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Misconception Mayhem: Separating Pregnancy and Pregnancy Risk Myths from Facts

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Ever feel like there’s a mass market for wrong information about pregnancy and pregnancy risks? Do you leave a conversation with a friend or finish reading an article or website and wonder if what you’ve learned is the truth or one of those nasty myths? Just about any subject you’d hear about has them … and pregnancy and pregnancy risks are no different. Now Scarleteen’s taking the time to debunk some of the most common misconceptions.

We believe that all sex should be something anyone chooses for themselves, based on sound, realistic information. In order to do this, it is vitally important to be able to distinguish between the facts and the myths about what is safe. All of us, at one point or another, has firmly believed that something is true or real, only to find out later that it just isn't anywhere close to the truth. Here we present some of the most common myths about pregnancy risks, and the truths lying behind them.


MYTH: A girl can’t get pregnant if you have unprotected anal sex because it's the “wrong hole”

FACT: While it’s true that pregnancy cannot occur from the act of anal sex by itself, and that the risk of pregnancy from anal sex is considerably less than the risk from vaginal intercourse, the anus and the vaginal opening are right next to each other and it’s easy enough for ejaculate (even when ejaculation occurs inside during anal sex) to run down and into contact with the vulva.

This presents a pregnancy risk. It's also worth noting that anal sex can pose STI transmission risks higher than those with many other sexual activities. Condoms and lubricant should ideally be used for all anal sex play to reduce the risk of pregnancy and STI transmission.

Check the research:

MYTH: Drinking a lot of Mountain Dew will decrease your sperm count and prevent pregnancy because of the color agent yellow dye 5m and caffeine.

FACT: Years ago the FDA tested and determined that yellow dye 5m is not a health threat of any kind to people unless they are allergic to it.

Caffeine studies have actually shown reputable evidence of increasing the mobility and effectiveness of sperm (much to the opposite of this classic myth. Actually, when the myth first started to circulate, neither the workers of the FDA nor Pepsi Co. the manufacturer of Mountain Dew knew where this myth had originated or why.

We know here at Scarleteen that there are pletny of rumours out there. The only things we know for sure about Mountain Dew is that it looks like radiator fluid and is good for using in wasp traps!
Please stick to reliable forms of birth control!

Check the research:
About.com: With All Dew Respect

MYTH: If a girl has sex when she’s menstruating she cannot become pregnant.

FACT: The pattern of ovulation and menstruation is individual, and for some women ovulation can occur soon after menstruation. The bodies of people who have vulvas are built in a way that allows pregnancy to occur, and thus sperm can live for days in the female reproductive tract. So, it’s certainly possible for a woman to become pregnant if she has sex during her period.

Check the research: Kids Health: Can a Girl Get Pregnant if She Has Her Period?, Kotex: FAQs Menstruation,Scarleteen: What do you want to know about periods and sex?.

MYTH: If you ejaculate three times in a row then you’ve gotten rid of all of your sperm and can’t get someone pregnant.

FACT: People who have penises and testicles produce millions of sperm each and every day. Just as any sperm that isn’t used is reabsorbed into the body, men aren’t likely to “run out” of sperm after ejaculating three times – nor does it take away enough sperm to take away the viable pregnancy risk. On average about 50 sperm will be able to reach the egg from one ejaculation, and it only takes one sperm to actually fertilize an egg, though that sperm needs the help of those other sperm to do that. When sperm is released with semen, the man’s body continues to do its job in replenishing the supply.

Check the research:
Scarleteen: Can men have too many orgasms? Can you run out of semen?

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MYTH: If you have sex, you’ll start to notice the first pregnancy symptoms a day or two after.

FACT: If someone becomes pregnant, implantation of a fertilized egg usually occurs around a week after intercourse. When this happens, the pregnancy hormone HCG begins to be secreted to protect the fertilized egg from the mother’s immune cells. This hormone change is usually what causes any noticeable early symptoms, if it does at all.

These same symptoms are often things that occur for women before menstruation or the beginning of an illness, so it’s not uncommon for a woman to think she’s pregnant based on a symptom and find out that she’s not. For most women, the first sign of pregnancy is just a missed period.

