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Birth Control FAQ

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Explore The Female Body

Q. Is there such a thing as a safe time, that one will not get impregnated?

A. NO, there is no such a time. Unless you are using a medically proven effective method of birth control, a female could get pregnant any time of the month that she has sexual intercourse. There are several reasons for this. Even if a females period is pretty regular, she can never be sure when her ovaries are releasing an egg. Ovulation, ( the release of the egg from the ovaries), has nothing to do with when you had your last period. It depends on when you will have your next period, which is something you can not be definite on.. Especially in cases of younger females, this is a very risky approach to birth control, because for the first few years in a females  period will probably be very irregular.

Stress, trauma, any new exercise, change of diet, even a change in the seasons can affect the ovulation cycle in females of all ages. Remember, also, that the life of sperm is five to seven days. Trying to figure out the safe period of the month is  called the rhythm method, it is not safe!

Q. Is it true that emotions can control a females ovulation period? A. YES, stress, trauma, any new exercise, change of diet, even a change in the seasons can affect the ovulation cycle in females of all ages. Remember, also, that the life of sperm is five to seven days. Trying to figure out the safe period of the month is  called the rhythm method, it is not safe! Again yet another MYTH!

Q. What is the most effective way of birth control?

A. Abstenance (no sex) is of course 100% effective against pregnancy. Now for the answer that you were looking for:

Your other choices for birth control should depend on your bodies chemistry and make-up. What works well for one woman, will not work at all for others. You may have to try different methods until you find what you are comfortable with. You should check with your doctor on these choices.

Failure rates for each birth control method listed in these FAQs pages, is listed at the bottom of each answer.

Q. How does the Birth Control pill work?
How does it work?
 The hormones in the pill work by preventing ovulation. If a female doesn't ovulate, she can't get pregnant.
How do I use it?
 There are a number of ways to start oral contraceptives. We usually have you start the pills on the Sunday after your normal menstrual period begins. If your period begins on Sunday, then start the pills on that Sunday. Take one pill at the same time of day, each day so you won't forget them, even if you are not going to have sex. NEVER take a friend's pill or someone else's pill. If you miss one pill, take it as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the next day, then take two pills that day. If you miss two pills, take two pills a day for two days. If you miss three or more pills, call your health care provider or clinic for instructions. 

Highly effective method. Often reduces menstrual cramps. You may have lighter periods. The pill may protect against uterine, ovarian cancer and ovarian cysts. Some pills clear up acne. The pill might possible help prevent endometriosis : still not verified. 
 Condoms must be used along with the pill to offer protection from STDs. Some antibiotics interfere with the pill's effectiveness. Always let the health care provider know that you are taking them if you are given any prescription medication. Use a back up method like condoms if you take an antibiotic while taking the pill. Ask a pharmacist if the antibiotic will interfere with the effectiveness of your pill -- they know, that is what they are trained to know about drug interactions. Never  be afraid to ask ever.
How well does it work?
 Perfect-use failure rate 0.5%
Typical failure rate 2% (due to human error)
Side Effects
 Sometimes: Weight gain, nausea, and irregular bleeding or 'spotting'.


Q. Is a diaphragm a safe method of birth control? A. Yes it is an effective method when used as directed. It can be inserted up to 2 hours before intercourse, so it does not alter the mood set when ready for sex as much as other similar methods. It is also less expensive per month than the pill. This method is not for everyone. Some females do not like the preperation steps.

 As an HIV protection, condoms should be used with a diaphragm & spermicide when you are not with the same partner who has been tested for HIV. You must be properly "fitted" by a health care professional. A prescription to buy one is required. A diaphragm needs to be replaced about every two years. Be very careful to not damage it in any way. 

