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Common Birth Control Myths and Sex Myths

(and then the actual birth control facts)

By

Updated May 29, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Studies in the The Journal of Sex Research have showed that, out of a list of eight reasons for having sex, having a baby is the least frequent motivator for most people. All throughout history, people have wanted to be able to decide when and whether to have a child. Given this, birth control methods have been used in one form or another for thousands of years. As contraceptives evolved, so too have the myths surrounding their use. How much do you know about birth control types, sex myths, birth control myths, and your chances of becoming pregnant? Can you identify the myths verses the facts?

1. A Female Can't Get Pregnant the First Time

Sex Myths
Photo Ray Kachatorian/Getty Images

A woman's chances for becoming pregnant are always the same, about 1 out of 20 -- even if it is her first time. A female can become pregnant any time after she begins to ovulate. This may mean that a person can become pregnant before she even has her very first period (since she ovulates approximately 14 days before her period begins). Do not be pressured by comments like, "don't worry, it's your first time", and don't assume that a person may be too young (or too old) to get pregnant.

2. Douching, Showering, or Bathing Can Prevent Pregnancy

Showering Doesn't Prevent Pregnancy
Photo Kraig Scarbinsky/Getty Images

Douching is not an effective method of birth control as it is impossible to douche fast enough to keep sperm away from fertilizing an egg. This is true even if you douche immediately after sexual intercourse. Urinating or taking a bath or shower will also not wash sperm out. There is a theory that douching with Coca-Cola is supposed to kill sperm; although this is true, it is not recommended as it can cause harm to the reproductive track. As a side note, deodorant vaginal suppositories or sprays do not work either and can be equally as harmful.

Another thing to keep in mind, you can also get pregnant having sex in the water. Some people think that the hotter temperatures in hot tubs and jacuzzis may kill sperm, but this is also not the case. Plus, having sex in the water may lead to other problems, like getting arrested if you are in a public place or getting an infection from chemicals or bacteria.

3. A Female Can't Get Pregnant if the Male "Pulls Out" Before He Ejaculates

Pulls out
Photo Commercial Eye/Getty Images

This is a huge myth! Withdrawal is not always a reliable method, and there are several reasons for this. Once a male becomes aroused, he ejects pre-ejaculate fluid -- this fluid can contain at least 300,000 sperm (and it only takes 1 to join an egg)! There is also the risk that he doesn't pull out in time as, in the heat of the moment, it can be hard to keep control. Even if he ejaculates outside of the vagina, sperm can swim, so semen anywhere near the vagina can still lead to pregnancy (this means that pregnancy can occur even without penile penetration if a male ejaculates on or near the vagina). Withdrawal can be an effective method, but only if it is done perfectly (which is extremely hard to do).

4. A Female Can't Get Pregnant if She Has Sex During Her Period

Sex During Period
Photo Nancy R. Cohen/Getty Images

Many women (and men) believe this myth. It is possible for a female to get pregnant at any time during her menstrual cycle. Generally, when you are having your period, it means that you are not ovulating. If this is the case, then you will not get pregnant. However, females with irregular or shorter cycles can actually ovulate during their period. It is not guaranteed that you will ovulate mid-cycle. Sperm can live inside a woman's body for up to 5 days, so if you ovulate anytime within 7 days of having unprotected sex, you could become pregnant.

5. Birth Control Pills Cause Cancer

Birth Control Pill Causes Cancer
Photo © 2014 Dawn Stacey

Though there may sometimes be side effects with the pill, it does not appear that pill use increases your overall risk of cancer. The most recent research suggests that the pill has little, if any, effect on the risk of developing breast cancer. However, studies have shown that using the pill may increase your risk of developing cervical cancer. Because cervical cancer can easily be detected early on and can be effectively treated, if you use the pill, it is a good idea to have regular well-women check-ups. You may also want to discuss the option of obtaining the HPV vaccine to help prevent cervical cancer.

With that being said, research also shows that using the pill can actually help prevent some cancers -- this is one of the non-contraceptive benefits of using the pill. Protection against developing these cancers actually increases with each year of use and can last up to 30 years after stopping the combination pill.

6. Use Saran Wrap (or a Balloon) if You Can't Find a Condom

How to Use Condom
Photo Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Yes, this is a myth floating around out there! Saran wrap is no substitute for a condom. If you do not have a reliable OTC birth control method handy, do not use plastic sandwich wrap around a penis as a way to prevent pregnancy: It does not work (neither does using a balloon, so don't try that either)! On a somewhat related note, never use toothpaste in place of a spermicide (it does not kill sperm -- as many people have heard)

7. Pregnancy is Prevented by Jumping Up and Down or Placing Seeds in the Vagina

Does Jumping Prevent Pregnancy
Photo Tim Hale/Getty Images

There are many believers out there that sneezing, coughing, and jumping up and down after sex will dislodge sperm. This is all untrue; sperm are too quick and too tiny for any of these methods to work. Plus, placing objects (such as seeds or plants) into the vagina before, during, or after sex will have no effect on preventing conception. This behavior can be dangerous as it can be harmful to the female's body.

8. Having Sex Standing Up Works as Birth Control

Sex Standing Up
Photo B2M Productions/Getty Images

Myths surrounding the way you have sex are very common. The most frequent one that I hear is that you can't get pregnant if you are standing up while having sex. On a similar note, there are stories that you are less likely to get pregnant the fewer times that you have had sex. A note to the wise: Any "advice" you stumble across that depends on how many times you have had sex or the position you are in while engaging in sex is not a birth control method and will most likely result in failure.

 

9. Not Having an Orgasm Can Be a Great Method of Birth Control

Birth Control for Women
Photo © 2014 Dawn Stacey

A lot of women believe that if they don't allow themselves to climax during sex, they will not get pregnant. Pleasure has nothing to do with birth control - whether or not you enjoy sex (with or without an orgasm), you can still get pregnant.

10. A Woman is More Protected, the Tighter a Condom Fits Her Partner

Tight Condoms
Photo John Slater Collection/Getty Images

This too is a misconception based on the belief that the tighter the condom, the less likely sperm will seep out or that the condom will slip off during sex. However, a condom that is too tight is more likely to break during sex. When using a condom, it is also important to leave some space near the tip to safely catch the ejaculate (sperm); this prevents the condom from being over-stretched once the man ejaculates.

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