Helpful Birth Control Tips

Don't Mess Up Your Contraception

Deciding to use birth control is the first step in protecting yourself from becoming pregnant. Chances are, if you have chosen to use contraception, you are depending on it to work. Use this guide, full of handy birth control tips to avoid some common contraception pitfalls. Make your contraception work its best by knowing about some of the more common birth control mistakes.

Where Are You Stashing Your Birth Control?

Storing Birth Control. Henry Horenstein/The Image Bank/Getty Images

A common birth control mistake is not properly storing your contraception. For example, how many of you guys carry a condom around in your wallets? Not storing your birth control correctly can impact how well it works. This doesn’t just apply to condoms, birth control pills, the NuvaRing, and the Patch also need to be properly stored. When I think about this, I remember a story shared by one of my Newsletter subscribers that goes something like this: When I first started using condoms, I carried several in my pocketbook. Our new puppy managed to get the strip of packets out of my purse and flung them all over the house. Not exactly the way I had planned to tell my mum what I was up to. Sort of the old, "my dog ate my homework excuse!" Even though there is some humor in this story, it also carries an important message about the need to safely store birth control.

--> Bottom Line For This Birth Control Tip: Where you store your birth control matters. Make sure to read any package inserts or instructions carefully to determine what a safe storage temperature is. Condoms should be kept in their original, sealed package in a cool, dry and dark place. One more tip: contrary to popular belief, female condoms do not become damaged in high temperatures or humidity, so they typically do not require special storage conditions (just make sure that you are inserting them correctly).

Why Wait to Get the Morning-After Pill?

If you end up in a situation where you need emergency contraception, the sooner you use it, the more effective it is. So knowing this, why not buy the morning-after pill before you actually need it? Since timing is so important, you will be thankful to have the morning-after pill on hand just incase you need it. Most people don’t think that birth control accidents will happen to them. Yet should you find yourself in this position, isn’t it easier to go to your medicine cabinet than to a store?

Another emergency birth control tip: under the Affordable Care Act, the morning-after pill should be covered with no out-of-pocket costs for most insurance plans. The catch? Even though its available over-the-counter, you will need a prescription to give to your insurance company. So next time you go to the doctor, ask for this prescription – and presto, now you have a free emergency back-up (just incase).

--> Bottom Line For This Birth Control Tip: Because it’s so easy to get the morning-after pill, it just makes good sense to have it on hand should you need it -- consider it contraception insurance.

Are Two Condoms Better Than One?

Double-Bagging Condoms. Photo © 2015 Dawn Stacey

This is a question that I am asked all the time. Just recently, I received the following in an email, "My girlfriend suggested that we use two condoms at the same time while having sex because she claims that doing this will decrease her chances of becoming pregnant. Is this okay to do?" This act, known as "double-bagging" condoms may seem like a good idea, so should you? My birth control tip on this practice -- no, it is not recommended to use two condoms at the same time. This Double-bagging condoms may cause increased friction between the condoms (increasing the chances of tearing). If you use it properly, one condom is just fine.

Another common birth control mistake -- you should never use a female condom and a male condom at the same time either. So guys, if your girlfriends are still nervous about relying only upon condoms, it may be a good time to talk to them about adding another birth control method, like a hormonal contraceptive.

--> Bottom Line For This Birth Control Tip: If you are correctly using a condom, then there really is no reason to wear two of them -- one is totally sufficient. Instead, it may be better to ask yourself WHY you would want to use two condoms, and remember that double-bagging condoms does not equal better protection.

How About Some Love-Making in the Water?

Sex Myths
Safe Underwater Sex. Ray Kachatorian/Getty Images

Come on, you have to admit the idea may sound tempting… a warm, jetted hot tub or the seducing waves at a secluded beach. Sounds innocent enough, but there may actually be some concerns to be aware of if you plan to spice things up under the water. Good planning and knowing what to look out for can make this a fun and adventurous activity.

--> Bottom Line For This Birth Control Tip: Not all birth control methods are effective for underwater sex. Do your homework; then have some fun!

Have You Put on Weight Lately?

Obesity and Contraception Effectiveness. Photo © 2015 Dawn Stacey

This seems like a simple question, but your answer can have an impact on whether or not your birth control works. Obesity rates continue to be on the rise and not realizing the link between weight and contraceptive failure can be a critical birth control mistake. If you are overweight, your body may absorb, distribute, metabolize and/or eliminate hormonal contraceptives differently. Hormonal birth control methods (like the pill, patch, and Nexplanon) may be more likely to lead to birth control failure in obese women as compared to women of normal weight.

