Sexual Health Myth-Busting

Rumor has nothing on knowledge. How many of these myths have you heard?

MYTH: Condoms are, like, 99.9% effective at preventing a pregnancy.

BUSTED: …nope. When used consistently and correctly, male latex condoms can provide SOME protection against pregnancy and STIs, especially HIV. According to the CDC, with typical use, condoms have an 18% failure rate— making them (at best) 82% effective at preventing pregnancy. Condoms are a helpful measure to prevent unplanned pregnancy and the spread of STIs. However, they are also imperfect.

MYTH: Oral sex isn’t really “sex.” It only counts if there is intercourse.

BUSTED: The Centers for Disease Control defines oral sex as sex. Why? Because even though you can’t get pregnant from oral sex, you CAN give or receive an STI from it. Interestingly, more dentists and doctors are seeing sexually transmitted infections in the mouth and throat. Any kind of behavior that puts you at risk for an STI is considered “sexual activity,” so oral sex definitely counts.

MYTH: I can’t get pregnant on my period…right?

BUSTED: Actually, it is possible to get pregnant while on your period. Here’s how: sperm can live inside of you for up to five days. That means if you have sex while on your period, then ovulate early in your cycle, sperm and egg could meet, resulting in a pregnancy. Keep in mind that it is very unlikely to happen if you have a regular 28-32 day cycle with an average 3-7 day period…but the bottom line is that it is absolutely possible.

MYTH: If my partner has an STI, I would see it.

BUSTED: There is a key word when it comes to many STIs: asymptomatic. That term simply means “without symptoms.” It can be a dangerous thing, because if someone has no symptoms (i.e. they can’t feel or see anything abnormal), they usually assume nothing is wrong. However, many of the most common (and the most harmful) STIs are asymptomatic—or at least start that way. However, just because someone doesn’t see or feel immediate symptoms doesn’t mean that infection isn’t already wreaking havoc on their body, creating permanent scarring, or being spread to someone else. That’s why knowing when and where to get tested is KEY. See this post for more information about how we can help.

MYTH: Only people who sleep around a lot get STIs.

BUSTED: STIs don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if it is your first-time sexual experience of any kind, or the millionth time. It doesn’t matter if you are 12 or 84. It doesn’t matter if you are on your period or if you are pregnant. It doesn’t matter your gender or sexual orientation. It only takes ONE sexual encounter with ONE infected person to open up the possibility of an STI.

There are, however, certain factors that make you MORE susceptible to STIs, such as having multiple partners, using drugs and alcohol, being under the age of 25, or engaging in other risky sexual behaviors.

MYTH: When a female has vaginal intercourse for the first time, her “cherry” pops.

BUSTED: This myth is as old as time—that when a female has vaginal sex for the first time it is a momentous occasion of pain, and likely bleeding, from her “cherry” being popped. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a “cherry” in the female reproductive system, and there is no “popping” of it either. So…where did this myth come from? And what is reality? This myth refers to the experience of a woman tearing or stretching a small flap of skin called the hymen upon first sexual intercourse.

The hymen is a piece of tissue that lines the vaginal opening. It has an opening that can be of any size – it can be thin or thick. Babies and young girls usually have much thicker hymens, but over time and throughout puberty that flap thins and stretches open naturally, as well as with things like strenuous exercise or tampon use. Usually, by the time a female has vaginal intercourse for the first time, the hymenal tissue’s elasticity and widened hole allows for stretching when the male enters, avoiding any actual tearing. It may cause some initial discomfort, but rarely is a prolonged issue and definitely is not a “cherry pop.” In cases of a thicker hymenal membrane, a woman should see her doctor about having the excess tissue surgically removed.

Rumors and myths about sexual health float around quite a bit. The best thing you can arm yourself with is the FACTS, and Choices Medical is a great place to find them! Not only do we have a team of trained professionals to meet your medical needs and answer your sexual health questions, but we genuinely care for you as an individual. And that’s a fact. Give us a call today!

Sources for this article are available upon request.

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