8 Old Wives' Tales About Preventing Pregnancy That Aren't True
We hear myths that claim standing up while having sex can prevent pregnancy, and we're told that it's possible to remove sperm after sex by using a douche. But when it comes to old wives' tales about ways to prevent pregnancy, these tips are almost never effective. And sometimes, they can even be detrimental.
Basically, if you hear a tip about preventing pregnancy that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And you'll be much better off speaking with your doctor, and sticking to their recommended form of birth control. "Luckily we have many choices in selecting a birth control that works best for a woman and her specific concerns," Dr. Sherry Ross, author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health, tells Bustle. "If a woman has concerns about side effects from the hormonal forms of birth control such as the pill, I may talk to her about considering the IUD. If a woman doesn’t like taking a pill every day because she is forgetful she may want to consider any of the long-acting birth control methods or the Nuvaring. If the cost is a concern, the pill may be the least costly and most effective option depending on her insurance coverage."
By chatting with your doctor, you can debunk old health myths, weed through unhelpful advice, and figure out the best and safest way to prevent pregnancy. Here are eight common contraceptive methods that aren't actually effective at preventing pregnancy, despite what everyone may say.
1. Douching After Sex Can Clean Out Sperm
If you've ever heard the myth that douching after sex can somehow clean out sperm or prevent pregnancy, know that it's not true. While it may make sense in theory, this method isn't effective, "because sperm travels instantaneously to the tubes where fertilization takes place," Dr. Prudence Hall, MD, founder of The Hall Center and author of Radiant Again, tells Bustle. It all happens so fast, that washing after isn't going to work.
2. Using A Diaphragm Alone Is Effective
A diaphragm is one form of birth control that can certainly help prevent pregnancy by covering the cervix, thus helping to block sperm. But it's not super effective when used all on its own, despite what people may say.
It's necessary to use a diaphragm plus spermicide — which is a cream or gel used to kill sperm — in order for it to truly work. As Dr. Hall says, "It is the gel that kills the sperm, not the barrier that stops them."
3. It's Impossible To Get Pregnant During Your Period
While it might seem safe to have sex during your period, there's no guarantee you won't get pregnant. It all depends on timing, the length of your cycle, and when you ovulate. And then there's the fact sperm can live inside the body for a few days.
"Sperm are viable for three days, which means if your period lasts seven or eight days and you ovulate a bit early on day ten or 11, viable sperm may be present," Dr. Hall says. "Also, many women bleed a bit at ovulation and if she is not paying attention, it can be mistaken for the start of a period when really it's mid-cycle, which is the most fertile time of a woman’s cycle." It's best not to chance it, and to use a condom or other form of birth control instead.
4. Two Condoms Are Better Than One
If you truly don't want to get pregnant, you might think doubling up on condoms will provide that extra bit of security during sex. But this is one piece of advice you can go ahead and ignore.
"When used correctly, condoms provide excellent protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but if you put two condoms on at once, they will rub together and there's a higher chance of condom breakage," experts from the health app Clue tell Bustle. "Best to stick to one condom, and use some condom-safe lubricant."
5. The Pull Out Method Is Always Effective
Since the pull out method — where the penis is pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation — can be tough to time perfectly, it's "generally not considered an effective form of birth control," the experts at Clue say. "Out of every 100 people using only withdrawal as birth control, an estimated 22 to 27 of them will get pregnant within one year."
And then there's the whole precum thing to consider. "The 'pull out' method to avoid conception is a fallacy because of pre-ejaculate," Dr. Aumatma, a holistic fertility specialist, tells Bustle. "Most men release a pre-ejaculate early on in intercourse so some sperm (albeit in lower quantities) are still released and have the potential to meet an egg if a woman is ovulating."
6. Having Sex While Standing Up Prevents Pregnancy
According to the experts at Clue, 18 percent of men believe that having sex standing up reduces the risk of pregnancy — the thinking here being that sperm can't go too far inside a woman's vagina, due to gravity.
But this health myth is definitely not true. "Gravity is not a form of birth control," the Clue expert says. To find the most effective form of birth control — and one that is right for your body — you should speak with your doctor, or head to a clinic like Planned Parenthood.
7. Certain Positions Can Prevent Pregnancy
There are other rumors floating around that the position you're in during sex can make a difference, when it comes to preventing pregnancy. But the reality is, "there are no sexual positions (such as standing or woman on top) that will work as natural birth control," Dr. Aumatma says.
Even though some people hold this belied dear to their hearts, it's just not true. "Just the same as there are no particular positions (such as legs up the wall) that will support conception," Dr. Aumatma. "They both rely on a theory of gravity which may have a minor role to play in conception, but there are many other factors that actually affect the motility of the sperm and the quality of the egg that can lead to conception."
8. It's Impossible To Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding
Many women think it's safe to have unprotected sex for a few months after giving birth, due to the popular myth that it's impossible to get pregnant while breastfeeding. But, "unfortunately this is not the case," says Dr. Ross. "If you haven’t had a period after giving birth, an unplanned pregnancy is more likely since you ovulate before getting a period. Most women do not understand that you can get pregnant before having your period return."
The take home lesson here is, don't put all your faith in health myths. It's better to stick to birth control methods that have been proven effective, and have been recommended by your doctor.