The number of unintended pregnancies that occur each year might shock you. In the early 2000s, as many as 51 percent of pregnancies were accidental each year, says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. To date, that figure has only dropped to around 45 percent. Considering that parenthood can shift the status of your life – financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically – that’s a pretty major whoops. The CDC also reports that unintended pregnancies are most common among the most vulnerable, including women living at poverty level and women who are undereducated. Black women are more at risk for accidental pregnancy than other groups, says the CDC.
When we think of accidental pregnancy, the word “accident” implies something: the intention to not get pregnant. So, what happened? What occurred that bridged that gap between intention and outcome? Often, it’s a lack of understanding and education around pregnancy prevention. It is true that, there are women (about 19 million, to be exact) who do not have access to or cannot afford birth control, according to Power To Decide. And that is a major issue. But access is just one part of it: birth control is no good if one doesn’t use it properly. With the new abortion legislation in Texas and a handful of states looking to ride the pro-life wave, according to ABC News, it’s more important than ever to take pregnancy prevention seriously. Here are several things to consider when using birth control.
The pill is a very commonly used form of birth control. Many women take it for decades and it becomes a regular part of their routine. But, like many parts of your routine – from brushing your teeth to taking vitamins – sometimes you forget to do it. It’s very important to know what to do if you miss a pill. The general rule, according to The National Health Service, if you forget to take one pill is to take it as soon as you remember (so long as it’s within the 24 hours before the next pill). If you just notice you missed yesterday’s pill, today, while reaching for today’s, take both at once. If you miss two pills, you may not be protected against pregnancy and should use another form of birth control for the next seven days. Speak to your doctor about the exact type of pill you are on to make sure these rules apply.
Grabbing a condom too late
Some couples will have a slight amount of intercourse before bringing a condom into play. They may believe that pre-cum doesn’t contain sperm, and so there’s no danger in doing this. And it is true that in most cases, pre-cum doesn’t carry active sperm – but not all cases. The National Library of Science published a study that found active sperm in nearly 17 percent of its participants. Translation: pre-cum can get you pregnant, so any time a penis comes near your vagina, if you aren’t using another form of birth control, it should be wearing a condom.
Removing your sponge too soon
The birth control sponge is another way to prevent pregnancy. This is a sponge containing spermicide that you place deep into the vagina before sex. There is the inherent issue that it is not nearly as effective as the pill or condoms, as Mayo Clinic reports it might have only a 76 to 88 percent effectiveness. But if you do use it, you gotta use it correctly. The sponge should be left in your vagina for up to six hours after sex in order to be most effective and kill any sperm that got in there. Not all women like keeping it in there, and toss it out right after sex, but this greatly increases your chances of pregnancy. Be sure to remove it within 24 hours of putting it in.
Mistiming your shot
Some women like the convenience of the Depo provera shot. Rather than taking a pill daily or forgetting condoms, they can just visit their gynecologist every 12-14 weeks for a shot. However, that can prove to be a different type of nuisance. At least with the pill, you don’t need to leave your home to take it. If you have a very busy schedule, you might be a few days late in making that appointment for the shot, which makes you vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy. It’s also important to know that, unless you get the shot during your period, you will need to wait seven to 10 days to have unprotected intercourse in order for it to take effect, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Failing to check your IUD
Depending on the type you get, your IUD can be effective for anywhere from three years to up to 12 years. So you can set it and forget it. Well, sort of. Your doctor will (or at least should) instruct you to check the positioning of the string within the first few months of having your IUD. She can instruct you on exactly how to do so. The first few months is when it is most common for an IUD to fall out – as well as during your period, says Planned Parenthood. Failing to notice misplacement could put you at risk of accidental pregnancy, so take your doctor’s instructions on checking that string seriously.
Using the pull-out method alone
When it comes to using the pull-out method as your sole firm of birth control, well, that’s a mistake in and of itself. The Office on Women’s Health reports that this only has a 78 percent effectiveness. Remember that the condom has a 98 percent effectiveness rate, the IUD is more than 99 percent effective, and the pill is about 91 percent effective. So, the pull-out game is a bad option, all things considered. Unscientifically speaking, you likely know someone who became accidentally pregnant who was using the pull-out method. So, if you choose to go this route because you or your partner hate condoms, you must use an additional form of birth control such a spermicide or the sponge.
Not inserting a female condom properly
Though not as commonly available as male condoms, female condoms are 95 percent effective when used properly, according to The National Health Service. However, those three words – “when used properly” – are critical. Not everyone is as familiar with the female condom as they are the male condom. And because it goes inside of the vagina rather than on the outside of a penis, it’s not as easy to tell when it’s been inserted properly. Some women accidentally put the condom in upside down, attempting to put the larger ring – meant to go on the outside of the vaginal lips – inside of their vagina. Some fail to properly spread it out inside of their vagina. Others don’t insert it far enough. Make sure you know what you’re doing with a female condom long before it’s go-time. Otherwise, the frustration of applying it might cause you to skip it entirely.
Using the rhythm method
Using the rhythm method as your only form of birth control is a form of taking a big risk. It’s difficult to pin down exactly how effective (or ineffective) it is, but Mayo Clinic reports that as many as 24 out of 100 women who use this will get pregnant within the first year of relying on this form of birth control. The rhythm method relies on a woman’s ability to recognize when she is fertile. This method is not recommended, but to give you an idea of how tricky it is, you must first record the length of at least 12 menstrual cycles to even begin to properly calculate when you might be fertile. So if you’re first thinking of using this method today, you’re at least a year out from being eligible.