Birth Control: Frequently Asked Questions

by Anai Rhoads

What causes the Pill to fail?

There are several reasons why the Pill can fail, or be less effective. Some medication prescribed by your doctor can have some adverse effects on the pill. Some known medications that can actually lessen the Pill's effectiveness are certain antibiotics (such as Zithromax for example), anti-inflammatory drugs, barbiturates, and epilepsy drugs (such as Dilantin). Make sure to tell your doctor which Pill you are currently taking, so that he or she may tell you if you will need to use another method until your treatment is completed.

Another factor is illness itself. Any illness can affect your immune system, which then affects the medications you are on, including the pill. Also, diarrhea or vomiting can lessen the absorption of the pill into your bloodstream.

And finally, skipping pills. Try to take your Pill everyday at the same time to help you remember. If you ever skip a pill, take 2 the following day. If you skip more than one day, stop that pack, and use a condom until your next cycle begins.

Does the Pill protect me against STDs?

No, the Pill does not protect you against any STDs. You can still contract chlamydia, herpes, HIV to name a few. Only proper use of a condom can protect you.

What is Depo-Provera and how does it work?

Depo-Provera is a synthetic hormone used to prevent pregnancy. It is injected into the buttock or arm. Its effectiveness only lasts 12 weeks and needs to be replaced then as well.

What is Norplant?

Norplant is a synthetic hormone containing progesterone used to prevent pregnancy. They are supplied as 6 match-sized sticks and last up to 5 years. The norplant sticks are surgically inserted into the upper arm, where they will remain for 5 years or until you decide you want to have children. Although this method was popular in the late 80's, its users dropped due to reports of scarring from removal.

Is Norplant safe?

There are risks to using Norplant. Discuss any symptoms with your doctor, so that he or she can determine if Norplant is right for you. The following is a list of things you should know before using Norplant: Never use if you have a history of: Blood clots, liver disease, uterine bleeding, high blood pressure, irregular periods, light periods, breast cancer, gall bladder problems, frequent headaches, seizures and are on certain seizure medication that can lessen the effects of Norplant, brain cancer, cholesterol problems, heart disease or heart valve problems.

What are the side effects of Norplant?

Not all of the following side effects can occur. You may get one, none or all. Make sure to contact your doctor if any side effects are worrying you.

  • Depression
  • Decreased sexual interest
  • Longer periods OR lighter than normal periods
  • For some women, a prolonged time between periods
  • Some hair loss
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Severe to moderate acne

Side effects that warrant an immediate call to your doctor are blurred vision, irregular periods that are heavier than normal, severe headaches such as migraines, and abdominal pain. Any unusual swelling or redness near the site where the Norplant is placed should also be reported.

What causes condoms to tear?

Although condoms do not appear to tear easily, you would be surprised on how easily they do when in contact with certain chemicals.

The following are products you should NEVER use with a condom. It only takes 50-60 seconds of exposure to these products for the condom to go from 99% effectiveness to 20%.

  • Mineral oil (can be found in your lotions, hand creams, make-up)
  • Baby Oil
  • Petroleum Jelly (Use KY Jelly instead)
  • Vegetable Oil

Other reasons for a weak condom are:

  • Expiration date
  • Unrolling the condom before using
  • Attempting to use the same condom more than once
  • Attempting to continue intercourse with same condom after ejaculation
  • Leaving the condom package exposed to sunlight, heat, unwrapped, or in wallet where it can be stretched and bent over time.

Pros and cons of IUD?
The pros of IUD is that is effective for up to six years.

Cons of IUD include:

  • Must be checked after each menstrual cycle to ensure it is still in place
  • As with most contraception methods used for and by women, there is no protection against STDs.
  • IUD may increases your chance of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • IUD may increase your chance of tubal pregnancies

Does breast feeding stop ovulation?

