Fertility uncertainty: risk of unplanned pregnancy?


Allow me to set the record straight — if pregnancy does not result from an incident of unprotected sex, it does not mean that you are unable to get pregnant. A recent survey found that 19% of women and 14% of men believe that they are infertile, when in fact national estimates indicate that less than 10% of individuals are experiencing fertility problems. I’m not suggesting that concerns about infertility are invalid or not important. It would be a downright heartbreaking experience, no doubt. All I’m trying to say is that there is a tendency to underestimate the likelihood of pregnancy from unprotected sex, which can lead to the idea that contraception is not necessary. I’m assuming that for most of us the baby plan is on hold, so I’m going to exploit the old cliché better be safe than sorry!

So, before panicking and giving up on birth control, you might want to know a few of the facts about infertility.

First, infertility refers to the inability to get pregnant after one year of trying or the inability to carry a pregnancy to full-term.  There are multiple reasons why men and women experience fertility issues, but before getting into the details, you should know that hormonal birth control use is not a cause of infertility. Whether you’re using birth control for 6 months or 10 years, you should be just as likely to get pregnant once you stop birth control as before you started (provided that you start trying to get pregnant during your reproductive years — stopping birth control can’t make post-menopause magic happen). For guys, infertility can be caused by varicocele, low sperm count, or poor sperm mobility. In the last years, a study caught the attention of marijuana enthusiasts — smoking weed can lower sperm count and cause the remaining sperm to swim “too fast, too early”, creating an obstacle to fertilization. In women, infertility mostly stems from problems with ovulation, and less frequently uterine fibroids or blocked fallopian tubes. Just remember that there is a reason why chlamydia and gonorrhea have such an unappealing echo — if untreated, they can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which can lead to infertility among other serious consequences. So if you’re having sex, and I mean any kind of sex — oral, vaginal, anal — make sure you get routine checkups!

The other thing you need to know is that there is a “prime time” to get pregnant, which is right around the ovulation period (not the menstrual period). Once an egg is released it can chill for 12-24 hours waiting for those little swimmers — that is, if they themselves aren’t already there looking for the egg. Yep, sperm can live in a woman’s body up to 5 days!

The bottom line: don’t jump to conclusions too fast. If you’re concerned about infertility, see a doctor. Health care providers can do an examination and offer pretty effective fertility treatment when you’re ready to put the baby plan into action. In the meantime, I would strongly advise that if you are having sex involving a penis and a vagina, use some form of birth control. If you’re not sure which contraceptive option is best for you, call the Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS) to make an appointment or get more information from a trusted source online.

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