Birth Control Myths DEBUNKED

Hey Shawna,

My sister wants to start birth control but is afraid of the side effects.  Is it true that women gain weight when they are on hormonal birth control?  Can you still get pregnant afterward?

Thanks

-Anonymous

Hi,

Those are very very VERY common concerns.  There is so much information on birth control out there that it is hard to know what is true and what isn’t.  Here I debunk 5 of the most common birth control myths I have heard!  What others have YOU heard???  Let me know!  Oh,  and I should mention that hormonal birth control only protects you against pregnancy.  It does not protect you against STDs/HIV.  Aside from not having sex at all,  condoms are your best option for preventing STDs/HIV.

Myth #1:  “I can’t get pregnant on my period!”

Fact:  Not true!  Although you are most likely to get pregnant in the middle of your cycle (right between your periods – when your ovary releases an egg),  you CAN get pregnant any time throughout your cycle.  There are a number of reasons for this.  First,  not everyone has a regular cycle (a regular period).  Not having a regular cycle makes it really really difficult to know when you are ovulating  (that’s what it’s called when your ovary releases an egg).  Also,  sperm can survive in a woman’s body for up to a week!  So even if you have sex a week before you ovulate,  sperm can be there waiting for the egg.  So if you are not trying to get pregnant,  it’s really important to use a birth control method.  Using a birth control method is WAY easier than trying to figure out when you are ovulating  (remember,  that’s when the ovary releases an egg and happens between periods).

Myth #2: “Birth control makes girls fat!”

Fact:  Not true.  Most women do NOT gain weight on birth control.  For those who do,  it is only a small amount.  Some girls even report losing weight on birth control.  If you gain weight you need to think about lifestyle changes that may be to blame – like not exercising,  eating junk food,  driving instead of walking,  and just getting older.

Girls often focus on side effects and overlook all of the good things about hormonal birth control like lighter periods,  less PMS,  less acne,  lowering your chances of getting cancer of the ovaries and uterus.  And most importantly – not getting pregnant!  It’s also important to remember that the weight gain you fear from birth control doesn’t compare to the weight you would gain from pregnancy!

Myth #3:  “I tried birth control and didn’t like it – which means I should not try anything else!”

Fact:  There are many different kinds of birth control,  and different women have different responses.  Many women have to wait a few months to let their body get used to birth control (this goes for all medications).  You may also have to try different kinds before finding one that works best for you.

One common thing that happens is that a friend or family member tried something and didn’t like it,  which makes you think it won’t work well for you.  But that’s not true.  You are a different person – with a different body,  likes and dislikes, and lifestyle.  Many of these myths are told to us by people who care,  but unfortunately they may not know all the facts. Always get your sex information from a trained health educator or clinician.  Call and make an appointment at New Gen to get your questions answered.  Everything is free and confidential.

Myth #4:  “IUDs  (a method that is placed in the uterus) are only for older women or women who have children already.” 

Fact:  Again,  not true!  IUDs are great for young people.  I have one!  The best thing about IUDs is that they last for years.  They don’t require you to take a pill every day or get a shot every 3 months.  It’s really safe and effective,  not messy,  it is easy to use,  and it is something you don’t have to think about.  Seriously,  once it’s placed you almost forget you even have it!

Myth #5:  “Using birth control will make it harder to get pregnant later.”

Fact:  Not True.  Hormonal birth control works by stopping you from ovulating  (when the egg leaves the ovary).  When you stop using your birth control you start ovulating again.  That is why many women get pregnant right after using a birth control method.  That means that taking a “break” from your birth control also puts you at risk  (by the way,  the body does not need a “break” from birth control).  How many of you know someone who stopped taking the pill because they broke up with a boyfriend and then they got back together …just once…and they got pregnant… or they forgot to use a condom…just that one time?  It is very easy for young women to get pregnant;  birth control only works when you are using it.  That’s why you should be using a birth control method,  especially a long acting and reversible birth control method  (like an IUD, implant or Depo),  even if you are between partners or you are not having sex regularly.

In happiness & health,

Shawna

Reviewed by Andrea Raider, NP

Some Like it Wet!

Hi Shawna,

I learned so much about my body from your blog.  Why didn’t anyone ever tell me what was going on?!?! Anyway,  I have heard people say that a girl is ‘wet’,  what does that mean?

Thanks!

-More Questions

Hi!

I am super stoked you were able to learn something from these last few posts.  The human body is way cool and unfortunately many of us were never told about how it all works.  And I always welcome more questions!

  • What does it mean when someone says a girl is ‘wet’?

