Six Common Myths About Safe Sex
Let’s talk about sex. More specifically, safe sex.
In your younger days, this topic might have made you cringe. Whether it was an awkward conversation with your parents, a mandatory high school health course, or a first trip to the gynecologist, chances are, you didn’t ask all the questions on your mind.
But now, you’re older…wiser…and, like most men and women, you’ve encountered your fair share of misconceptions about safe sex. That’s why we created this blog post, to debunk a few of the common myths and empower you to take control of your sexual health.
MYTH #1: Condoms provide protection against all STDs.
While using a condom is always smart, it’s important to understand that they do not prevent STDs 100 percent of the time. Condoms are designed to prevent pregnancy, and it’s a common misconception that sex with a condom is always safe. For example, many STDs — herpes, HPV, genital warts, and syphilis to name a few — live on parts of the body that are not covered by a condom. Any skin-to-skin contact with an infected person can put you at risk.
According to Dr. Jessica Cody from LeBauer’s Stoney Creek office, condoms, when used correctly, can prevent about 95 percent of STDs. This means you still have a five percent chance of getting an STD when you use a condom every single time.
“It’s also very possible to transmit an STD through oral or anal sex. One way to protect yourself is to use a condom or other barrier method anywhere you are having sex. If you have given or received oral or anal sex without a condom, your provider can also test your mouth and/or rectum for STDs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.”
MYTH #2: Pulling out before ejaculation prevents pregnancy.
The withdrawal method, commonly known as the “pull-out method,” is not really a method of birth control at all. All men secrete pre-ejaculatory fluid, and studies have shown that this fluid does contain active sperm. About 1 in 5 couples who use the pull-out method will conceive.
Many men find it difficult to muster the self-control needed to use the pull-out method perfectly every time. Since it requires you to stop having sex before ejaculating, it’s not a very satisfying option. Not to mention, it provides no protection against STDs.
MYTH #3: It’s easy to tell if someone has an STD.
Even if you have eagle eyes, conducting a quick exam of your potential partner prior to sex won’t tell you whether he or she is STD-free.
Dr. Camille Andy from LeBauer Summerfield Village emphasizes that STDs are caused by microscopic organisms that are invisible to the naked eye.
“Individuals can have herpes but not show any symptoms. Even the HIV virus can be in the body without symptoms. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are a few that may produce genital lesions or discharge, but they often will not. Thus, visual inspection is never a reliable way to make a diagnosis.”
MYTH #4: Douching after sex can help prevent STDs and pregnancy.
Just the opposite, in fact. Douching can push bacteria or semen further into the vagina, which increases your risk for an infection or unwanted pregnancy. Using a douche is actually never recommended for women. Think of your vagina as a self-cleaning oven. Internally, it takes care of itself. All you need to do is gently wash the external area with fragrance-free soap and warm water.
Of course, if you notice any off symptoms, such as itching, burning, or a foul odor, call your healthcare provider. These don’t indicate that you are unclean; they typically point to an infection that needs treatment.
MYTH #5: The morning-after pill can terminate an early pregnancy.
There are many women who believe that if they are early enough in a pregnancy, they can use over-the-counter emergency contraception to induce an abortion. This is not the case. These types of drugs simply prevent or delay ovulation, so if you’re already pregnant, Plan B and similar options won’t change that. In fact, they may cause painful and unnecessary side effects.
Dr. Cody explained the pitfalls of the morning after pill — it doesn’t work for women who weigh over 195 pounds, and it needs to be taken within three days of unprotected sex. But, she says there’s another less common method of emergency contraception that a healthcare provider can help with.
“The Copper IUD, also known as ParaGard, is the best choice for pregnancy prevention. If placed within 5 days of unprotected sex, it is almost 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, and can continue to prevent pregnancy for up to ten years.”
Drs. Cody and Andy agree — the best option for preventing pregnancy is making a plan with your healthcare provider before having unprotected sex.
MYTH #6: It’s OK to use a condom twice.
Even the most environmentally friendly folk should avoid washing and reusing condoms. While it may seem tempting to do so, it’s important to remember that they are designed and tested for single use. Even if it’s a quickie, the friction of sexual intercourse causes the material to break down significantly. Using it a second time could have dangerous repercussions.
Did You Learn Something New?
The conversation doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) stop here! Everyone deserves a healthcare provider that they can talk openly with about sexual health. At LeBauer HealthCare, we have male and female primary care providers who are dedicated to open communication. They can help ease any worries you might have about STDs, assist with birth control options, and provide ongoing screenings and treatment through every phase of life. Request an appointment online.
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