From the moment most women become sexually active, birth control instantly becomes a part of our lives — ready or not. But how many of us consulted a doctor prior to deciding we'd try out condoms and see how they worked? And, for those of us who were prescribed a birth control pill, did a thorough explanation of exactly how they worked and didn't work come along with your consultation? If it did, call up your doc and thank her now — then kindly pass along her number because she's a gem.
A great many of us have been sliding by all of these years, using birth control to protect ourselves from unwanted pregnancies without, perhaps, knowing everything we should about our preferred method. As a result, medical experts say a lot of us continue to make common birth control mistakes or have our facts all wrong. Here are seven common errors lots of women make when it comes to birth control.
Few things can create confusion and hysteria like forgetting to take your birth control pill because you were too busy with life to remember. Making matters worse: You'll call up your eight closest friends and no two will have the same advice, leaving you to wonder whether you should just flush all of your pills down the toilet and start over next month (please don't do that).
Dr. Draion M. Burch, DO, an official sexual health and wellness advisor for Astroglide, says protection from pregnancy occurs after five days of oral contraception use, meaning you must use a barrier method (condoms) for backup — something he says we should be doing anyway (you might as well add that one to the list of things lots of us did not know). "If you miss one pill, take the missed pill ASAP, then the next pill dose as usual," Burch says. "If you miss two pills during the first two weeks, take two pills ASAP, then two pills the next day, then back to your usual dose; you have to use condoms for a month as backup. If you miss two pills during the third week or three pills anytime, just start a new pack and use condoms for seven days. Ladies: Just set your alarm to remind you to take your birth control pill. That's an easier fix."
IUDs are considered the most reliable and effective birth control. Intrauterine devices seem like such a commitment, which is probably why they scare off so many women. But facts are facts: They have an over 99 percent rate of efficacy, says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, and are used world-wide at high rates, but are only used by 5.2 percent of women of reproductive age in the United States. Like birth control pills, hormonal IUDs can even make periods lighter and less painful and can help manage and prevent hormonal acne.
The copper IUD (Paragard brand) can stay in place for 10 years and does not provide any hormones to the body, Shainhouse says. "The copper ions in the IUD prevent sperm from moving, they inhibit the activation of enzymes needed for sperm survival and ultimately prevent egg fertilization," Shainhouse says.
Many women refuse to take birth control pills or use an IUD because they worry they don't be able to get pregnant right away, should they choose to stop using these methods. But that isn't the case with an IUD. "Once removed, a women of reproductive age should have no contraception-related difficulty getting pregnant beginning at her next ovulation cycle," Shainhouse says. She adds that IUDs are safe for use in adolescents, women who have never been pregnant, in women who have just given birth, who have just had an abortion, who have a history of STDs or pelvic inflammatory disease and in women who have had ectopic pregnancies. Women who have a personal history of breast cancer are advised not to use hormonal IUDs, Shainhouse says, but can safely use copper ones.
Healthcare Advocate Michelle Katz, LPN, MSN, says a major complaint she often hears from women is that they don't understand how they got pregnant when they were taking birth control pills. But BC pills aren't all that different from oral medications — what you take in conjunction with them can affect their efficacy. "When I do some investigation I find that they were on some sort of antibiotic such as rifampin," Katz says. "Others that affect the pill are anticonvulsants, some oral yeast infection drugs, St. John's wort and other supplements, some HIV drugs. Other mistakes are being on the wrong birth control pill. The patient need to communicate with the OB-GYN about what other drugs and supplements they are on."
With so many great water-based lubricants on the market, is there really any reason to even use oil-based lubes with condoms? For the record, Katz confirms that baby oil, petroleum and hand lotions (seriously, guys?) weaken latex condoms and can cause them to break. Basically, your worst sex nightmare could come to life and it's one that could have been prevented with a little planning and a tube of Astroglide.
File this one under: things you heard when you were a teen that you thought adults were making up to scare you to death. But it's totally true: Jessica Setnick, MS, RD, CEDRD and senior fellow at Remudo Ranch, says women often think if they aren't having a monthly period they're infertile. Your menstrual cycle might be off because of factors like stress, illness and weight gain, but that makes it only more difficult to tell when you're able to conceive. "Many times I have seen a woman (or teen) become pregnant because she thought she didn't need to use birth control," Setnick says. "Just because you aren't menstruating doesn't mean that you aren't ovulating."
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