Also, if you use a diaphragm, significant weight gain (or loss) is reason to be fitted for a new one.

--> Bottom Line For This Birth Control Tip: If you have gained more than 10 pounds (approximately a 20% change in your weight), talk to your doctor to see if your weight may be compromising the effectiveness of your contraception.

Can You Put On a Condom With Your Mouth?

Can You Put On a Condom With Your Mouth?. Nana Kofi Acquah/Getty Images

Yes, I’m being totally serious here. Think about it... if you could do this successfully, how impressed would your partner would be? Condoms seem to get a bad rap (no pun intended) -- especially by members of the male gender. Some men complain about condoms fitting too tight. Then, there is the ever popular protest that condoms ruin the mood. So, why not change their view of condoms? Condoms can be fun, they can be fruity, and when they glow in the dark, what a vision of beauty!

--> Bottom Line For This Birth Control Tip: Using your mouth to put on a condom can be a sexy way to incorporate condom use into your relationship. Don’t become discouraged if you can’t figure out how to do this correctly the first time. It will most likely take you several attempts to properly accomplish this -- just remember to take it slow and be careful; you don’t want to damage the condom by biting or tearing it.

Planning to Travel?

Birth Control Travel Tips
Birth Control Travel Tips. Photo © 2015 Dawn Stacey

The last thing you probably want to be worrying about while on vacation is your birth control. Depending on where you are going, this may mean planning ahead since some types of contraception are not easily available in certain places. If you are traveling between time zones, figure out when you need to take your pill. Traveling long distances, while using combination birth control, may increase your risks of getting a blood clot. And what if you are not currently using birth control but happen to meet the love-of-your-life while you are away -- then what?

--> Bottom Line For This Birth Control Tip: There is so much involved in planning a vacation that it may be easy to forget to factor in your contraception. Follow these birth control travel tips and have a great time!

Plan on Switching to a New Pill?

Switching Pills. Photo © 2015 Dawn Stacey

On the surface, yes, this doesn’t seem very complicated, so why include this under birth control tips? Well, if you don’t do switch correctly, you could be putting yourself in jeopardy of contraception failure. Whenever you change birth control methods, make sure to fully read all instructions and ask your doctor to explain how to make the switch. The key is to make sure that you have continuous contraception coverage.

--> Bottom Line For This Birth Control Tip: Don’t haphazardly switch your hormonal birth control method to a new method. There are specific instructions to follow to insure that your new pill will be effective.

Are You Using Hormonal Birth Control AND Condoms?

The Pill AND Condoms. Mark Harmel/Taxi/Getty Images

Huh? Yes, I realize this may sound a little excessive, but let’s face it, no birth control method is 100% effective. Something tells me that you won’t ever wake up thinking you wished you would have used less contraception. Though hormonal birth control is super effective, it does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections -- only male and female condoms do. Even if you don’t want to use condoms and hormonal contraception together, it doesn’t hurt to have a pack of condoms around incase you need back-up protection (maybe you forgot to take a few pills)?

--> Bottom Line For This Birth Control Tip: Using hormonal birth control and condoms simply increases your chances of not getting pregnant AND not getting a STI. It just makes for good common sense.

Did You Make a Mistake?

Make a Mistake?. Ray Kachatorian/Getty Images

This is to time to be real honest with yourself. The main reason contraception usually fails is because we mess up. Did you know that when it comes to unintended pregnancies, one in three babies occur while women are using birth control? So even though some contraception can be highly effective at preventing pregnancy, how effective birth control really is depends on how you use it. And let’s face it, we are human, and we do make mistakes. The best way to avoid contraception failure is to try to make sure you use your birth control correctly and consistently. Not only should you know how to use your birth control, but you should also understand how effective it is.

If your current birth control needs to be taken daily, weekly or even monthly, there are some great birth control apps to help. These apps can remind you when to take a pill, change your NuvaRing, when it’s time to refill a prescription and even when to schedule your next Depo Provera shot. To keep birth control mistakes at bay, know these other things that may lead to failure:

--> Bottom Line For This Birth Control Tip: Many things can cause your contraception to fail, but the number one reason that accounts for birth control failure is user error. Realize that you may make a mistake. Incase this does happen, having back-up contraception (like condoms and/or the morning-after pill) readily available may prove to be very handy.

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