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?
At Family Planning we've never come across anyone using vegetables as contraception, but whether this story actually happened or not, we do know that people of all ages are relying on myths and misinformation to prevent pregnancy instead of finding a contraceptive method to suit them.
There's been a lot in the news recently about the so-called withdrawal method. But having a partner pull out before he comes is NOT a very effective method of contraception. This is because it's still possible for a sexually excited man to release fluid from his penis even without having an orgasm. This is known as pre-ejaculation fluid or pre-cum and, as it has sperm in it, it can lead to pregnancy.
MYTH: The only contraception choices are condoms or the pill
Although these two methods are still the most well-known there are lots of different methods of contraception available in New Zealand. Many options are subsidised so that they cost little or nothing.
Sadly, there are still only two contraceptive choices for men (the male condom and sterilisation), although research into both the male pill and male contraceptive injection is ongoing.
Women have a choice of at least 10 methods of contraception. This includes three long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) - methods which they don't need to remember to take or use every day or every time they have sex.
MYTH: You can't get pregnant if you do it standing up
We still hear this one a lot. Sperm are very strong swimmers and gravity alone is not going to stop them reaching and trying to fertilise an egg! If you don't use contraception then it's possible for a woman to get pregnant whatever position you were having sex in.
MYTH: You can't get pregnant if you have sex during your period
Many women think that they're only fertile for a few days each month, and so they believe they can't get pregnant during their period and throughout most of their menstrual cycle. There are two factors that make this a myth. Firstly, many women have irregular menstrual cycles so it can be very hard to know for sure ovulation (when an egg is released) has taken place. Secondly, sperm can actually live in the body for up to 7 days so they can be hanging around ready and waiting to fertilise an egg.
MYTH: You can't get pregnant if it's the first time you have sex
This persistent myth is still out there and leading to unplanned pregnancies. If egg meets sperm then it's possible to get pregnant, whether it's the first, tenth or thousandth time you've had sex.
MYTH: Two condoms are safer than one
Although you might think that an extra layer will offer you extra protection, this isn't true, and using two condoms actually increases the risk of them splitting or breaking.
With typical use, male condoms are 85 per cent effective at preventing a pregnancy. Perfect use, which means careful and correct use of condoms and lube with no breakages every time you have sex, of condoms offers 98 per cent effectiveness at preventing pregnancy.
Female condoms have recently become available again in New Zealand. With typical use, female condoms are 79 per cent effective at preventing pregnancy and with perfect use the protection rises to 95 per cent.
MYTH: You can't get pregnant if you go to the loo or douche straight after sex
Going to the loo or douching (washing the inner and outer female genitals) won't help to prevent a pregnancy. Again, this is down to sperm being fantastic swimmers. By the time a woman has got to the loo, or started to have a wash, the sperm are already well on their way and this isn't going to stop them.
MYTH: It's OK to re-use a condom if you haven't got a new one
This isn't safe - condoms (both male and female) are designed to be used once only, so don't attempt to wash them out and use them again.
MYTH: You can't get pregnant if you're breastfeeding
Many unplanned pregnancies happen in the first few months after childbirth and one of the reasons is that there's a lot of misinformation around breastfeeding and contraception. While breastfeeding can be used as a contraceptive method if the baby is under 6 months old and if a number of other conditions are met, many women won't meet all the conditions. So women should never assume that just because they're breastfeeding they won't get pregnant after unprotected sex - it's much safer to get contraception sorted.
MYTH: Fertility disappears overnight once you hit 35
Despite what you might hear, women's fertility doesn't suddenly drop off a cliff once they hit 35. It does decline, but it's a gradual process and it will differ from woman to woman. Many women conceive well into their 40s so the only time it's safe to assume a woman can't get pregnant is once she's been through the menopause. The recommendation is that a woman can stop using contraception if she has not had a period for more than a year if she's older than 50 or if she's not had a period for two years if she's younger than 50.
MYTH: Contraception makes you put on weight
It's still a persistent myth that women taking the pill or using another form of hormonal contraception will gain weight. The research shows that women using the pill are no more likely to gain weight than women using contraception without hormones.
The contraceptive injection (Depo-Provera) may be associated with an increase in weight in some women - any women considering the injection as their method who are concerned about this should talk to a healthcare professional about it.
MYTH: You need to take a break from the pill every so often
There's no need to take a break from the pill because the hormones don't build up. We think this myth still persists because in the earlier days of the pill, when less research had been done into its effects, women were often told they should stop using it for a while. But there are no known benefits to a woman's health or fertility from taking a break. In fact, taking the combined oral contraceptive pill, which contains both oestrogen and progestogen continuously without any breaks, is more effective contraception than having a week off each month to have a bleed.
MYTH: Emergency contraception HAS to be used "the morning after" unprotected sex
The worrying thing about this myth is that it might stop couples seeking emergency contraception when they need it. Emergency contraception is often known as the "morning after pill" - but this is not a very helpful or accurate term. The emergency contraceptive pill Postinor-1 is effective up to three days after unprotected sex. The emergency contraceptive pill is available from GPs, Family Planning clinics and young people's services. Women can buy Postinor-1 from most pharmacies.
A copper IUD is also very effective as emergency contraceptive if inserted up to five days after unprotected sex. This has the advantage that if the woman chooses, the copper IUD can give her highly effective contraception for five years or more.
MYTH: You can use body lotion on condoms if you don't have any lube handy
Although it's tempting to grab the nearest thing from the bathroom cabinet when you need more lubrication, oil-based products - such as body oils, creams, lotions and petroleum jelly - don't mix well with latex condoms. They can damage the latex and make the condom more likely to split - result, no contraceptive protection. You can check the condom packaging to find out if it's made from latex or polyurethane but if you're not sure, don't risk it.
MYTH: Long-term use of contraception can make a woman infertile
This is completely untrue. Once women stop using contraception their periods and fertility will return to normal. Depending on the method that was used and a woman's individual cycle this may be straight away or it may take a while. The exception is sterilisation. Both women and men can be sterilised - and it's a permanent method of contraception for people who are sure they don't want to have children in the future. Sterilisation can sometimes be reversed but not always.
Natika H Halil is Director of Health and Wellbeing at FPA
Family Planning National Medical Advisor Dr Christine Roke also assisted with this article. More information on contraceptive options available in New Zealand can be found at http://www.familyplanning.org.nz