Ask us anything. No judgments.

Does pulling out work better or worse than using condoms?

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Someone asked us:

How effective is pulling out compared to using a condom and not pulling out?

We get these kinds of questions all the time, and the reality is they’re very difficult to answer because the effectiveness of birth control has a lot to do with how well people use it  a method doesn’t work as well if you mess it up (putting the condom on incorrectly or not pulling out before ejaculation, for example). And “messing it up” is the number one reason birth control fails.

But let’s get down to the nitty gritty and talk numbers (remember, these numbers aren’t exact and vary depending on how well you use your method):

For every 100 people who use withdrawal (pulling the penis out and ejaculating away from your partner’s vulva/vagina), 27 will become pregnant each year if they don’t always do it correctly. With perfect use, that number drops to 4 out of 100, but withdrawal is a VERY difficult method of birth control to use perfectly. The ejaculator needs to know their body, have lots of self-control, and be able and willing to pull out in time, every time. And while pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) does not usually contain sperm, sometimes it actually does — and it only takes one little sperm to cause a pregnancy. Long story short: withdrawal leaves a lot up to chance, but it’s more effective than many realize if used correctly.

For every 100 people who use condoms, 18 will become pregnant if they don’t always use them correctly. 2 out of 100 will get pregnant even with perfect use. Making sure you use condoms correctly  storing them in a cool, dry place, checking the expiration date, rolling them on the right way, adding water-based or silicone lubricant, etc.  will increase their effectiveness. 

Again, it’s impossible to predict exactly how effective each method will be for each person, but condoms come out the overall winner here. And condoms are the ONLY method of birth control that also prevents STDs, including HIV. Regardless of your pregnancy risk and/or whether or not you’re using another method of contraception, condoms are always a good idea. 

If you’re totally set on using withdrawal or condoms for pregnancy prevention, the safest way to go would be to use them together (wear a condom and also pull out before ejaculation). Ejaculating outside of your partner always reduces the chances of pregnancy, and condoms protect you against STDs and act as a backup in case pulling out doesn’t go as planned.

-Kendall at Planned Parenthood

Should I go on birth control even if I’m not having sex?

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Someone asked us:

Is it okay to go on birth control even if you aren’t going to be sexually active right away?

Yes indeedio! In fact, I recommend it. It’s a good idea to be on birth control if there’s ANY chance you may be having sex that can result in pregnancy (namely, penis-in-vagina) in the near-ish future. 

Birth control can have non-contraceptive benefits as well, so plenty of people use it regardless of their level of sexual activity or pregnancy risk. For example, my dermatologist prescribed birth control pills when I was a teenager to help clear up my torturous pizza face – the pregnancy prevention part was a total bonus when I became sexually active later.

Other methods, like the hormonal IUD, can reduce and sometimes even stop menstrual bleeding and/or cramps, a side effect that lots of folks appreciate.

If you’re interested in exploring your birth control options, Planned Parenthood has a fun little quiz that can help you figure out what methods are best for you and your personal situation.

And remember, condoms are always available for cheap, effective pregnancy prevention if the moment unexpectedly arises – and they’re the only method of birth control that ALSO prevents STDs (including HIV).

-Kendall at Planned Parenthood

Can you drink alcohol while on birth control?

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 Someone asked us:

can you drink alcohol on birth control?

Yup. It’s safe to drink alcohol while on birth control, whether or not the method you use contains hormones. And booze won’t lessen the effectiveness of birth control, either. 

But don’t go busting out celebratory keg stands just yet. Being intoxicated may put you at risk for unplanned pregnancy if you’re too drunk to use your birth control method correctly (like forgetting to take your pill or change your ring), or if you barf within two hours of swallowing a birth control pill. Drinking can also thwart your willingness and ability to use condoms correctly, which can put you at risk for pregnancy AND STDs.

Bottom line is: birth control doesn’t have to kill your party buzz (and vice versa). But drinking responsibly – or not at all – is the best way to ensure you stay hangover AND pregnancy free. 

-Kendall at Planned Parenthood

What were the birth control options 100 years ago?

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Someone asked us:

what were the birth control options 100 years ago?

What an interesting question! One hundred years ago, it was 1914. Woodrow Wilson was president; American women couldn’t vote; and getting birth control was a major hassle that was impossible for many.

Available birth control methods at the time included abstinence (not having any kind of sex at all), withdrawal (pulling out before ejaculation), outercourse (no penis-in-vagina sex), fertility awareness-based methods, condoms (made from sheepskin or vulcanized rubber), and diaphragms.