 Perfect-use failure rate 2%
Typical failure rate 18%

Q. Is it difficult to use?

A.  A diaphgram is not difficult to use at all and it is a very effective method of birth control if followed exactly as instructed.when used correctly. It can be inserted up to 2 hours before intercourse, so it doesn't disturb sex as much as other methods. It is also cheaper per month than the pill. It is a small, dome-shaped rubber shield that sits over the cervix and sits on the pubic bone. The diaphragm works by stopping sperm from going into the cervix and entering into the uterus. It does this with the help of spermicidal jelly or cream which is mandatory to use. Think of it as a spermicide cup.. Spermicides may cause a bit of irritation or an allergic reaction in the vagina. Any irritation should go away shortly after you stop using it. There are other brands of spermicide if you get a rash from one, or if you are alergic to perfumes. If you have had a 10 lb or more weight loss since  your first fitting, you have to get refitted by your doctor. method when used correctly.

A diaphragm properly fitted by a doctor will not be painful to insert. The rim is a flexible rubber-covered spring which will not harm you or your partner during intercourse. It passes through with ease and  conforms to the internal shape of the vagina and doesn't interfere with the urinary passage or the rectum. When properly fitted and placed, the female is unaware of it and can urinate normally. It should never be removed  immediately after intercourse. For maximum effectiveness, it should be left in place for at least six hours after the last ejaculation. If it is removed before the allowed time, live sperm remaining in the vagina may cause pregnancy. Because the normal vaginal environment is hostile to sperm, the longer the sperm remain in the vagina and are unable to pass into the cervix, the greater the chances are  that they will be destroyed. If spermicide jelly is used along with the diaphragm, the safeness is increased. During sexual activity, the vagina will change shape. This may cause the diaphragm to slip or to become dislodged allowing sperm to reach the cervix. If spermicide jelly is being used, any sperm reaching the cervix will  be destroyed. If intercourse is repeated later, the diaphragm cleansed and a fresh applicator-full of spermicide should be inserted prior to intercourse. With the passage of time, the original jelly loses its potency.

 Perfect-use failure rate 2%
Typical failure rate 18%

Female Condom

Q: What exactly do spermicides do and why are they important?

A:  Spermicides the chemicals that disable the sperm to function, so we say it "kills" the little bugers. They come in forms of a cream, jelly, foam or suppository. 

There are a few different types of spermicides. Most are similar in  cost and effectiveness. Put the spermicide in each time befor intercourse. Always read the instructions carefully. If you have sex again, always insert more spermicide. Do not cleanse( douche)  for at least 6 hours after intercourse, or you could wash away the protection.  

Most of the applicators are reuseable, just remember to thoroughly cleanse it with soap and water.
 Spermicides can also be used during a menstrual period. It can be used at ALL times. I also recommend that you use a condom along with the spermicide of your choice. Contrary to some MYTHS spermices are not in any way connected to cancer or birth defects. They infact help protect against cancer of the cervix. Research has shown that if you use spermicides while pregnant, spermicides do NOT cause birth defects in your baby.

Some of the positive reasons behind the use of spermicides are that they can be put in ahead of time. No prescription is needed, they are available over the counter without a prescription. The penis can remain inside the vagina after ejaculation. 

A few negative reasons against the spermicides are that they have to be inserted again if the sexual encounter is longer than one hour. They must be used exactly as instructed for 100% safety. Some females do not like the mess, and say that their partners to not like the taste.

 What is the failure rate?
Perfect-use failure rate 5% to 7%
Typical failure rate 18 - 22%

With condoms:
Perfect-use failure rate 1%
Typical failure rate 1% - 2%

Q: What is the depo-shot?

A:  Depo-Provera - ("The Shot") - Medroxprogesterone 

Depo-Provera is given by an  injection(The Shot). It protects against pregnancy for a exactly three months. Each injection contains progestin, a hormone similar to the one women produce during the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle. It is given in the upper arm or in the buttocks.

