphasized to Elite Daily.
Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women's health expert, and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period., echoes this. "Condoms are the best way to help prevent sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and HIV infections," Ross says. Ross urges condom use for vaginal, anal, and oral sex — no exceptions. "And if there isn’t a dental dam in grabbing distance, plastic wrap or a cut condom will do the trick."
Ross also points to human papillomavirus (HPV), HPV-related cervical cancer, and herpes simplex virus (HSV) as ailments — contracted typically through sexual, skin-to-skin contact — that condoms can reduce your risk of contracting. "Most people don’t know they carry HPV or aware they have an early HSV outbreak on their genitals. Using a condom and religiously practicing safe sex will help prevent you from being exposure to these contagious viruses," Ross urges.
Condoms should always be used for penetration, even when it doesn't involve a penis. "Sex toys can sometimes be associated with a vaginal infection called BV, bacterial vaginosis," Gupta explains. "So, even if you clean the toys properly, we still recommend using condoms to keep things safe — especially if you are sharing sex toys."
Ross is in agreement, particularly when you and your partner are sharing toys. "If you are going anally to vaginally, using a toy or not: Make sure you use condoms. Bacteria from the anus should never be transferred to the vagina since that increases the risk of infection." Ross adds that chlamydia and HPV can be found on sex toys, so again, cleaning wouldn't hurt.
If you or your partner are sexually active with multiple people, it's high time to stock up on condoms, even if you're taking hormonal birth control. You'll be happier, healthier, and safer for it!