Mom, Dad, Grandma, all family members… how bout you do yourself a favour and just skip over this post. Hit the delete button in your inbox, or click that X at the top corner of your browser.
You probably don’t want to read this.
For all of my other readers, now that that is out of the way, let’s get down to business.
The bow-chicka-wow-wow kind.
Travel and sex go hand in hand. You would be hard pressed to find any traveler who hasn’t had some sort of sexual encounters at some point during their travels. But just because we’re getting caught up in the heat of the moment and hooking up, doesn’t mean we have to be completely reckless about it. And trust me, there’s nothing worse than a little souvenir from your travels that arrives kicking and screaming 9 months later. I’m talking about travel and contraceptives here.
We’ve heard it all before – practice safe sex, protect yourself and your partner(s), and try to avoid any unwanted pregnancies. Common sense, right? But when it comes down to the nitty gritty of travel and contraceptives, do you know your options? In the heat of the moment, will you be protected? Here are your options:
Let’s be real here- we’re talking about travel and contraceptives… if you’ve already decided you’re going to abstain from having sex (for whatever the reason may be – maybe you have a partner at home, maybe you have religious reasons, maybe you’re a virgin, or maybe you’re just too darn scared of anything those yucky backpackers may be carrying) you’re already steps ahead – and may I even say, have way more willpower than I do. Kudos to you.
Probably the most popular and easiest option – condoms not only protect you from unwanted pregnancies, but from nasty STIs that could be floating around. They are small and compact, and both male and female parties can be proactive and have condoms on hand – just in case. No matter what contraceptive option you choose to protect you against unwanted pregnancies – you should still always rely on condoms to protect you against HIV and other STIs – especially if you are having sex with people you may not know too well (or at all).
I used to be a long-time user and advocate for The Pill, I started using it for medical reasons around the age of 17. I religiously took the pill up until I was 23, then after my big breakup, I went off of it for a year. Before heading off on my last RTW trip I made sure to get a prescription for my birth control pills but a problem I did encounter was with my drug plan not allowing me to bring more than 3months of pills at a time. I had to get my mom to send me new packs of pills through the post every couple months – which was fine when I was living in Sydney, Australia and New Zealand – but if I were to travel to less accessible places –such as Africa or South East Asia, I wouldn’t be trusting the postal system to deliver my contraceptives through the mail. The thing about the pill, is that to get total efficacy you must take them at exactly the same time, every single day – and to be honest, I was always really bad about it. But if you can stick to the schedule, then they may be a good option to prevent unwanted pregnancies. NOTE: They do NOT protect against STIs.
The Shot (Depo-Provera)
Depo-Provera is a hormone injection that prevents pregnancy for up to three months. This may be a viable option for those who are not long-term travellers. Long-term travellers may have issues with finding a doctor while travelling that would be able to prescribe and administer the shot. Unlike the pill – it is a single shot that lasts for three months so even the most forgetful girls can benefit from the simplicity of this option. I haven’t used this particular form of contraceptive but have heard good things from friends who have but keep in mind there is no protection against STIs.
If you’re looking for a long-term travel and contraceptives solution, the implant may be a good option. The implant – sold in North America as Nexplanon – is a small plastic rod (about the size of a matchstick), which contains progesterone hormones. The implant is inserted into the patient’s upper arm, just under the skin and it can be left in for up to 3 years. Removal of the implant is just as easy as insertion – a small incision is made and the rod is easily pulled out. This may be a great long-term option for birth control – but it doesn’t protect against STIs.
After returning home from my RTW trip, I decided to look into getting an IUD (inter-uterine device) as a long-term contraception option. There are two types, the Mirena (with hormones) and the traditional copper IUD (no hormones). Each has their own set of pros and cons, I eventually settled with the Mirena as it can lighten periods (sometimes people report that their periods even go away completely) and for other more technical aspects of the Mirena. Since the IUD stays in you for up to 5 years, you don’t have to worry too much about the possibility of getting pregnant – since the only thing more effective is having your tubes tied. For long-term travellers, this seems like the best option, which is why I decided to go with it. Again, this form of birth control does not protect you against STIs – something to keep in mind.
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Ultimately, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you’re keeping safe – as you should be doing in all aspects of your travel. Don’t take unnecessary risks and protect yourself by being prepared for those unexpected moments.