Check the research:

MYTH: It’s impossible to get pregnant before ever having your first period.

FACT: Ovulation and menstruation are not one in the same, but two parts of one cycle. Young women generally don't find out that they've ovulated for the first time until their first period arrives. Because there is time between ovulation and menstruation, a girl who hasn't gotten her first period yet could still be taking a huge risk with unprotected sex and not even know it. Additionally, because most women first suspect a pregnancy because of a missed period, a girl not expecting to get one could not know about a pregnancy until months after conception.

Check the research:

MYTH: Manual sex presents a high pregnancy risk if your hand may have touched pre-ejaculate or after wiping or washing your hands.

FACT: If after touching pre-ejaculate or ejaculate your hands were washed before touching your own vulva or someone else's, then there’s no risk of pregnancy. If you wiped your hands off after touching ejaculate or pre-ejaculate then there was no risk or an exceptionally low risk of pregnancy. To have a viable pregnancy risk with manual sex, your hand would have to be literally dripping with semen.

Check the research:

MYTH: Swallowing after oral sex then kissing before switching partners presents a pregnancy risk as the sperm can be passed from mouth to mouth to genitals.

FACT: Because there’s no direct connection between your mouth and your genitals, women swallowing semen aren’t at a risk for pregnancy – though they are at risk of contracting an STI. Sperm tend to be pretty delicate as well, so they would not survive a trip from one person’s mouth to another and still be able to present a pregnancy risk by then being passed to the genitals through oral sex.

Check the research:

MYTH: Douching after sex is a good idea because you can wash away sperm and bacteria.

FACT: This method of “freshening” the vagina and preventing pregnancy is one method that has been proven a bad idea again and again. The vagina has its own way of cleaning out bacteria – vaginal secretions. There is a natural acidic ph balance maintained in the vagina, and the good bacteria help to ward off infections. Douching as a method of preventing pregnancy is more to the effect of closing the barn door after the horses have already run away – another words a little too late.

Check the research:

MYTH: When having penis-in-vagina intercourse, if the guy doesn’t ejaculate at all then the girl can’t get pregnant.

FACT: Usually not, but it still can happen. Withdrawal ("pulling out" or a person with a penis not ejaculating at all), used perfectly, which means a guy doesn't ejaculate at all, or does, but only outside and away from a woman's vagina or genitals, presents around a 4% risk of pregnancy per year of use. To give you a comparison, a method like the birth control patch presents a .3% risk of pregnancy per year of use. Sometimes sperm may be present in pre-ejaculate, which is likely why 4% of perfect withdrawal users become pregnant. The likeliness of sperm being present in pre-ejaculate is higher if the man has ejaculated recently or has not urinated before intercourse.

Check the research:

MYTH: Withdrawal is a safe and reliable method to use, especially when you’re very young.

FACT: Withdrawal certainly can be a reliable method of birth control for some people. But it is generally less effective for young adults than it is for older adults, primarily because it can be harder for young people to use it perfectly.

Perfect use of withdrawal requires the person with the penis to have very good ejaculatory control and a very keen, learned awareness of what it feels like when he is near ejaculation: this is relatively uncommon in younger men. Younger men tend to ejaculate faster (making pulling out in time more difficult), partnered sex is newer making it more difficult to anticipate when orgasm will happen (or has started happening), and of course younger people can tend to be more fertile than older people. This method also requires trust and respect between partners; the partner with the vulva needs to trust that the partner with the penis is committed to using the withdrawal method as accurately as possible and isn't going to sabotage the birth control method they've decided on together.

Check the research: Children Hospital (Boston): Withdrawal,Scarleteen: Birth Control Bingo: Withdrawal.


Take a Look At the Scarleteen Misconception Series:

written 08 Jun 2014 . updated 08 Jun 2014

Information on this site is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant to and cannot substitute for advice or care provided by an in-person medical professional. The information contained herein is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or for prescribing any medication. You should always consult your own healthcare provider if you have a health problem or medical condition.