The percentage of pregnancies in the first year of use is reported as 0.3%. Among women who use Depo-Provera only about 2-3 in 1000 will become pregnant in the first year. To be this effective you must get your shot at the exact recommended time. 
 Irregular periods: 70% - 80% of female will have irregular bleeding during their first year of use. This means spotting and bleeding in between your periods. After one year of use, some women stop having a period completely. After two years that number goes up to 75%. This is not harmful to you, but in order to tell if you are pregnant, you should take a test. Some report breast tenderness, it may be uncomfortable, but it is not a problem that will cause you any harm.
average weight 3- 5 pounds a year while taking the depo.

Bone loss may occur while on the Depo, that is why it is recommended to take a calcium pill a day. also regular exercise is a must. This side effect will stop once you are off the depo. Headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and anxiety are also reported as some mild side effects.

You MUST visit your doctor or clinic every 13 weeks for the injection. You must have your first injection within 5 days of the beginning of your menstrual cycle to ensure that you are not pregnant. 

Injectable birth controls are an easy to use, and highly effective methods. Your periods are lighter and fewer menstrual cramps. The shot does NOT contain estrogen (which increases the risk of heart problems and stroke). You do not have to remember to take a pill every day. Immediately effective after injection, there is no waiting period as with the pill. 

Again this is not a guard against the nasty STD`s out there.  You need to use a condom with it if you may be at risk. 

Q: Norplant..What is that?

A: The Norplant System is a reversible, five year, low dose, progestin-only contraceptive. The Norplant System consists of six very small matchstick size capsules (made of silastic tubing) that are placed just under the skin of the upper arm.

This is not recommended for teen age girls, but they should be educated regarding it.

Norplant may be particularly effective for females that cannot take estrogen, females wanting continuous, long-term contraception but do not want permanent sterilization, females who have experienced problems with other contraceptive methods.

 Norplant System is one of thesafest forms of contraception. The average  pregnancy rate over five years is less than 1%. Norplant has undergone many years of research and testing. Through 1990, 500,000 females have used this method in seventeen countries where the Norplant System is in general use.

After a professional consultation, you may have the Norplant System placed under the skin of the upper arm through a small incision using local anesthesia. This is an office procedure which usually takes 10-15 minutes. It should be done within the first seven days of your menstrual cycle to assure that you are not pregnant. As long as the placement of the Norplant System occurs within this time period, you are protected from pregnancy within 24 hours. The IU Health Center requires a Pap smear within one year prior to insertion as well as a recheck ten days after insertion.

This procedure should be removed after five years (or earlier if you desire), you should return to your doctor to have it removed. The removal is similar to the insertion and usually takes 40-45 minutes, but may occasionally take longer or require two visits. Removal is particularly likely to be difficult if insertion of an implant was deep. After removal, if you wish, you can have a new set of capsules implanted for five more years of birth control.

The best thing about choosing this type of BC method is that you do not have the worry about getting pregnant for five years. It also allows for more spontaneous sex than others. 

You may experiencesome  bumps in your arm. Scar tissue can form around implants making them hard to remove. A Professional  who is trained in the "Norplant System"is needed  to remove them. Many women complain of tenderness in the arm in the area of the implants.  That will soon go away.

Failure rate less than 1%

The most common side effect is change in the menstrual cycle pattern. Irregularities range from female to female and may include: prolonged menstrual bleeding, spotting between menstrual periods or no bleeding at all. These side effects will  lessen after 6-9 months. Any side effects that may occur with birth control pills may also occur with Norplant including: depression, nervousness/anxiety, dizziness, hair loss or, headaches, weight gain, breast tenderness,vomitting,nausea,hair growth, acne and high blood pressure.

Again this is a birth control not a protection aggainst STD`s or HIV. Always use a condom.

Q: What is Lunelle?

A:Lunelle is a birth control shot taken monthly that is 99% effective when given as prescribed. The monthly shot eliminates the worry of remembering a pill every day  and is equally effective.

