It's startling what we know — and what we don't know — about sex. Sure, we'd like to think that we’ve had the whole "birds and the bees" thing covered since that awkward high school sex ed class, but recent stats show that we don't know as much as we've led ourselves to believe. In fact, new research shows that "magical thinking" is a large contributor to unintended pregnancies in the country. What's that, you ask? Oh, just when women don't use birth control simply because they believe that they won't get pregnant.
But even those who do use birth control aren't off the hook either. A new study uncovered a startling revelation: Only one in five women know which birth control method is the most effective. And after checking the failure rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), I found out I was guilty of not knowing myself!
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It doesn't just stop at condoms and the pill, it seems like every day, there's a new scientific breakthrough in sexual health: there's this new, post-fertilization birth control pill thats being tested by scientists and even more recently, more women have been testing out a new, natural method called "fertility awareness" where you photograph your cervix daily (no, this isn't some kind of advanced technology — you do it at home) and by studying the position and texture of your cervix, you can know where you are in your cycle.
Overwhelmed yet? It's easy to be confused by all the birth control options out there. That's why we've researched the statistics, and weighed the pros and cons of each method to break it all down for you so that you can decide on the best fit for you.
The Rhythm Method
This is often considered the natural means of birth control. It's a calendar-based contraceptive method in which you learn to recognize the days you're fertile, and abstaining from having sex before and during those days. Granted, there are plenty of health-related factors that can affect the exact timing of ovulation, like illness and stress, so it's not always accurate, especially if your cycle is irregular. On its own, it doesn't protect against disease, but it has no side effects and it's a good option for women who would otherwise reject contraception because of their religious or cultural beliefs.
How effective is it? 24% failure rate.
The Pull-Out Method
It's hard to call this a birth control method — being honest, it feels more like a last resort to anything else. Even though pulling out is incredibly risky — can you really trust him? — it's ironically proving to be the most popular one among 20-somethings (dubbed by NYMag as "the pull-out generation." Withdrawal is obviously cheap, but probably only worth considering if you wholeheartedly trust your partner since you still risk having your timing off and contracting STDs.
How effective is it? 22% failure rate.
The Female Condom
Popular Brands: FC2
Price: $4 each
Female condoms work in a similar way to traditional male condoms, except that unlike his, it can be inserted up to eight hours before sex (read = no awkward pausing in the middle of getting it on), it puts you in control, and he doesn't have the typical "sensation" excuse. It also may help prevent STDs.
How effective is it? 21% failure rate.
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The Male Condom
Popular Brands: Trojan, Durex, LifeStyles
Price: $1-$2 each
When worn properly (that's important here) condoms can protect against pregnancy and STDs, including HIV. Worn properly, condoms prevent sperm from entering the uterus. Unfortunately, if you're allergic to latex or polyurethane, you may have to resort to lambskin material which doesn't protect against all STDs. And if you tend to use an oil-based lubricant, you'll want to switch to an oil-free option that doesn't degrade latex like K-Y Jelly.
How effective is it? 18% failure rate. Keep Reading ...
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