16 Worst Birth Control Mistakes
When it comes to birth control, many people want to just set it and forget it. It’s there, it does its job, who wants to think about it, right?
But bungling birth control is all too common. In fact, half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Yikes.
To make sure you can count on your contraceptive, here are the potential pitfalls.
You’re not using it
It’s no secret that birth control is a touchy subject, particularly in the US. Political and religious leaders fight about it endlessly, and it’s all tangled up in personal choices about—shhhh!—sex.
But the bottom line is if you’re sexually active, and now isn’t a great time to start a family, you should select a type of birth control that works for you. Luckily, there are a ton of birth control options out there.
You’re taking rifampin
The antibiotic rifampin can undermine hormonal contraception, including the pill, the patch (Ortho Evra), or the vaginal ring (NuvaRing).
Some anticonvulsants, oral medications for yeast infections, HIV drugs, and the herbal supplement St. John’s wort can also be a problem for these types of birth control, as well as for contraceptive implants (Implanon), according to Planned Parenthood.
Bottom line? Check with your doctor about possible interactions and medications that can make your birth control less effective.
You use the wrong lubricant
Choose a water- or silicone-based lubricant, available in the family-planning aisle in drugstores and supermarkets. Also keep in mind that many lipsticks contain oils that can weaken latex.
Your nails nick your sponge
Even small nicks or tears can get bigger during intercourse, so keep your nails short or be sure to use care. It’s also important not to nick or tear condoms with jewelry, fingernails, or teeth.
If you miss even one or two of the first pills of a pack, it also means you need seven days of backup birth control (such as condoms).
Progestin-only pills need to be taken at the same time each day, with backup contraception needed for 48 hours if you get off-schedule by more than three hours.
You haven’t explored the options
You could also consider birth control injections (Depo Provera), a shot in the arm that lasts 3 months, as well as sponges, rings, patches, diaphragms, and more. Check out the variety of choices at Planned Parenthood.
You’re on the wrong pill
“Choosing between birth control pills is more of an art than a science,” says Dr. Edelman. Talk to your doctor about balancing the highest level of efficacy with your other needs and concerns.
You pick the wrong condoms
Latex, polyurethane, and lambskin condoms all protect against pregnancy, but lambskin condoms may not protect against HIV. So unless a latex allergy is an issue, lambskin condoms may not be your best option.
You skip backup
For progestin-only pills, you need backup for the first 48 hours of use. Whatever type you choose, check with your doctor to find out if you need backup until it starts working.
You remove your sponge early
Diaphragms need to stay in place for six to eight hours after sex, but have to be removed at least every 24 hours for cleaning.
You don’t have an emergency plan
People 17 and older don't need a prescription to buy emergency contraception products, called Plan B One-Step and Next Choice, at drugstores.
But the pills must be taken within 72 hours (up to 3 days) of unprotected sex, according to the manufacturers, and the sooner the better. (Experts, including Planned Parenthood, say emergency contraception will work if taken within 120 hours, or up to 5 days, but againsooner is better.) It’s a good idea to have them on hand, just in case.
You rely on spermicide alone
You use condoms incorrectly
Use one before any genital contact, not just before intercourse or climax as even a few drops of pre-ejaculatory fluid can cause pregnancy.
To prevent breakage, squeeze the tip of the condom to get the air out before putting it on. Check which way the condom unrolls before touching it to the penis, and if you make a mistake, throw it away in case there’s already semen on the tip.
You don’t use lubricants
A non-oil based lubricant can help keep condoms from tearing or breaking.
Can't quit, no matter how hard you try? Don't give up, since serial quitters are more likely to successfully kick the habit.
In the meantime, talk to your doctor to find the safest birth control for you.
You don’t use condoms
Diaphragms and cervical caps may provide a small amount of STD protection, but are much less effective than condoms.