Someone asked us:
I have the Mirena IUD and I absolutely love it. However, I am still super wary of the fact that I don’t get my period regularly, as awesome as it is, because I’m constantly anxious about being pregnant. What are the legitimate chances that I might get pregnant with the IUD correctly in place? What are the warning signs if the device isn’t correctly in place? I ask, because my Gyno actually just retired and I haven’t found a new one yet. Any IUD tips or facts would be greatly appreciated!
It’s pretty common for the Mirena IUD to shorten, lighten and even eliminate your period. The chances of getting pregnant with an IUD in place are super incredibly slim — IUDs are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. So you can relax. Odds are your IUD is doing a bang-up job of keeping buns out of your oven, regardless of menstruation (or lack thereof).
As you note, pregnancy is possible if your IUD moves out of place or gets expelled. If it helps you feel more relaxed, you can check the strings that hang out of your cervix every now and then. If they’re way longer or shorter than normal, or have disappeared altogether, see a nurse or doctor about it. Same if you can feel the plastic part of the IUD coming out of your cervix.
Remember, you can also use condoms if you want an extra dose of pregnancy prevention. And condoms are the ONLY method of birth control that also protect against STDs.
It’s a bummer when our favorite doctors retire, but remember you can always visit a Planned Parenthood health center for all your gyno needs (and then some!). We happen to think our staff is pretty great.
-Kendall at Planned Parenthood
Welcome to Advanced Sex Ed, Planned Parenthood’s newest Tumblr segment. Put on your smarty pants because we’re kicking things up a notch with some higher-level sexual learnin’.
Birth Control Effectiveness Rates: Perfect-Use vs. Typical-Use.
“Why are there sometimes two different effectiveness rates for birth control? Which is correct?”
One of the questions we get all the time is, “How effective is birth control?” Usually people are looking for one, definitive percentage that tells them exactly how well a certain method prevents pregnancy. But reality is more complicated than that.
Birth control effectiveness is measured two ways: how well it prevents pregnancy when used PERFECTLY every single time, and how well it prevents pregnancy after factoring in human error. These are called “perfect-use rates” and “typical-use rates.”
Let’s look at the birth control pill, for example:
So the pill is extremely effective if used perfectly, but that old saying, “nobody’s perfect,” also applies to birth control. We sometimes make mistakes or life circumstances foil our perfect-use plans: things like forgetting a pill, losing a pill, not being able to get the next pack on time and barfing can all impact the pill’s effectiveness. Therefore, we have two different rates, and the “real-life” one applies to most of us.
But what’s up with birth control that has only one, very impressive effectiveness rate? (Lookin’ at you, IUDs and implants!) These LARCs — long-acting reversible contraceptives — are virtually impossible to screw up, so they get a perfect-use rate by default: more than 99%, the best there is. More and more people are using LARCs these days because they’re super convenient AND super effective — even the folks on our Planned Parenthood Tumblr Team are huge fans.
Life happens, so typical-use rates are the most true to life. The most common reason birth control fails is because we mess it up. So whatever method you choose, you’ve got to use it as perfectly as possible or it just won’t work as well as it should. Be honest with yourself: if your lifestyle just doesn’t jive with having to think about birth control on a regular basis, consider getting yourself a LARC.
And remember: no method of birth control is 100% effective, even if used perfectly. But you can increase your pregnancy-preventing superpowers by using both birth control and condoms. There’s another really good reason to do this: condoms are the only method of contraception that also protects you from STDs.
-Kendall at Planned Parenthood
Someone asked us:
Hi, hi. I’m looking for comprehensive assault education and wondered if you had any pointers? We’re reassessing the assault education program at our university and it’s super heteronormative. any tips? thanks thanks thanks
There are a ton of great resources, and YOU are great for doing this work.
So in terms of background, we know that sexual assault/violence have long gone underreported, unnoticed, or invisible in queer communities because of a combination of stigma, oppression via homophobia and transphobia, and good old-fashioned ignorance.
Yup, it’s still true that some people function under the total myth that domestic violence and sexual assault always involve a male abuser and a female victim. Not only is this just outright wrong, that kind of belief can stop people from getting the care and support they need.
Simply enough, this may mean providing some basic training for staff and volunteers, and doing some updates to print materials. You’ll want to be sure information includes LGBTQ people; the simple act of spelling out the fact that “lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are sometimes victims of sexual assault and intimate partner violence” can really help queer people feel visible and encouraged to get the help they may need. It’s better to intentionally include LGBTQ language than to use vague language that by default includes everyone.
Providing basic training to staff about what it means to provide a welcoming environment for LGBTQ people includes some important steps:
- Avoid assumptions about the identity of the person seeking help; just ask. “What’s important for us to know about you and your assault in order give you the best care and support?” Open-ended questions like this can help a ton to increase a sense of inclusion and visibly for an all-too-often marginalized group of people.
- On any intake paperwork, be sure to include the option of sexual orientation and gender identity self-identification; this simple act can signal that yes, you know that LGBTQ people exist and may be seeking services and support.
- Help staff and volunteers understand how potential clients might feel a little concerned as they ask for help because sadly, most have at least one pretty awful story about being treated badly by an uninformed care provider.
It’s also a good idea to try and partner with a local LGBTQ group at your school or in your community. So do a little looking to see who’s around and doing good work around LGBTQ issues, and see if you can work on things together!
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has tons more info on making your assault programs inclusive to LGBTQ students. You can also check out the resources at your local Planned Parenthood. We have amazing community education departments with trained staff, and several of our affiliates have rape crisis and sexual assault programs as well.
And seriously, thank you. You’re doing great, important work in making sure your educating and resource-sharing includes people of various orientations, behaviors and identities, and that matters. It matters a lot. You rule.
- Calvin and Maureen at QueerTips
Someone asked us:
How badly does the HPV vaccine hurt? I know that I should get it because it’s an important vaccine and I feel so stupid but I’ve been putting it off because I’ve heard that it’s really painful and I hate needles and I’m so scared!
I am so there with you on hating needles. I can’t tell you how much of a weenie I am about getting shots and blood work. But as nervous as I was about getting my HPV shots, they didn’t end up being particularly painful or eventful. I psyched myself up for a whole lot of nothing.
But, everyone reacts to shots differently — some people have pain and others don’t. My advice: plan ahead to make things go as smoothly and painlessly as possible. Here are some things you can do to make the process easier:
Tell your doctor or nurse about your concerns. It’s unlikely that you’re the first patient they’ve seen with a fear of needles, so they’ll be prepared to deal with your needle anxiety.
Bring something distracting to do. Try to use your time before your appointment for relaxation — read a book, listen to some music, engage in something that calms your nerves so you’ll be less tense when you go in.
Use the buddy system. Having someone there who can comfort you if you start to panic can make a huge difference.
Give yourself something to look forward to after your appointment. Because you deserve a reward for taking care of your health and facing your fears.
From one scaredy cat to another, I know it can be hard but I promise it’s totally worth it.
-Mylanie at Planned Parenthood