Lunelle is given by injection into the muscle of the upper arm, thigh, or buttocks, so you have to go to your gynecologist, doctor, or clinic each month. Lunelle contains hormones that are similar to the natural hormones estrogen and progesterone produced by your body. After injection the hormone levels peak and gradually decrease until the next injection. Lunelle protects you immediately once you get the first injection as long as it is within the first five days of your period. It's important to remember that the next injection should be 28 to 30 days from the last one and no later than 33 days no matter when you get your period.

Lunelle prevents you from getting pregnant by using hormones it contains, to signal a gland in your brain not to release FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). Therefore, no egg matures that month to be fertilized. It's also believed that Lunelle causes your cervical mucus to thicken thus preventing any sperm from meeting up with an egg.  It also prevents the lining of your uterus from "plumping" up, which it usually does each month, while readying itself to nourish the egg if it indeed is fertilized.

You should never take the Lunelle shot If you've had a blood clots (not including menstrual blood clots) or you have a history of chest pains, cancer or unexplained vaginal bleeding. Females with a history of liver disease, strokes or heart attacks are a definite no to the Lunelle shot. Smokers are also not acceptable for this type of birth control.

Within the first  months, most females will notice  a change in their periods, either no bleeding, irregular bleeding, or spotting. Weight loss in some females will happen,  but the average change was an increase of 4 lbs. in the first year. Some females may gain up to 10  pounds in the first year. Any hormonal birth control containing estrogen can increase the risk of side effects which are increased with smoking especially if you are over 35 or smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day.

Again this is not a protection against STD`S or HIV, you must use a condom also.
If you decide that Lunelle might be right for you, make an appointment with your doctor to get a physical, a pap smear and to rule out the possibility of a current pregnancy.

Q: What is a contraceptive sponge?

A:  The Today  Sponge  mixes  a spermicide with a barrier contraceptive. It offers an immediate and continuous presence of the spermicide nonoxynol-9 throughout a 24-hour period, allowing for as many sessions of intercourse as desired within that period without the need for additional spermicide. 

 It is easy to learn to use. With a little practice, insertion and removal become simple procedures. Following these easy steps will ensure proper placement and usage...
  With clean hands, remove Today Sponge from its inner package. Holding the Sponge in one hand with the dimple (concave) side facing upward, and the loop dangling down, wet the sponge thoroughly with clean tap water. Gently squeeze the Sponge to produce amounts of suds. This activates the spermicide and facilitates insertion. Do not be worried if you see  too much suds. There is more than enough spermicide in Today Sponge to provide effective prevention of pregnancy. Fold the sudsy Sponge in half - still with the dimple side facing upward - and insert deeply in the vagina, along the back wall to cover the cervix. The dimple should face the cervix, and the loop should face away from the cervix.

You should wait at lease six hours after intercourse before removing the Sponge. Put a finger into the vagina and reach upward to find the string loop. Bear down and push the Sponge toward to vaginal opening. Hook the finger around the string loop or grasp Sponge between thumb and forefinger. Slowly and gently withdraw  Sponge from the vagina. If the vaginal muscles seem to be holding  Sponge tightly, wait a few minutes, then try again. While relaxing, breathe out slowly while bearing down and remove  Sponge.

The safety rate for Today Sponge is 89% to 91% .

Again this is not a protection against STD`S or HIV, you must use a condom. This metoxic shock syndrome.thod should not be use during a period due to a risk of

Q: Can you tell me about an IUD?

A. IUD stands for Intrauterine Device. It is a T-shaped piece of plastic that is often covered with copper wire.(copper T)  Some IUDs also contain hormones or come in different shapes. The IUD sits inside the uterus. The IUD prevents pregnancy by not allowing a fertilized egg to attach itself to the wall of the uterus. If a fertilized egg cannot attach and grow, it is unable to develop into a fetus.

