So you were worried you were pregnant, and you didn’t want to be. You took a test, and it was negative (or it was a false positive) and then you took another one and then maybe even another, and then you went to a doctor so they could confirm the result. And you’re not pregnant. Hooray!
What happens now after your equilibrium has been restored and you aren’t terrified anymore? How did that pregnancy scare impact your sex life? Your relationship? Your birth control? How you imagine your future?
For some women, having a pregnancy scare unmasked painful truths about their relationships, specifically that they were with the wrong person. J took a pregnancy test once a month since the birth control she was on meant she didn’t get her period.
“I took a test that said positive — but I was pretty sure it was incorrect. I took another test, negative. Another test, negative,” she said. Then she went to class, came home and took another test, which was negative. When she told her partner, “they had a full-on panic attack. They wanted me to take Plan B, even though it wasn’t medically the right move considering the timing. I took another test… negative.”
J got her period two days later and switched around her birth control, but her partner’s strong reaction made her consider her relationship. “I knew I wanted kids — I just wasn’t sure when or what that might look like. His full-blown meltdown made me realize that perhaps this wasn’t a match.” J and her partner continued their relationship, but ultimately, it ended.
“I think it’s one of those things that didn’t really strike me as rough until much, much later,” she said. “I didn’t want a kid at that point; I was literally in my last class of grad school and interviewing for jobs and looking at student loans kicking in. I think if it had even been six months later, I would have reacted differently.”
Anne was 25 when she woke up and realized her NuvaRing had fallen out the night before (it can fall out during sex, tampon removal or while having a bowel movement). The ring can be outside the body for three hours, but if it’s longer than that, you’re advised to use backup contraceptives, which in Anne’s case, it was too late for. She took Plan B, but was still anxious because she knew she didn’t ever want kids. The potential scare led to a spike in anxiety that her partner didn’t understand and proved unsupportive for.
“He was like, ‘You took the morning after pill, so it’s fine. Why are you freaking out?’ It finally helped me to realize that he sucked.” Anne remains devoted to NuvaRing 10 years later.
A pregnancy scare or even the idea of one has the potential to change your relationship with sex. In her 20s, E experienced a condom breaking while she was having sex with her long-term partner. “I always thought I would freak out in a situation like that, but I was really calm,” she said. She also went and got Plan B, which worked, but the incident stayed with her. “It took me a really long time to get comfortable having sex again. It was hard to relax. I just kept thinking about how I could have gotten pregnant and how that could happen again.”
This isn’t a weird reaction. It’s totally normal. We’ve been told our entire lives the only way to not get pregnant is to abstain altogether, and the anxiety of possibly being pregnant when you don’t want to be is taxing.
“The emotional trauma from a pregnancy scare can cause you to not feel up for sex if not outright leery of sex,” Dr. Jennifer Caudle told Bustle in 2016 for a piece about the aftermath of pregnancy scares.
Just because your pregnancy scare turned out to be just that — a scare — doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from support and resources. Talk to your doctor if you feel like your birth control isn’t working for you, if it doesn’t make you feel safe or if you’re sexually active but not using birth control. Communicate with your sexual partner(s) about birth control because it’s a mutual responsibility. It can be helpful to hear the stories of other folks who have had scares as well — Scarleteen has a great discussion board in its online forum where people share their experiences with scares and the circumstances around them. A pregnancy scare can be a terrifyingly lonely experience, but try to keep in mind that you aren’t alone.