When a woman finds something to be sexually pleasurable (that can be kissing,  touching or anything else sexual but does not necessarily have to be physical – like seeing something sexy in a movie),  her vagina will often start producing a fluid.  This fluid is called lubrication and is the body’s way of preparing itself for penetrative (penis in vagina) sex.  Think of rubbing your hands together really fast when dry.  How do you think that would feel?  Now imagine doing that with lotion on both hands.  How do you think that would feel different?  You probably guessed that rubbing your hands together with lotion is much more comfortable.  Well that’s the same idea with lubrication.  It makes penetrative sex more comfortable and enjoyable by reducing or eliminating friction all together.  It’s important to know that just because a girl or woman becomes ‘wet’ that does not mean that she has to have sex or do anything sexual.  It’s totally normal to become ‘wet’ when making out or touching yourself or your partner (should I do an article on what it means to touch yourself?).  It’s totally okay NOT to have sex even if a girl or woman becomes ‘wet’.

I should also mention that there are many things that can affect a woman from becoming ‘wet’ even if she is sexually aroused.  There are a few things she should do.  Often,  it is nothing serious and we suggest using an artificial lubrication (we have samples here at New Gen or you can buy it at your local pharmacy).  There are different kinds of lubrication – we always recommend those that are water-based (anything with oil will cause a condom to break,  that includes lotion!). Also,  water-based is totally washable (anything with oil with stain your clothes or sheets – yikes).  If you have ever touched a condom you might have noticed it felt a little slimy.  That’s because a lot of condoms already have lubrication on them (though many people find they like using more).   Talking to a clinician is always a good idea (come see us at New Gen) if sex is painful or you have a discharge that smells different than usual or itches as there may be something going on.  Also,  and this is a big subject,  you may want to have a conversation with your partner about what turns you on.  It may be that you need a bit more sexual stimulation or foreplay to become aroused.  Don’t know what any of those words mean?

askshawna@yahoo.com

There is probably a lot more I can say but this is getting long (as many of my posts become – there is just so much to say!).  I have included a few pictures of the kinds of lubrication you might see on a shelf at the pharmacy (there are many many more kinds).   I hope I have answered your question.  Feel free to write back if you need me to further explain something or you have another question.

In happiness & health,

Shawna
Reviewed by Andrea Raider, NP & Debby Davidson, NP

 

The Nitty Gritty of the Male Body

So we covered all the basics with female anatomy.  I have gotten some really good questions from those posts and can’t wait to answer them.  But first,  it’s time to discuss male anatomy.

Bladder:  Where urine (pee) collects before it leaves the body.

Urethra:  The tube from which men urinate (pee).  It’s the tube that connects the bladder to the urethral opening (pee hole).  Unlike females,  the male urethra is used for more than just peeing.  I will explain that in a bit.

Rectum:  The lowest end of the intestine before the anus (external opening or butt hole),  where solid waste (poop) is stored before leaving the body through the anus.

Penis:  The penis is a male’s reproductive and sex organ.  It varies in shape and size and it’s all normal.  In fact, there are a lot of myths out there about penis size and shape.  Let me know what you’ve heard!

Erection:  I know this is not something listed on the picture but I thought it deserved a little explanation.  An erection is when the spongy tissue of the penis fills with blood (think of a sponge absorbing water) and becomes hard and erect.  This can happen during puberty when nervous or embarrassed or for no apparent reason.  But as a male matures,  it usually only happens when he is sexually aroused.  I should also mention that it happens randomly throughout the night for men of all ages.  It’s totally normal.

Circumcision:  Like erections,  circumcision is not mentioned on the picture but is worth talking about.  It is a procedure that involves cutting off the foreskin (which is skin around the head of the penis that all males are born with) and usually happens shortly after birth.  Although there are many differing opinions about this,  it is totally normal to be circumcised or not.  One is not better than the other.  And when the penis is erect,  it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between the two.

Scrotum:  The sack of skin that holds the testicles.  The really cool thing about the scrotum is that it can hang lower or higher depending on body temperature!!! Sperm are made inside the testicles and need to be at a certain temperature to be healthy.  The body knows this so when a male becomes too warm,  the scrotum hangs lower so the testicles are further away from the body (keeping them cooler).  The scrotum does the opposite when it’s cold – it brings the testicles closer to the body.  Cool huh?

Testicles:  Similar to the ovaries in the female.  This is where sperm are made!

Epididymis:  The epididymis sits right on top of the testicle and is where sperm go to further develop before leaving the body.  If you were to see this small tube it would look 2 inches long.  However,  if you took it out and stretched it out long it would be 20 feet long!  This long length gives the sperm plenty of time to develop.