Two appointments are required for an IUD insertion, from your doctor. The first appointment will include information, an exam, and laboratory screenings. The second appointment consists of inserting the IUD and providing follow up instructions. The IUD is usually inserted during your menstrual period. The IUD requires little maintenance. There is a small nylon thread attached to it. You must check to feel that it is still there after every period. This way you know the IUD is still in the uterus. You do this by inserting a clean finger high into the vagina where you will feel the thread.

Most IUDs are removed easily by a doctor. Removal is best done during a menstrual period but it can be removed at other times if necessary. The IUD has a life span of 1-10 years depending on which type of device is used.

The best candidates for the IUD are  females that have had children but do not wish to have more,
have no history of pelvic infections, have no history of sexually transmitted diseases, or have only one sexual partner.

The IUD is effective immediately upon insertion. Allows spontaneous sex. No mess. 
 Unfortunately you will experience heavier, longer, crampier periods. Some spotting between periods also.
Possible increased risk of vaginal infections and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).Caution: can fall out of the body without you knowing it.


Q: What is a female condom?

Thats right, there is such a thing as a FEMALE CONDOM.

Also known as the vaginal pouch, the female condom is a disposable sheath designed to protect a woman from pregnancy and STDs by lining the vagina. (Kind of like the male's condom but inside of the female.) It can be used with a spermicide for added protection.

Always read instruction and study pictures before you begin. Use care when opening the condom package. Stand with one leg on a chair or the toilet. Holding the condom with the open end down, squeeze the inner ring between your thumb and middle finger. You can use your index finger to hold the condom steady. Still squeezing the ring, insert the inner ring into your vagina. You may need to use some of the lubricant contained in the package before you insert the ring. You can tell that it is in place when the inner ring is up just past the pubic bone. You can feel your pubic bone by curving your finger towards your front when it is a couple of inches inside your vagina. Then put your finger inside the sheath until you can feel the bottom of the inner ring. Now push the ring up into the vagina. Then push the inner ring high into the vagina, over your cervix. Use your index finger to push the ring past the pubic bone. It is two inches or so inside your vagina. The outer ring stays outside, resting open against your outer vaginal lips.
During sexual intercourse, guide the penis into the pouch. You can add lubricant inside or outside the pouch to make it more comfortable. After sex, remember do not stand up with the condom still in. (Sperm could leak into your vagina.) While  lying down, twist the outer ring to close off the semen inside; now pull it out gently. Tie a knot in it and throw it in the trash (not the toilet). Use a new condom each time you have sexual intercourse. As extra protection against pregnancy, you can insert extra spermicidal cream, jelly, or foam into the vagina after removing the condom.

This method allows a woman to protect herself from STDs as well as pregnancy. Because the vaginal pouch does not require the male to be fully erect, it can be inserted well before penetration is desired. There is no need for withdrawal immediately following male orgasm, unlike traditional condoms. This method is fairly new and the information on effective use is somewhat limited. Some women complain that the sheath moves, or is noisy or uncomfortable.

Q: Is there such a thing as emergency contraception?

A:  Yes there is such a thing as emergency contraception.

It is an emergency dose of certain birth control pills that prevents the sperm from meeting the egg or prevents the egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus (also called "the morning-after pill")

The pills contain hormones that can prevent pregnancy when taken in larger-than-normal doses. The first dose of pills can be taken within 3 to 5 hours of unprotected intercourse. The next dose of pills is taken 12 hours after the first set. Each dose is made up of two, four, or five pills, depending on the type of pill.

Emergency contraception is not recommended as a regular birth control method! Instead, it is used for emergencies only. If you are having sex and the condom breaks or slips off, if your diaphragm or cervical cap slips out of place, or you forget your birth control pills 2 days in a row, you may want to consider using emergency contraception. It is also available to teenagers who are forced to have unprotected sex against their will.

Emergency contraception must be prescribed by a doctor. It is also available at many health clinics. You must call as soon as possible after having unprotected sex, since it is most effective during the first 72 hours.