LAM (Lactational Amenorrhea Method) suppresses ovulation due to breast feeding your infant. It changes the body's hormones, to trick the reproductive system into thinking you are still pregnant, so you do not release an egg. It has a success rate of 98% if there are no menses during the first 5-6 months or as long as you are breast feeding your baby.

You may notice some vaginal dryness during this time. Use a gentle lubricant. In addition, your nipples may become red, swollen, or develop dry skin. In the event that this occurs, see your doctor for special creams to help ease these symptoms.

How does the Rhythm Method work?

The Rhythm Method has a high failure rate. It is based on natural family planning, which monitors ovulation days to avoid intercourse. [Editor's note: Natural Family Planning has come a long way from the calendar based rhythm method of the 1930's. For couples who practice NFP accurately, it offers a 99 percent effective birth control method.]

There are several ways to monitor your cycles. BBT (Basal Body Temperature) is one way, but it will only tell you if you have ovulated in your current cycle - after the fact.

Your best protection against pregnancy is a combination of the Pill and proper use of a condom. Since even the most normal menstrual cycles vary in ovulation times, the Rhythm Method has a chance to fail at any moment.

Is the Pull Out Method (Withdrawal Method) safe?

The highest number of sperm are in the first drops of ejaculate. Pre-ejaculate (also known as precum) can carry thousands of active sperm. The pull out method has a high failure rate because of this. Even a few drops of semen close to your vagina can result in pregnancy. The sperm will travel with your natural cervical mucous quickly swimming to reach an egg.

Anai Rhoads is a medical and political researcher/writer with a particular interest in the sanctions on Iraq and the wider effect of racism's influence in the Middle East. A vegan since 2000, she is a dedicated supporter of activities which promote animal and human rights. Originally from Greece, she now resides in Virginia, USA with her husband and their two dogs, Bijou and Eva.

*Reproduction must be authorized in writing only, and altering the material and this copyright is prohibited and protected by international law.

Copyright © Anai Rhoads. Permission to publish granted to, LLC.


Submitted by finest68 on

I have never had a condom bust except for one time. Since my wife was not on birth control she got pregnant and we are expecting in June :).

melloyellochelle's picture

This article is incomplete and inaccurate!

The Rythm Method is NOT the same as NFP. NFP is a broad name for multiple ways to monitor the woman's natural signs of fertility.

Basal Body Temp (BBT) is only ONE sign that our body gives to us that we are fertile. With that sign alone you learn when you ovulated. By tracking this on a regular basis you can learn when you are ovulating... especially when marked with the OTHER fertility signs! When used correctly, NFP has a VERY HIGH SUCCESS rate!!!

I am rather disappointed in for not having accurate information on this. Check almost any other website and you'll see the truth and facts about NFP.

This is just frustrating!!!!

Jules's picture

Submitted by Jules on

Thanks for your comment; it's a good point.

There is indeed still a common misconception that the two terms (rhythm method and NFP) are synonymous. In the early 20th century, members of the Roman Catholic church did promote the rhythm method as the only morally acceptable form of "natural family planning." Over time, natural family planning encompassed far more (also approved by the Church for those Catholics reading!)

NFP today includes a variety of symptom-based fertility awareness methods and calendar based including rhythm. The effectiveness of NFP today -- when practiced accurately -- can have as high as 99% effectiveness rate for birth control. It is also quite effective in aiding those that are TTC as well.

I'll post an accurate NFP article and then edit a note into this article linking to it and briefly explaining the difference between calendar-based and symptom-based.

Again thanks for catching this.

melloyellochelle's picture

Thanks J!

It's much appreciated! Especially since is a GREAT and extremely valuable source of information.

Your response makes it all the better!


Submitted by MrsB62808 on

I notice that while this comment is almost three years old, there's still no article posted on natural family planning. I too am disappointed at the lack of info presented on this site. Were it not for NFP, NaProtechnology, Dr. Hilgers and the Pope Paul VI Institute, we would not be expecting our child in May after three years of infertility. NaProtechology is a great option for many women, and I'm sorry to see that it is not mentioned anywhere on this site.