Vas Deferens:  The vas deference is the tube that sperm travel through to leave the body.  Ever heard of a vasectomy (male sterilization)?  Well it’s when the vas deferens is tied off so that sperm can’t leave the body.  If sperm can’t leave the body,  there can be no pregnancy. You still ejaculate (cum).

Prostate:  Produces a fluid that helps sperm move.  It can be very sensitive to the touch (which is easiest to do through the anus).  Some men,  both straight and gay,  like their prostate touched.  However,  it’s important to ask your partner if this is something they are into before trying to touch it.  Always ask!

Seminal Vesicle:  A small organ located beneath the bladder and connected to the urethra that produces a fluid that nourishes and helps sperm move (called seminal fluid).

Ejaculation:  Again, not on the list but is worthy of explanation.  The moment when semen spurts out of the opening of the urethra in the glans of the penis.  Many people call semen ‘cum’.   So what is semen exactly??

Semen:  Many people think semen is just sperm but that is only part of it.  Only a small amount of semen is actually sperm.  Most of it is fluid from the seminal vesicles and prostate.  However, there are still millions and millions of sperm cells in every ejaculation.

Okay,  just a few more things I want to add that aren’t labeled on the photo.

Cowper’s  Gland:  The glands beneath the prostate gland that are attached to the urethra.  They produce a fluid — pre-ejaculate or pre-cum — that prepares the urethra for ejaculation.

Why does the urethra need to be prepared for ejaculation???  Remember that the urethra is the tube in which urine passes.  Urine is very acidic and is harmful to sperm.  The body is super smart and knows this, so it produces a fluid that clears out any urine residue that is left in the urethra so that when a male ejaculates,  the sperm go unharmed.  Although the fluid itself does not contain sperm,  it can pick up sperm that has recently passed through the urethra.  That means,  it is possible to get pregnant from pre-cum.  It is also possible to transmit infections,  like HIV,  through pre-cum.

Well this got much longer than I expected!!! I hope you find it as interesting as I do!  It’s crazy how smart the body is with all its automated responses like the scrotum & pre-cum.  Although this is fairly long,  I am sure there are some of you who still have questions and I can’t wait to answer them.

In happiness & health,

Shawna

Reviewed by Andrea Raider, NP & Tonya Chaffee, MD

Female Anatomy Part 2: The VULVA!!!!

The VULVA!

So last week I explained what was going on inside a woman’s body.  This week I will explain what is going on with the outside.  Like I mentioned, the outside of a woman’s reproductive system is actually called the vulva,  not the vagina.  The vulva has all kinds of nifty parts that do all kinds of nifty things!

External (outside the body):

Clitoris: The clitoris is the spongy tissue that fills with blood during sexual excitement and becomes erect.  It is very sensitive to the touch.  The clitoris is the only organ in the human body whose only purpose is sexual pleasure.

Opening of Urethra:  Where pee (urine) comes out.  Many people think woman urinate from the same place menstrual blood flows from but nope.  Unlike guys (which we will talk about that week),  women have 2 separate openings,  one specifically for urine only.

Opening of Vagina:  The vaginal opening is located below the urethral opening.  The vaginal opening is a canal where fingers, a penis,  or tampons can enter the vagina.  It is also where a baby would come out of during birth and where menstrual blood flows out from.

Perineum:  This is the area of skin between the vaginal opening and the anus.  Some people like this area touched during sexual activity.  Some people don’t.  Wonder if your partner does,  ASK!!!

Labia Majora (outer lips): The labia majora are the outside lips – where pubic hair grows.  Labia majora vary in size and color.  Some labia majora are bigger than the labia minora (inner lips).  Some are smaller.  Some are dark.  Some are light.  Remember,  ALL ARE NORMAL.

Labia Minora (inner lips):  The labia minora cover the vaginal opening and the urethra.  The inner lips are also sensitive and can swell when a woman is aroused.  And just like the labia majora they can vary in size and color.

Hymen:  The hymen is one of those things I get lots of questions about like whether or not it proves virginity (it doesn’t) or whether it bleeds or not when it breaks (sometimes).  As much explaining about the hymen that I do,  I think Scarleteen does an even better job.  Check ’em out!

Anus:  Exit point for solid waste.   (Often called the butt-hole – where poop leaves the body.)  Some people enjoy having anal sex.  For more information,  check out my previous post about anal sex.
I hope this helps some of you understand the female body a bit more.  If you have any questions,  don’t hesitate to ask.  Anatomy is one of my FAVORITE things to discuss.  Our bodies are really awesome!
Oh, I should mention that Planned Parenthood has helped with some of these definitions.  Check them out for more information.  They have some really cool interactive diagrams (pictures).

In happiness & health,

Shawna

Reviewed by Andrea Raider, NP