Women's Health Friday January 2, 2015

7 Contraception Myths, Busted

There is so much information about contraception out there, for example from charities such as the FPA and Brook, but unfortunately myths and misinterpretations still abound when it comes to sexual health.

In this blog we look at some of the most common misunderstandings about the various contraceptive methods. Read on to find out which of the following are actually not true!

Are two condoms better than one?

No. One condom is sufficient to protect you from both pregnancy and STIs, being 98% effective when used correctly. However, if you try to wear two at once, this is not using them correctly and they will actually offer less protection. The friction between the two condoms can weaken the material, causing them both to break.

Is the withdrawal method safe?

The withdrawal method, or ‘pulling out’, is not considered a true form of contraception by most experts because it is very difficult to use correctly. If you are trying to avoid pregnancy and there are no other options available to you, it is better than doing nothing. Planned Parenthood states that, when used correctly, 4 out 100 women using the withdrawal method will become pregnant. However, in reality, many more are likely to experience an ‘accident’ due to not pulling out in time. In addition, if the man ejaculates outside the vagina this does not guarantee no sperm will be able to enter, as there could be traces of semen on your hands or genitals.

Can you get pregnant during your period?

Yes you can. In most cases, women ovulate around halfway through their cycle (approx. day 14) while your period is counted as day 1 of your menstrual cycle. Therefore it is less likely that you will become pregnant at this time than mid-cycle but certainly not impossible. One reason for this that sperm can survive inside a woman’s body for up to 7 days, so they may still be there ‘waiting’ for the egg when you ovulate.

Does breastfeeding prevent pregnancy?

This is a myth, and probably responsible for many unplanned pregnancies! It is true that breastfeeding exclusively does suppress the hormones that make you ovulate, so your fertility may well decrease, however this is not guaranteed. This applies even if your periods have not yet returned, as you will ovulate before your period, so can’t be sure if your fertility has returned.

Does the pill start working right away?

This depends at what point in your menstrual cycle you start taking it. Most women can start taking the pill at any point, but you may need to use additional contraception, such as condoms, until you have been taking the pill for seven days, or even until you have had one complete menstrual cycle.

If you start taking the pill on day 1 of your cycle (the first day of your period) it will be effective right away.

Are newer forms of contraception less safe than the old ones?

No, in fact the opposite is generally true, as newer versions of the pill, referred to as 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation, usually contain a lower dose of hormones than first generation pills. Therefore the risk of side effects is lower.

Does the ‘morning after pill’ have to be taken the morning after?

Despite the commonly given name, no it doesn’t. There are actually three types of emergency contraception, none of which have to be used within 24 hours of intercourse. Levonelle is up to 95 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and can be taken up to three days after unprotected sex, although it is more likely to work the sooner you take it. ellaOne is effective up to five days after sex, as is the emergency IUD (intrauterine device).

For more about contraceptives, you can visit our information page.

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