Sexual and Reproductive Health


The Brandeis Health Center offers a variety of services, including STI testing, emergency contraception, and routine screenings and preventive care.

You can also access sexual health services in Boston:

Safer Sex Practices

Like most things in life, sexual activity comes with some risks. The good news is that you can make educated decisions about which risks you're willing to take, and utilize safer sex practices like these to reduce those risks.

Using Contraception to Prevent Pregnancy

Contraception (often called "birth control") is a great option for those for whom unintended pregnancy is a risk. There are four primary kinds of birth control:

  1. Barrier methods such as condoms prevent sperm from meeting an egg by creating a physical, impenetrable barrier. Other barrier methods include the diaphragm and cervical cap.

  2. Hormonal methods such as the pill, ring, and some intrauterine devices (IUDs), prevent pregnancy by releasing hormones that prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs. Some people prefer this option because it may alleviate some menstrual symptoms.

  3. Non-hormonal IUDs are made of plastic and a small amount of natural, safe copper. The copper interferes with sperm movement, egg fertilization, and possibly prevents egg implantation in the uterine wall. Some people prefer this option because it does not affect their menstrual cycle.

  4. Spermicide can be a cream, foam, film or gel that immobilizes sperm. The chemical in spermicide can cause skin irritation and micro-tears in tissue that make it easier for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to pass through.

  5. Emergency contraception (EC) can be used after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. If someone is already pregnant, EC will not end the pregnancy. EC is available at the Health Center and at local pharmacies. Visit the Health Center website to learn more about accessing EC.

Each form of contraception has different levels of efficacy, as well as different side effects. Visit to explore and compare methods and decide which might be best for you. You can also make an appointment at Health Services to explore options with a medical provider.

Using Barrier Methods to Prevent STIs

STIs are very common and can be transmitted in three ways.

  • Seminal and vaginal fluids: Most STIs are transmitted through contact of seminal and vaginal fluids with the semi-permeable tissues found in the genitals, anus and mouth.

  • Skin to skin: Some STIs, including Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), can be transmitted through skin to skin contact. The risk of transmission is higher if someone is currently experiencing an outbreak, but can still be passed when there are no symptoms.

  • Blood: The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can be transmitted through blood exposure. 

Barrier methods, listed below, are one of the most popular and effective ways to prevent the transmission of STIs. 

  • External/male condoms are worn on the exterior of the penis or can also be used on toys. They are commonly made of latex, but can also be made of latex-free materials.

  • Internal/female condoms are worn on the interior of the vagina. There is a plastic ring that assists with insertion. With the ring removed, these condoms can also be used for anal sex. These condoms are non-latex.

  • Dental dams are small sheets of latex or non-latex plastic that is used to cover the vagina or anus during oral sex.

  • Gloves made of latex or other non-latex plastics are used to cover the hands during sexual activity. This can be helpful if someone has cuts on their hands or fingers, and also to protect against sharp fingernails.

Lubrication is important when using barrier methods. Too much friction can result in breakage, and can also cause discomfort. There are three primary kinds of lube:

  • Water-based lube is safe to use with latex, silicone and other plastics. These lubes are reabsorbed into the body, and can be reactivated by adding water.

  • Silicone-based lube is safe to use with latex, but should not be used on silicone sex toys. Silicone lube is longer-lasting because it is not reabsorbed into the body.

  • Oil-based lube is not safe to use with most condoms because it breaks down latex. For this reason, oil-based lubes are not generally recommended.

Accessing Safer Sex Products

Latex external/male condoms are available for free in the Health Center waiting room.

Additionally, a wide variety of barrier methods and lubes are available through the Student Sexuality Information Service (SSIS) for a small fee. SSIS is a student-run peer education and support organization and is located on the third floor of the Shapiro Campus Center.

Sexual Health Resources

  • American Sexual Health Association (ASHA): a rich web resource for information about various sexual health topics, including communication with partners about sex and safety

  • Bedsider: information about birth control methods and how to access them

  • Planned Parenthood: information about a variety of sexual and reproductive health topics

  • ASHA's Inspire Community: online discussion and support groups for people with STIs

  • Scarleteen: a wealth of information and essays about sex and sexuality for young adults