This article discusses a mature topic. Our 17-year-old and younger readers are encouraged to read this with an adult.
I was flying home from a trip last month, and I kindly accepted the corn chips that have come to replace actual airline meals. A cracked tooth later, I found myself in the dentist chair, under fluorescent lights, being asked about my flossing habits. “Umm…sometimes,” I mumbled. Truth be told, I know that flossing is important—but I just don’t do it that often.
It feels like that’s always the glitch with prevention—whether we’re talking about flossing your teeth or using condoms consistently. We know that we should do these things for our own good…so why aren’t we better about following through?
It’s a complicated question, and I’m proud to work as a Planned Parenthood health educator because I think the answer begins with accurate information. When it comes to pregnancy and STD prevention, no question is too simple (or even too weird). So today I’m going to answer some questions related to prevention, as well as clear up some myths.
Do you have a question that you’d like to see answered in this column? Send them to me at AskElizabeth@pp-la.org.
Can I can pregnant from oral sex?
No. This is a super common question, probably because we often talk about someone’s belly growing during pregnancy–but a pregnancy doesn’t develop next to a digesting burrito. For pregnancy to occur, a sperm cell needs to fertilize an egg (for example, when someone has unprotected vaginal sex).
I had sex in a swimming pool. Can I get pregnant?
Once you start ovulating (when your body releases an egg) you could get pregnant anytime you have vaginal sex–whether it’s in the water or on a water bed. That said, if ejaculation occurs outside of the body there is no need to fear sperm swimming through chlorinated water into the vagina. However, if there was unprotected vaginal sex, then there is a possibility of pregnancy.
My friend has had unprotected sex a few times and didn’t get pregnant. Does that mean she’s infertile?
No. For a woman to get pregnant, she needs to be ovulating. Most women ovulate about once a month, but sometimes this can happen unpredictably (stress and hormones can affect it). It’s also common for teens to have irregular periods which make predicting ovulation difficult.
If your friend does not want to become pregnant, her best options are to abstain from vaginal sex, use condoms consistently (both of which will also protect against STD transmission), or use a reliable form of birth control (like the IUD). Don’t assume that it can’t happen just because it hasn’t already!
If your friend wants to become pregnant, a good first step is to have a better understanding of when she is ovulating. This can be as simple as marking it on her calendar, or downloading a smart phone app like Period Tracker. Also remember that sperm can live in a woman’s body after ejaculation for three to five days—so if this overlaps with ovulation, a pregnancy can occur.
Of course, while infertility in young women is rare, speaking to her health care provider may set her mind at ease. There are some simple tests that can help determine if medical issues need to be addressed.
Also, I wanted to let all 21+ LA based readers know about an event that Planned Parenthood’s Young Professionals’ group is hosting next Tuesday, May 22nd, at 7pm in Santa Monica. Its an 80s themed bingo night, and all are encouraged to bring their best Lauper! For more information or to purchase tickets click here. Hope to see you there!