But it was also illegal to use birth control — in fact, it was illegal to even TALK about it. So using birth control was a risk not many were willing to take. The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, went to jail for distributing birth control and information about preventing pregnancy.

Thankfully, a lot has changed since then. Birth control is legal and widely available, and there are a lot more options to choose from. Planned Parenthood health centers see nearly 3 million people every year, and 99 percent of sexually active women* between 15 and 44 use birth control at some point in their lives.

In fact, now birth control is more accessible than ever before. Because of the Affordable Care Act, people with health insurance can now get birth control without a copay.

And yet, our work is never done. The Supreme Court is now deciding whether companies can refuse to cover birth control in their health insurance plans based on their religious beliefs. Learn more at the Planned Parenthood Action website.

-Mylanie at Planned Parenthood

Does birth control protect you from pregnancy during the week you don’t take hormones?

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Someone asked us:

Are birth control pills effective during the week that you take the sugar pills?

Great question.  The simple answer is: yes! 

Most birth control pills (and the patch and ring) have three weeks of hormones, one week with no hormones. Some brands of pills have 4 days without hormones, others only take a week break every three months, etc. The sugar pills are just there to help you stay in the habit of taking a pill every day. Sometimes these sugar pills also have iron, which helps replace iron that you may lose during your period.

I totally get why it feels like birth control isn’t effective when you’re not actually taking the hormones. But as long as you do take the hormonal pills every single day you’re supposed to, they keep doing their job – preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus – even during your “off” days. Just make sure to start your next pack on time.

-Kendall at Planned Parenthood 

I’m a trans man who wants a birth control method that gets rid of my periods and doesn’t contain estrogen. Whatcha got for me?

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Someone asked us:

Hi. I’m a trans man, but I can’t afford to go on testosterone yet. My menstrual cycle really bothers me, and I may start having sex with men soon, but the estrogen in birth control pills (and the symptoms that result ‘cuz of that) makes that really, REALLY not an option I want to take. Is there any method of birth control that does not contain estrogen? Preferably one that also gets rid of periods? (Preferably one that’s also likely to be covered by my crappy insurance?)

Believe it or not, you have a lot of options to choose from!

There are quite a few hormonal birth control options that don’t contain estrogen. These “progestin-only” methods include: the implant (Implanon or Nexplanon), hormonal IUDs (Mirena or Skyla), the shot (Depo Provera), and even some kinds of birth control pills.

Many of these methods have been shown to lessen menstrual bleeding – and sometimes even eliminate it (though it’s common to have some spotting, especially for the first few months). Speak with your nurse or doctor to figure out which of these options fits your needs best.

And let’s not forget about the good ol’ condom. Condoms are the only way to protect yourself from STDs as well as pregnancy, so it’s a great idea to use them even if you’re also on another form of birth control.

Under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), most types of birth control are now covered by insurance. Learn more

I hope this helps!

-Mylanie at Planned Parenthood

How I Beat PMS And Lived Happily Ever After

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My PMS is the worst. Once a month, I hate on everyone. I break up with my boyfriend. I entertain homicidal fantasies about my fellow commuters. I bitch out the people I love for no reason and I drive the people who love me away. I cry. I yell. I alienate.

So I wanted a birth control method that would stop all that. Progesterone is a hormone we make in our bodies. When you’re pregnant, you make more of it. So using a birth control method with progesterone sort of makes your body think you’re pregnant, which often results in lighter periods or no periods at all. But since you’re not really pregnant, you don’t put on a bunch of weight and give birth to a baby after nine months. That’s what I’m talking about.

There are several birth control methods with progesterone, like the Mirena IUD and the shot. These are both great methods, but I went with the implant, which is a tiny, plastic rod that’s the size of a matchstick and goes in your arm. That’s right, a doctor inserts it into your body like you’re in a science fiction movie. Except instead of getting tracked by the government, you don’t get pregnant (or PMS!) for three years.

The whole thing took about five minutes. First the doctor gave me a couple of shots to make me numb. Then she stuck a little device into my arm, lifted the skin up, and shot the little sucker in. And that was it, I was out the door. (And FYI, thanks to Obamacare everything was free.)

A few months in, I’ve experienced some light spotting, which is a common side effect and no big deal. And for most people, the spotting goes away eventually. I’m happy to report that my PMS is gone, gone, gone. Oh, and I’m not getting pregnant anytime soon either. Thanks, implant!

Want more info? Get the full lowdown on the implant

-Amy at Planned Parenthood

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