Birth control or contraception when travelling abroad

When travelling abroad, ensuring you have adequate contraception is perhaps one of the most important, not to mention responsible, steps you can take.

Condoms are the most practical and readily available contraceptive that, when used correctly, are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy and reducing the risk of catching sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Where to buy

Condoms can be easily purchased at most supermarkets and pharmacies and are usually freely available from sexual health clinics and GP surgeries too. They can also be bought from vending machines installed in many public toilets but it is important to check these condoms for a use-by date and signs of heat damage as they may not have been changed for some time. It’s also worth noting that your bag, wallet and pocket can easily get hot enough to damage condoms so always be sure to buy new if you are at all in doubt.

Staying safe

A condom should be worn whenever a man inserts his penis into any orifice of another person if there is even the slightest risk that either may be carrying an STI. STIs can be transferred orally, vaginally and anally so a condom should be properly put on before there is any contact, promptly disposed of as soon after ejaculation as possible and not used more than once. Whilst most condoms are made of thin yet durable latex rubber, some people, including men and women, can be allergic to latex and there are polyurethane and polyisoprene alternatives that carry a much lower risk of allergic reaction.

Something many people don’t know is that oil-based lubricants like petroleum jelly, massage oils and body lotions can affect the strength of condoms and cause them to leak or break so, if you are using lubricants, check they are water-based before applying. Contrary to some beliefs, it is just as possible for lesbian and bisexual women to catch STIs from other women and there are appropriate methods of contraception available to them, such as female condoms and dental dams, although they should not be used together or in conjunction with male condoms as latex friction can cause the material to tear.

Contraceptive pills

Whilst the contraceptive pill can be 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, it does not protect against STIs, so a condom must still be worn with unfamiliar sexual partners. The process of taking the pill can be difficult, especially when dealing with the unpredictability of travelling. The pill should be taken at the same time for 21 days, with a seven-day gap during which a period-like bleed will occur before starting the 21-day cycle again. If the pill is not taken at the same time every day, is not taken at all or you are unwell with vomiting or diarrhea, its contraceptive effect will be significantly decreased and unwanted pregnancy may occur. It is important to note that a doctor’s prescription is commonly necessary to acquire more contraceptive pills and that whilst they are free of charge in the UK, this may not be the case abroad.

Regular sexual health check-ups are always a good idea, especially before travelling, but if you need advice whilst abroad don’t hesitate to contact TripMedic who will arrange a consultation with a medical practitioner in your own language.

information verified by TripMedic