Dear Dr. Kate,
My boyfriend and I have been together for six months now, and we are thinking of becoming sexually active. But we are concerned about an unwanted pregnancy. I am currently taking oral birth control. I was wondering if there is a male contraceptive besides condoms? I am allergic to latex, therefore I can’t use condoms. Are there any latex-free condoms? A friend of mine once told me he was on a shot to prevent pregnancy — is there such thing, and if there is, what are some of the possible side-effects?
First, yay for thinking about birth control before you have sex! And using two forms of contraception will make your chances of pregnancy even smaller. Unfortunately, there is no reliable, reversible male contraceptive besides condoms. (I don’t think withdrawal, or pulling out, is effective enough to talk about here.)
There are many reasons why we don’t have a good hormonal method for men yet, though recent studies show a lot of promise. There are shots and pills for men that are not available in the U.S., but to the best of my knowledge, these methods either aren’t effective, aren’t safe (for him), or both. Not safe, because they contain extremely high doses of hormones that have not been extensively studied and could put him at risk of cancer.
But the good news is that there are latex-free condoms available, like Avanti Bare by Durex, and you can buy them in major drug stores or online. Most non-latex condoms used to be made from polyurethane — like Trojan’s Supra condoms. But polyisoprene condoms are becoming more and more common — that’s what the new version of Durex’s Avanti condoms and Lifestyles’ Skyn condoms are made from. According to GoodVibes, if you found that polyurethane wasn’t elastic enough for you, then the new polyisoprene is your answer. The only difference is that — just as with latex condoms — you can’t use oil-based lubes with polyisoprene condoms (whereas you can use oil-based lubes with polyurethane condoms, like Trojan Supra).
And you should definitely stay away from condoms made from natural materials like lambskin — they’re more porous than polyurethane and polyisoprene, so are less likely to prevent passage of microbes or sperm.
P.S. from Em & Lo: If this “friend” of yours who claims to have had the shot lives here in the U.S., then we’d think twice before buying any swampland in Florida from him. And we’d definitely think more than twice before sleeping with him — that’s the kind of guy who’ll lie about STDs, too! Boinker beware.
Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.