It is legal and available if necessary. Can be used if you are raped. 

 The side effects can be severe and are different with every female. You must get to a doctor immediately. 

 Perfect-use failure rate 25% 
 Nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, and headache
 This is NOT to be used as a birth control method! For emergency use only.


Q. Can you get pregnant from dried semen?

A. Although sperm can live for up to six days inside the female body, tends to not live very long outside of the human body, unless under clinical situatuons.

Q. If I'm on my period, can I still get pregnant? A. YES, very much so

Q. Do I have to go to my doctor to get on birth control?

A. No. You don't have to go to a doctor to get condoms, lubricants. You can buy a condom from almost any drug store,in many super markets or even on the Internet. For most other types of birth control, you should see your doctor.

Q. What should I do if a condom tears, while having intercourse?

A. You should wash as soon as possible. A shower is probably your best bet in this case. Make sure that you use soap and water as the soap will wash away most residue left behind from the semen and the torn condom. Try to refreain from douching as the procedure may actually push substances further in.

If you're concerned about Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), you should see your doctor and get tested as soon as possible. If you know you were exposed to HIV or someone with AIDs, ask your doctor about an anti-HIV drug treatment.

Q. How many eggs does a woman have when she is born?

A. Unlike men, who produce new sperm daily throughout most of their lifetime, women are born with a specific number of undeveloped eggs (around one to two million) in their ovaries.

When a female reaches puberty and starts menstruating, only about 300,000 immature egg cells, or follicles, still remain. Some of these begin to develop with each monthly cycle. At this time, only one follicle matures into an ovum (egg) and bursts from an ovary into the fallopian tubes, initiating ovulation.

Through a process known as atresia, many of the follicles that don't develop into mature egg cells start to degenerate. As a result, only a few hundred remain at menopause. This will usually begin around forty-five to fifty years of age. Because of the hormonal changes that normally accompany menopause, the remaining follicles are unlikely to mature and will not become viable eggs. Women going through menopause can still get pregnant.

Q. He "came" on the outside of my vagina. Can I still get pregnant?

A. That's highly unlikely. If the sperm was deposited very close to the opening of the vagina, there is a VERY small chance they could make it inside the vagina. They still have to swim a very long way from there. Please don't make a habit of this. You can use a condom if you are in that situation and there is no penetration involved.

“pulling out” by a guy has a very high failure rate. This is due to the lubricating presence of pre-ejaculate fluid, which leaks out of the penis before ejaculation. Many times, there are more than enough sperm in "pre-cum" to impregnate a female.

Q. What is the Abortion Pill?

A. Mifepristone, also known as RU-486 or the French abortion pill.  Mifepristone was first developed as an early-abortion drug in France in 1988, under the name RU-486.
After years of controversy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has has now approved the drug for use in the U.S. Mifepristone comes in a pill form and it is used as an abortion method for the earliest days of pregnancy.

Q. What are its side effects of Mifepristone?

A. Most common side effects are: Uterine cramping, bleeding, nausea, and fatigue. Bleeding and spotting usually lasts for about nine to sixteen days. Heavy bleeding is possible, but extremely rare. In about one of every 100 women the bleeding becomes heavy enough to require a surgical procedure to stop it.

Q. How long after sex can I use a pregnancy test?

A. Home pregnancy tests are most accurate about 27 days after conception. This is when a menstrual period is 10 -12 days late. Newer pregnancy tests say you can use them one day after a missed period. If you suspect you are pregnant even though a home pregnancy test is negative, you should have an exam by a doctor.

Q. Are there other benefits to taking the pill, besides for birth control?

A. Yes, very much so. They can help reduce your menstrual cramps, regulate irregular periods, and make your menstrual flow lighter. The pill is also known to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cysys, breast cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

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Q. What is Fertilization?

Simple definition: The joining of an egg and sperm.



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