You've surely heard some old tales about preventing pregnancy if you're having sex. Here are some common pregnancy myths:
- You can't get pregnant if you have sex standing up.
- You can't get pregnant if it's your first time having sex.
- You can't get pregnant if you do jumping jacks after sex.
All of the above are false. Whether you're a guy or a girl, make sure you know the truth about these sex and pregnancy myths so you can protect yourself from an unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
First, let's review your knowledge of human reproduction. Remember that sperm are very resilient organisms. They are designed to go from point A (the male) to point B (the female). Sperm have a mind of their own, and all they want to do is reach the female's egg. They do this by any means necessary. They can even survive in the womb for a number of days.
Pregnancy Myths: Keep Your Fingers Crossed, or Your Legs?
One pregnancy myth many teens believe is "If I don't ejaculate inside the vagina, you won't get pregnant." Or, "If I pull out, or just put it in a few times, you won't get pregnant."
Wrong. Did you know there is such a thing as pre-ejaculation? It's fluid that seeps out of the penis before the guy ejaculates. This fluid contains sperm, and the sperm are going to do whatever they can to get to the egg. If any semen is present around the penis and it comes in contact with any part of the vaginal area, there is a risk of pregnancy.
Some couples use the "rhythm method" of birth control, where they try to have sex only during "safe" periods of the female's monthly menstrual cycle. Unfortunately, there is still a high risk -- about 13% -- of getting pregnant. There is also a risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, because you're still having unprotected sex.
There are many more sex and pregnancy myths out there. Here are a few of the most common:
Pregnancy Myth: Having sex standing up prevents you from getting pregnant.
Reality: False. Having vaginal sex in any position carries the risk of pregnancy.
Pregnancy Myth: If girls do "jumping jacks" after sex, they won't get pregnant.
Reality: False. You can jump up and down all you want, but if one sperm makes contact with one egg, bingo: Someone's pregnant.
Pregnancy Myth: If girls don't have an orgasm, they won't get pregnant.
Reality: False. Female orgasms have no bearing on whether an egg can be fertilized.
Pregnancy Myth: Having sex in water prevents you from getting pregnant.
Reality: False again! Any sperm contact with the vagina increases your risk of getting pregnant. If the water temperature is proper, sperm can survive outside the body for several minutes.
Pregnancy Myth: Girls can't get pregnant if they have sex while on their period.
Reality: Again, untrue. Remember, a sperm can survive for up to a week inside the female.
Pregnancy Myth:Douching or washing my vagina out after sex will prevent me from getting pregnant.
Reality: Nope. Remember, sperm are designed to do one thing -- fertilize the egg. Even washing thoroughly after sex does not prevent you from becoming pregnant.
What About Teen Sex and Birth Control?
If you are sexually active or are thinking of becoming sexually active, talk to your parents and your doctor about birth control. Birth control comes in pills, injections, devices placed in the uterus, and even in time-release medications that are placed under your skin.
Condoms come in many different forms. The best also contain spermicides, which help to reduce the risk of pregnancy. Condoms also are the best way to reduce transmission of some -- but unfortunately not all -- sexually transmitted diseases.
Even with the best methods of hormonal birth control such as pills or the patch -- and even when they're combined with condoms -- there is still a risk of pregnancy and STDs. Abstinence (choosing to go without sex) is the only surefire method of not getting pregnant or picking up a disease.
What Are Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)?
Besides getting pregnant, sex may expose you to a sexually transmitted disease.
STDs are spread through sexual contact. These diseases include human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus, the organism that causes AIDS). It is estimated that as many as 3 million teens contract a sexually transmitted infection each year.
You also risk contracting an STD through oral or anal sex. Some STDs can do serious damage to the body, causing hard-to-treat infection, scarring, infertility, and cancer of the cervix or the uterus.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a major consequence of chlamydia and gonorrhea infections in young women. It is the most common cause of infertility, because it can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes, which prevents eggs from reaching the uterus. But these eggs can still sometimes be fertilized by sperm swimming past the blockage. This results in a life-threatening pregnancy outside the womb (ectopic pregnancy).
Though some STDs are curable, others, like herpes and HIV, are not.
The Burden of Teen Sex and Unplanned Pregnancies
Every year, almost 800,000 teens get pregnant in the United States. Of those pregnancies, 74% to 95% are unplanned.
Teen pregnancy places enormous burdens on young mothers and young fathers. Statistics show that teen girls who get pregnant tend to have fewer opportunities to further their educations. Many drop out of school to raise their children.
Remember, it's easier than you think to get pregnant or contract an STD. If you are going to be sexually active, then practice safe sex and talk to someone you trust about the risks involved. See your primary health care professional, or a family planning clinic, for confidential help concerning birth control and STDs.