By the time we get to university we might think we’re know-it-alls when it comes to the facts about contraception – but recent surveys would suggest otherwise. Research conducted by Britain’s leading sexual healthcare provider, Marie Stopes International, revealed that 1 in 4 sexually active under 24s failed to use protection with a new partner. 19% of respondents wrongly believed that the ‘withdrawal method’ is an effective form of contraception and almost half admitted to being confused about the contraceptive options available to them. Ignorance of the facts is resulting in Britain’s young people playing Russian roulette with unwanted pregnancy and STIs. Here are some common misconceptions and contraceptive truths that you may also have not been aware of…
“As long as you take the morning-after pill up to three days after unprotected sex, you won’t get pregnant.”
FALSE – When taken in the first 24 hours the morning-after pill is about 95% effective, but this falls to just 58% effective when taken between 48 and 72 hours after unprotected sex. Alternatively the emergency intrauterine device, or ‘coil’, can be fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex. This is almost 100% effective whichever time you decide to have it within the 5 day period.
“Wearing the wrong sized condom could increase the chances of pregnancy.”
TRUE– Condoms are not sized purely for comfort reasons. Research shows that wearing condoms which are too small or too loose significantly increases the likelihood of the condom breaking or slipping off during sex and resulting in unwanted pregnancy. Condoms are also the only form of contraception to protect against STIs.
“If you miss taking your pill for just one day you will still be protected.”
TRUE and FALSE – There are different rules depending on which type of contraceptive pill you are taking. In some cases, such as with the Mercilon pill, women will remain protected if they take the pill as usual the next day along with the missed pill. With other pill types women must do this and use condoms for the following 7 days.
“There are over ten different types of contraceptive.”
TRUE –You know about the Pill, male condom and contraceptive injection, but have you heard of the skin patch, the cap or diaphragm? There are 15 types of contraception available (2 of which are permanent – male/ female sterilisation) but according to recent polls, 92% of adults cannot name them. (See www.nhs.uk/livewell/contraception for a list of and detailed information on these methods)
FALSE– While a condom is the only form of contraception to protect against STIs, the hormonal implant and other LARC methods provide the highest protection against pregnancy, with less than 1 woman out of 100 becoming pregnant in the first year. LARC stands for ‘Long Acting Reversible Contraception’ – these methods are particularly effective as they don’t depend on you remembering to take them properly. Once the contraceptive implant is fitted (under the skin in your upper arm), it protects against pregnancy for three years.