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The Truth Behind 11 Big Myths Surrounding Sex

Myth: Everyone’s doing it.
Truth: Less than half of high school students have had sex, according to studies.

It might seem like everyone’s doing it, but the numbers show that only 42 percent of high school girls are having sex and only 43 percent of teenage boys—a very slight difference. In fact, one study found that 68 percent of teenage boys said they could be happy in a relationship without sex. So, the false impression that everyone’s having sex and that it’s the “normal” thing shouldn’t play a part in your desire or decision to do it.

Myth: You can’t get pregnant if you’re on your period.
Truth: You can still get pregnant from sex while menstruating. “Timing” your cycle is not a reliable form of birth control.

This all has to do with a woman’s ovulation schedule, or when an egg is released from the ovaries. Since most women begin ovulating between days 11 and 21, where day one is the first day of your period, you’re unlikely to become pregnant when menstruating. But not all women follow a regular cycle, and it’s possible for those with irregular or short cycles to still be ovulating during their period. Also keep in mind that sperm can live inside the vagina for five to seven days after intercourse, so pregnancy is still possible if ovulation begins in the first week of the cycle. Keep in mind that mid-cycle spotting can sometimes be mistaken for menstruation—don’t get the two confused!

Myth: You can get herpes from someone infected with the virus, even if he/she has no open sores.
Truth: You can only get herpes when the infected person is experiencing an outbreak—but not all outbreaks have visible sores or symptoms.

Herpes, which can lay dormant for long periods of time, can only be transferred through skin-to-skin contact with someone who is infected and experiencing an outbreak. Typically, herpes outbreaks are marked by sores or blisters, but some outbreaks have no visible symptoms. In that case, even though no open sores can be seen, you can still be infected by herpes.

Cold sores around the mouth area are also considered herpes outbreaks. Cold sores are mouth-to-mouth transferrable, but herpes also can be transferred via oral sex. If you have a cold sore outbreak around your mouth and give your partner oral sex, your partner can get genital herpes. The opposite also applies—if you have genital herpes, you can give your partner cold sores.

Myth: Using two condoms is better than using just one.
Truth: Using more than one condom is actually less effective.

Otherwise known as “double bagging,” using two condoms actually makes sex less safe. The friction between the two condoms can cause them to tear more easily. Instead, you should just stick with one condom, which is 85 to 95 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when used properly.

Condoms can be used in conjunction with other female contraceptives such as birth control pills, cervical caps or spermicides. Do NOT use a male condom with a female condom, for the same reasons you should never use two male condoms at once.

Myth: The emergency contraceptive pill is a reliable form of birth control.
Truth: Emergency contraception is not fail proof. Many other forms of contraception are more effective, and emergency contraceptive should only be used as a backup.

Emergency contraceptive pill (ECP), or the morning after pill, is a way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or when another method of birth control fails. It works by giving your body a high dose of hormones that disrupts ovulation, prevents fertilization or disallows the fertilized egg to attach to the uterus wall. If you vomit immediately after taking the ECP, it may not be effectively absorbed into your body and you might need another dose—check the instructions or consult a doctor.

Emergency contraceptive pills are effective up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex, but as time increases, the effectiveness decreases. It is recommended you take the ECP as soon as possible. For many brands, the pill can be up to 95 percent effective in preventing pregnancy within 24 hours of having unprotected sex, but a woman who relies on the ECP for birth control over the course of a year has a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant, even when taken promptly and properly. The ECP should not be a replacement for the birth control pill or other forms of conventional birth control.

Myth: Birth control pills can protect you from STIs.
Truth: Birth control pills only protect against pregnancy, when used properly.

Most birth control pills work by disrupting ovulation, so that during intercourse there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize. This leaves no barrier to block out STIs, which can all be transferred even if you are on the birth control pill, including HIV/AIDS, herpes, chlamydia, etc. See Mochi’s rundown of the most common STIs for more details.

Myth: As soon as you start taking birth control pills, they will start protecting you.
Truth: Birth control pills can take up to seven days to become effective.

If you are just starting to take birth control pills or are switching between different kinds of pills, it can take seven days for the regimen to effectively prevent pregnancy. For the first week, you should also use another method of birth control, like condoms, or you’ll still risk pregnancy.

If you skip a pill, be sure to use backup birth control until your next cycle, as the birth control pill regimen will be rendered less effective. Also, be cautious if you’re sick—if the pill is vomited out before it is fully absorbed into your body, or if you’re on certain antibiotics, the birth control pill will also be less effective. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are on the pill and consult your gynecologist.

Myth: You can use someone else’s birth control pills.
Truth: You should only use birth control pills prescribed specifically for you.

You need a prescription to get birth control pills for a reason. A doctor or medical professional should always assess if your body is suited for birth control, based on your medical history. There are certain conditions that may make the pill less effective or even dangerous to take—if you smoke, for example. And just because you’ve been approved for birth control in the past doesn’t mean it is okay to take birth control now. Your medical condition can change with time. There are also several types and brands of birth control pills, including the “combination” pill (a combination of progesterone and estrogen) and the “mini” pill (low-dose progesterone), and your doctor can help you figure out which is best for you.

Myth: “Pulling out” is an effective form of birth control.
Truth: Pulling out can be effective if done properly, but it very often is not and should not be relied on.

If pulling out is executed at the correct time and the sperm is properly directed away from the vagina, it can be an effective form of birth control. But there’s a great risk that the guy may fail at doing so, whether it’s because he’s not fast enough, doesn’t have enough advance warning, or gets caught up in the moment. Even if he does manage to pull out and ejaculates outside the vagina, sperm can actually still swim up the vagina and fertilize the egg. Pre-ejaculate fluid, which contains residual sperm from prior ejaculations, can also transmit STIs even if it is not likely to cause pregnancy. It’s still safer to use regulated forms of birth control, which leave less room for error.

Myth: Any pregnancy prevention method that doesn’t include abstinence or birth control.
Truth: You can get pregnant if…

– You have sex standing up.
– You have sex in a pool.
– You’re a virgin and it’s your first time.
– You douche or shower afterward.
– The girl is on top.
– The girl doesn’t have an orgasm.
– You jump up and down after sex.
– The girl presses hard on her belly button after sex.

The only way to prevent pregnancy is abstinence or using birth control. Position doesn’t matter, nor does virginity. Douching after sex may actually force the sperm further up the vaginal canal rather than preventing them from fertilizing the egg. And the amount of pleasure you experience during sex is completely unrelated to pregnancy.

Myth: The first time is always painful if you’re a girl.
Truth: It can, but does not always.

For a girl, losing her virginity can be painful when the hymen, a thin layer of tissue covering the opening of the vagina, tears. When this happens, the hymen often bleeds a little. However, it can tear from playing sports or horseback riding, so a girl might not necessarily bleed when she loses her virginity. Everyone experiences different amounts of pain.

Header credit: Corie Howel

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