How to avoid an unintended pregnancy
By Kimberly A. Harris, RN, MSN, FNP
In the United States, contraceptive options in 2019 are much more numerous than 20 years ago. However, Americans still have about 2.8 million unintended pregnancies per year. That accounts for approximately 45% of all pregnancies in this country.
Between 5-15% percent of unintended pregnancies are in teenagers aged 15-19 depending on the state they live in. The remaining 85-95% are in adults who should be responsible enough to take advantage of one of the multiple options available for preventing an undesired pregnancy. These undesired pregnancies result in 879,000 abortions per year in the United States.
According to women, the causes of undesired pregnancies in the United States are:
• 5% of women report contraceptive failure such as a broken condom or a correctly taken birth control pill that resulted in pregnancy.
• 20% of women who rely on condoms for contraception get pregnant within one year.
• 43% of women admit to inconsistent or incorrect use of contraception.
• 52% of women admit they were not using any form of contraception.
In order to change some of these statistics for the better, our GYN clinic wants to provide more education to women about the contraceptive options available to them. While preparing for this column, I asked my patients who are not presently using contraception the reason they are not. Following are some of their answers:
”I am not in a relationship right now and haven’t been for almost a month.”
“I am not ready to have sex yet.”
“I plan to wait until I am married to have sex.”
“I have not gotten pregnant in several months, so I don’t think I can.”
“I am 48 years old. I am not going to have any more babies. Can I still get pregnant?”
“I figure I will worry about it when the time comes.”
“He pulls out, so I won’t get pregnant.”
“I am allergic to condoms and pills make me throw up."
“We do not have sex the day I am ovulating.”
I was surprised by these answers. However, I quickly realized that as a women’s GYN healthcare provider it is very easy to assume that women know about the contraceptive options available to them and all the things they should consider before having sex. I can now use the information I gathered while writing this article to be a better educator for our patients.
We, as women, have so many responsibilities in life. This one needs to be close to the top! We need to ask ourselves questions about potential relationships, sex, contraception, pregnancy prevention, and back up plans, and make decisions in advance.
Relationships can develop unexpectedly, sex happens sometimes when we do not plan for it, and if you wait until the time comes then you may already be too late. There are many women who are perfectly capable of conceiving that try to get pregnant for several months before “it happens”. If you are in your 40s-50s and unsure if you can still get pregnant, you need to assume you can until your doctor confirms otherwise. “Pulling out” will not prevent pregnancy because there is still sperm that will be released into the vagina.
Remember, it only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg. Sperm are capable of surviving up to 72 hours in the female reproductive tract. Therefore, avoiding intercourse only on the day of ovulation is not sufficient for preventing pregnancy. If you have sex up to three days before ovulation you can still get pregnant. This method also relies heavily on a correctly predicted ovulation date. Symptoms of ovulation can occur a day or so before the egg is actually released into the fallopian tube.
For those of you who are latex allergic, there are non-latex condoms available. They are not good at preventing STDs, but they will prevent pregnancy. Birth control pills have been around for a long time, and they are very effective when used correctly. There are other benefits to taking oral contraceptives such as the treatment of acne, prevention of ovarian cysts, and for relief from endometriosis.
If you have problems with nausea from birth control pills, you have the option of low dose pills now or other contraceptives you do not take by mouth. These include Nuvaring, a vaginal hormonal device; IUDs, a uterine implant for longer term reversible contraception; Depo Provera, an injectable hormonal contraception; or Implanon, a longer term hormonal contraceptive rod that is implanted in your upper arm.
If your family is complete, you can also choose a permanent sterilization procedure done by our GYN Clinic.
I would suggest that if you are sexually active or have even considered the idea, make an appointment to discuss the contraceptive options available to you. Then make a decision and try it before the time comes.
Together, we can make a difference in the unintended pregnancy rate. It simply takes good communication, open conversations, and solid GYN advice.
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If you live in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth or Hampton Roads, and would like to discuss contraceptive options, contraception, pregnancy, birth control, ovulation, Nuvaring, IUDs, or Depo Provera, please contact our GYN clinic at (757) 312-8221. Our GYN doctors are here to help you.
About our GYN Clinic
Our three female GYN doctors and Nurse Practitioner provide comprehensive gynecology services to girls and women of all ages, including guidance on contraceptive options, contraception, pregnancy, birth control, ovulation, Nuvaring, IUDs, and Depo Provera. Our GYN clinic provides health care to women and girls in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and throughout Hampton Roads.