Herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea—oh, my!

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on in 2017, it’s that unprotected sex can have disastrous consequences for a variety of reasons. Being sexually active doesn’t have to be a dangerous part of someone’s life though.

With the help of the National Institutes of Health, the Vanguard is ready to assist you in putting common birth control myths to rest:

MYTH ONE: “Birth control is not effective. Sex will lead to pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease/infection even with birth control.” 

THE TRUTH: The effectiveness of birth control varies by method. Birth control pills are found to be 91–99 percent effective when taken correctly. The same is true for birth control injections, which can protect from pregnancy for up to three months. Other hormonal-based birth control methods, such as the patch, are less effective but only because they can fall off.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, IUDs and implants are almost as effective as sterilization. Not only do they last longer, but they also require less maintenance than the pill or shot.

Barrier-type birth control includes condoms, cervical caps, diaphragms and spermicides. The effectiveness of these methods range between 60–80 percent. Using latex condoms is best if engaging in non-monogamous sex for the prevention of STD/I transfers.

Using a barrier along with hormonal birth control is shown to be the most effective in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

MYTH TWO: “You’d know if your partner had an STD/I because it would be obvious, so you don’t need to ask.”  

THE TRUTH:  It is never safe to assume that any new partner(s) is inherently safe because there are no obvious signs of diseases. Everybody is idiosyncratic, which means that every individual body will show signs of illness differently, including STD/Is.

STD/Is can be asymptomatic, meaning transmission is manifested internally and without any trademark symptoms such as blisters, rashes, or spotting. Any untreated STD/I can lead to permanent consequences if left untreated. Protect yourself and always get tested regularly if you are sexually active.

MYTH THREE: “You can’t get pregnant during your period.”  

THE TRUTH: Sperm can live in uteri for 2–7 days. An egg can remain in the uterus up to and immediately after menstruation, allowing for fertilization to occur. Although it is highly unlikely and uncommon, becoming pregnant during menstruation is possible due to frequent hormonal changes.

Any recent changes in schedule, diet, work, home, or even social life can affect someone’s hormones and make their cycles irregular, which could very well leave them fertile during or immediately after their period.  

MYTH FOUR: “The ‘pull-out’ method is a good way of birth control.”  

THE TRUTH: Sperm can be pesky because they don’t just live within the “final” ejaculate. In fact, sperm can live within pre-ejaculate (pre-cum). Because of this, sperm can still manage to get into the uterus, even if withdrawal was successful.

MYTH FIVE: “You can tell if someone is a virgin by looking at their hymen. If it’s broken, they’re not a virgin anymore.”  

THE TRUTH:  Tearing a hymen during sex is only culturally significant due to the myth that all hymens are intact before sex. Hymens come in different shapes and sizes. Tearing through sex is possible, but other rigorous activities such as gymnastics, ballet, soccer, and horseback riding are known to do the trick.

There is no need to tear a hymen if there is proper lubrication in the vagina. This can be done by using lube and engaging in foreplay prior to penetration. If you’re unsure what proper foreplay consists of, please don’t wait until your 30s to figure it out. There are plenty of websites for showing us how.

MYTH SIX: “You can’t get STD/Is through oral or non-penetrative sex.”   

THE TRUTH: STD/Is can be transmitted through any kind of sexual contact, including oral sex. Some can even be passed through kissing, hugs, or handshakes (namely herpes).

MYTH SEVEN: “Getting tested for STD/Is is embarrassing.”   

THE TRUTH: While it may be embarrassing to divulge personal information to a doctor or nurse, getting tested regularly is nothing to be embarrassed about—it’s a part of being a responsible sexual partner. Being turned down by somebody who refuses to have sex with you because you haven’t been tested? Now, that’s embarrassing.