Contraception in the time of COVID-19
We’re living in very unusual times. The world is in COVID-19 lockdown, and most people are experiencing big changes in their daily lives. It’s too soon to tell if, with people stuck at home, there has been an increase in sexual activity. People are stressed with caring for their families and reading too much news, so it’s understandable if all everyone wants to do is just cuddle and eat junk food. But we’re also seeing early reports in spikes in emergency contraception (EC) use in the UK.
It is clear that couples continue having sex, that is why WHO has put online a guide in which recognizes that all contraceptive methods are effective and provide alternatives for those people who cannot access a clinic or health provider.
We are here to help you stay protected so you can enjoy a time with your partner without fear of a #coronababy.
Can I get COVID-19 from sex?
COVID-19 is transmitted when sneezing, coughing, and expelling fluids through our nose or mouth. It has also been identified in stool. And it’s still unknown whether if it can be transmitted through vaginal secretions or ejaculation.
First things first. If your partner has COVID-19 symptoms, stay away! Wait until they fully recover before having sex.
If you and your partner are both in lockdown together, then chances of COVID-19 transmission are low (preliminary data from WHO says that the risk is between 3-10%).
Contraceptive options for people without COVID-19
How can we protect ourselves during a lockdown?
If you have the option of being able to access a health provider, your best alternative it’s a long-term method such as IUDs (hormonal and non-hormonal) and the implant. Both options protect you for at least 3 years.
Otherwise here’s a list of contraceptive methods that you can use in this quarantine without needing to go to a hospital.
Back to the basics, the female and male condom.
The male condom is the world’s most widely used contraceptive method. Found in supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores. Where possible, buy the multi-pack box to so you don’t need to take multiple trips!
The female condom is as effective as male condom. Because of its moist texture it feels more natural, the outer ring adds stimulation for some women. Some men prefer this contraceptive because it doesn’t dull the sensation of sex.
Classic and efficient: Contraceptive pills (COCs & POPs)
Take it once a day, at the same time every day. There are many different formulations of pills available. Most countries allow you to get them without a prescription, so plan to buy a few months’ supply before heading into quarantine.
Put a ring in it!
The vaginal ring is a small, bendable insert that stays in your vagina. You leave it in for three weeks at a time and take it out for the fourth week. For the next month, you then use a new ring. If you wish to get pregnant you can stop using it, fertility will return immediately.
One single purchase, use it more than once
There are other methods that as a great advantage offer the possibility that once purchased they can be used on more than one occasion, learn more:
• Diaphragm: Dome-shaped cup made of silicone. You insert the diaphragm into your vagina. It covers your cervix and keeps sperm out of your uterus. You need to use it with spermicide for it to work effectively.
• Cervical Cap: A soft, deep, latex or plastic cup that covers your cervix. Smaller than the diaphgram. Effectiveness of this method is 74%, but higher if used in combination with a spermicide. Insert the cervical cap any time up to 48 hours before having sex, remove it at least 6 hours after your partner’s last ejaculation.
• Sponge: round piece of white plastic foam. It has a dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top. It is 5 cm across, and you insert it into your vagina before you have sex. The sponge works in two ways: it keeps sperm from getting into your uterus by blocking your cervix, and also continuously releases spermicide.
A note on spermicides. Spermicides come in different forms like foams, gels or suppositories. While its not the most effective form of contraception, it works best in combination with another barrier method like the diaphragm or cervical cap.
What if I can’t find any method around?
If it is not possible to go to the pharmacy or none of the previous methods have been of interest to you, there are still options to keep protected.
Fertility awareness: There are many ways to use fertility awareness and it’s the most natural form of family planning. You need to keep track of your cycle to determine the days when you can get pregnant, but it isn’t easy!
Withdrawal: One of the oldest forms of contraception. It is very simple – the man pulls out of the woman before he ejaculates. With this method, you need to do it right every single time.
Not right now: Abstaining from sex is obviously a very effective method – however, it may be extremely difficult to use.
and, what if I already had sex with no protection?
Emergency Contraception (EC) can stop a pregnancy before it starts. Depending on where you live you may have multiple types of EC to choose from. Most types work up to 5 days (or 120 hours) after unprotected sex, and the sooner you use it, the more effective it will be.
EC can be found in most of pharmacies and drugstores worldwide, countries as Ghana and Liberia have published their coverage will remain the same during the coming weeks to stay protected. For more information, visit Lydia Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Or, call Lydia Hotline:
- Ghana: 1221
- Sierra Leone: 1221
- Liberia: 5585
Also, Lydia has a WhatsApp, you can just send a text to 0501661660 and find ECP.
As you can see there are plenty of alternatives to keep you safe from pregnancies and STIs in these social distancing days.
If you are going through this isolation alone or cannot have sex with your partner, you have another great option: masturbation. Release the stress caused by this situation with the safest partner – yourself.
Cecilia is passionate for sexual and reproductive rights, Program Manager for Find My Method.
- What you need to know about sex and COVID-19, IPPF, March 2020, https://www.ippf.org/blogs/what-you-need-know-about-sex-and-covid-19
- Contraception/Family planning and COVID-19, WHO, APril 2020, https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/contraception-family-planning-and-covid-19
- Sales of emergency contraception increase by 122% in a month as couples spend more time together at home during lockdown, Daily Mail, April 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-8196309/Sales-emergency-contraception-122-month.html
- Can I have sex? A guide to intimacy during the coronavirus outbreak, The Guardian, Apirl 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/apr/05/can-i-have-sex-a-guide-to-intimacy-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak
- Sex and CoronavirusDisease 2019 (COVID-19), NYC Health Department, https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/imm/covid-sex-guidance.pdf