Several years ago, a few doctors at Harvard Medical School took a pretty strange take on the Pepsi® challenge. They tested different kinds of cola, in this case, Coca-Cola®, and discovered that Classic Coke® and its lo-cal cousin have mild spermicidal properties. The study was inspired by an old urban legend that douching with Coca-Cola after having unprotected sex can prevent pregnancy. It doesn’t. The spermicidal effect it has is too mild for that! Separating fact from fiction can be tricky, so here are a few of the more prevalent myths about pregnancy and the truth behind these tales.
I can’t get pregnant if I douche after sex.
Douching after sex — whether it’s with Coca-Cola, Pepsi, water, vinegar, or any other substance — will not prevent pregnancy (nor will urinating). Douching can cause yeast infections, so it’s probably not the best idea anyway. There’s just no reason to use Coca-Cola anywhere near the vagina; not only is it messy and sticky, but also it might irritate your skin and cause an allergic reaction. And forcing those tiny little air bubbles into the body can be dangerous. Sperm are excellent travelers and can reach the cervix faster than you can say “not-so-fresh-feeling,” so douching is pointless when it comes to preventing pregnancy. (Jumping up and down after sex or switching positions doesn’t help either.)
The only 100 percent effective way to prevent pregnancy is to abstain from vaginal intercourse. If you do decide to have vaginal sex, use birth control — and use something that has been proven to be safe and effective.
The only effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse is to take emergency contraception (EC). EC pills can prevent pregnancy — if taken within 72 hours of unprotected vaginal intercourse. EC is sometimes known as “morning-after” contraception.
I can’t get pregnant the first time I have sex.
Sorry — there are no freebies when it comes to preventing pregnancy. The chance of getting pregnant the first time is the same as it is the 50th time. Some people believe that an intact hymen — the thin skin that stretches across part of the opening of the vagina (which, by the way, isn’t detectable in all virgins because it can be stretched by non-sexual physical activity, such as playing sports) — will keep out sperm and prevent a woman from getting pregnant. However, the hymen doesn’t cover the cervix, and it’s usually stretched during intercourse anyway if it hasn’t been stretched open before. Either way, having intercourse for the first time doesn’t protect against pregnancy.
I can’t get pregnant if I don’t have an orgasm.
The pleasure a woman has during sex has little to do with her chances of getting pregnant. When a woman is sexually excited, certain changes in the body happen. For instance, when sexual arousal is over a woman’s cervix dips down into the pool of semen that has been ejaculated into the vagina. This happens whether or not a woman has had an orgasm.
I can’t get pregnant if he pulls out.
Not true. Pulling out, also known as withdrawal, means that a man pulls his penis out of the vagina before he “comes” to keep sperm from joining the egg. It is only 81 percent-96 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. Pregnancy can happen even if the guy pulls out, if he doesn’t ejaculate, or doesn’t put his penis all the way in. Here’s why: when a guy gets aroused, he produces a fluid called pre-ejaculate (“pre-cum”), which can contain sperm — particularly if he’s had sex or masturbated earlier in the last couple of days. When the fluid leaks from the penis before a guy comes, it can cause pregnancy.
Pulling out is not a very reliable method for young people because some guys lack the experience and self-control to pull out in time, or they say they will pull out, and then they get so excited and carried away that they don’t. Also, some guys can’t tell when they are going to ejaculate.
I can’t get pregnant while I have my period.
It’s possible to become pregnant from vaginal intercourse at any time in the menstrual cycle.. It’s true that with a lot of learning and months of very careful recordkeeping and planning some women can figure out when they’re most fertile, which can help if they’re trying to get pregnant. But if a woman’s trying to avoid pregnancy, there may be safer times for unprotected sex, but there is no guaranteed safe time. Most women’s cycles (especially teenagers’) are irregular, and some women ovulate — the time when an egg is released and a woman is most fertile — very close to the time that they have their periods. Plus, sperm can live in a woman’s body for up to seven days waiting for ovulation to happen. So just because a woman isn’t ovulating when she has her period doesn’t mean she can’t get pregnant.
The only 100 percent effective way of preventing pregnancy is to abstain from vaginal intercourse. But using condoms, the Pill, or another tried-and-true method of birth control can also help to prevent pregnancy. Remember, only latex and female condoms prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections.
So instead of playing Russian roulette with guessing when you might be fertile, messing around with pulling out, or treating your vagina to ineffective and unhealthy douches, think about preventing pregnancy with birth control that has been proven to be safe and effective before you decide to have sex.