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Birth Control Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating the world of birth control and pregnancy prevention can be a fairly complicated endeavor. Here, we’ll aim to answer some popular questions about birth control, some different birth control methods, and other topics related to pregnancy prevention so you can make informed decisions about your sexual health and family planning.

What are the advantages of birth control?

First off, it stops you from getting pregnant. If pregnancy is something you are trying to avoid, utilizing good birth control is highly recommended. Other advantages (depending on the type of birth control you use) may include less frequent and lighter periods, reduction of PMS symptoms, and in the case of condoms, STD transmission prevention.

What birth control method is most effective?

In finding which birth control method is right for you, you are going to want to do some research as you have many different options. If you are looking for the most iron clad way to prevent pregnancy, it is recommended that you use a highly effective means of birth control (eg. IUD, birth control pill, ring), in addition to condoms. This gives you two great lines of defense against unwanted pregnancy and protects you against STD transmission as an added bonus.

Aside from condoms, what methods of birth control protect against STDs?

Zero. Condoms are the only method of birth control which decreases the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Many STDs are transmitted through direct skin to skin contact, and condoms are the only method of pregnancy prevention which protects against this.

Do any methods of birth control cause infertility?

No. Unless you consider sterilization a form of birth control, no form of birth control will cause permanent infertility. They are purely temporary and fertility should return when their use is discontinued. You may have heard of a specific brand of IUD sold in the 1970’s which inadvertently caused infection and infertility, but it is no longer available.

Is the pull-out method an effective form of birth control?

That depends on your definition of effective. If used properly, it can greatly reduce the chances of pregnancy, but for some couples, it can be very hard to use properly. Assuming consistently perfect technique, the pull out method will result in pregnancy for 4 out of 100 women over the course of the year. This number jumps to 27 out of 100 women if the technique is sometimes poorly employed.

Can I take birth control after I have already had unprotected sex?

Yes, depending on how much time has passed after you have had sex. Something called emergency contraception (popularly known as Plan B or the Morning After pill), can be used to prevent pregnancy up to five days after the unprotected sex occurred. Note that the efficacy of this pill diminishes with each hour after intercourse takes place. So if you are worried about becoming pregnant, it is best to get it sooner than later.

What is the cheapest form of birth control?

While some forms of birth control, such as the pull out method or outercourse, can technically be considered free, their effectiveness is the subject of some debate. Considering the fact that a pregnancy is much more expensive than any form of birth control, it is important to take that into consideration when devising your birth control strategy.

Do couples, of which one or more people are transgender, need to use birth control?

Pregnancy can take place involving trans people provided there are male and female reproductive systems interacting with one another. So, if the goal is to not get pregnant, and vaginal intercourse takes place between those with male and female reproductive systems, a method of birth control is recommended.

Do birth control pills cause weight gain?

No. Research shows that generally, birth control does not cause weight gain. However, the birth control shot has been seen to cause weight gain in some women.

Do birth control pills need to be taken at the same time every day?

This depends on if you are using combination progestin and estrogen pills or just progestin pills. While progestin-only pills need to be taken at around the same time every 24 hours to remain effective, the combination pills can be taken with a little more flexibility (perhaps 3 hours after the usual time).

What is the best course of action after breaking or losing a condom during intercourse?

Of course, you should attempt to remove the condom from the vagina, you should be able to do this with your fingers. What you decide to do next may depend on whether or not ejaculation occurred inside the vagina after the condom broke. If ejaculation took place and your main goal is to prevent pregnancy, the best option may be to obtain emergency contraception (ie. the Plan B pill or the Morning After pill), as soon as possible in order to ensure pregnancy does not take place. If no ejaculation occurred, the chances of pregnancy are the same as that of successful use of the pull-out method (4% over the course of a year), which is a relatively low.

Of course, once a condom breaks or comes off, both users are left at risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, it is important for such people to pay close attention to any changes which may take place and to be open about any infections they are aware of, before and after the sex act.

Can a man feel an IUD during sex?

No. At least not to any extent that it will cause distraction or discomfort provided it has been inserted properly. The only part of the IUD which runs into the vagina and may make contact with the penis are the strings which can be tucked away behind the cervix and should nevertheless be soft enough to not cause any discomfort. If the male partner is feeling discomfort (presumably from the IUD), a health care provider should be consulted in order to ensure that it has been placed properly.

Can you get pregnant while on your period?

While it is less likely than at any other time, yes, it is still possible to become pregnant while menstruating. This is because sperm can remain alive inside the female body for as much as 5 days before impregnation. In addition, a woman may think she is on her period when she isn’t. This is why having intercourse while on one’s period is not a recommended means of pregnancy prevention.

How soon can you find out if you are pregnant after having sex?

First, if you are worried that your latest sexual interaction may have resulted in pregnancy and you don’t want to be pregnant, don’t wait to take a pregnancy test. Get emergency contraception (plan b pill), which can be effective up to 5 days after intercourse.

Now to answer the question, this can depend on the method of pregnancy detection. Some pregnancy tests can detect pregnancy after a woman misses her period, some before. It is important to note that pregnancy can take place days or weeks after intercourse.

Is it safe to start a new pack of birth control pills in order to skip a period?

Yes. Many women do this. In fact, some brands of birth control pill do this by design. One type of pill called Seasonale yields 4 periods per year and another, Lybrel, stops them completely.