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Ask the Expert

What questions do we get asked about birth control?

Our experts have heard them all. Here are some we have received over the last few years...

Questions about the IUD

Can your partner feel your IUD?


I'm thinking about getting an IUD, but I've heard that my partner might feel it, is that true? – Age 29, Salem

A ~ When the IUD (one of the most effective methods, btw) is placed inside the uterus, there is a little string that hangs out of the cervix from deep within the vagina. The string is there so that it can easily be removed later and so that you can check and make sure it's in the right place. Some partners can feel the string -- but most don't. You can always ask your provider to shorten the strings if you want. And if you don't want to have any "strings" attached to your birth control, there are plenty of other options for you.

Can only some women use the IUD?  

My cousin said she went in for an IUD but they said she couldn't get one because she has never had a child before, is this right? – Age 23, Central Point

A ~ This is a myth we hear a lot, but rest assured it is 100% false.  The IUD can be used by any woman, whether or not she has had a child. The only concern that might come up is how well the IUD fits inside her uterus if she has never given birth. Smaller ones are now available and may fit better in younger women and women who have not had children. Keep in mind the IUD may be a good option for trans men too. Talk to your health or local Reproductive Health provider to see if this is the best method for you.

How do you remove the IUD?  

I want to get my IUD removed so I can start trying to get pregnant, what do I need to do? - Age 26, Philomath

A ~ Go see your health care provider. Unlike methods that you can stop on your own, only a trained provider can remove your IUD without causing damage. You don't want to injure your uterus by doing it yourself, especially if you are planning to get pregnant. When you are getting it removed, talk to your provider about what else you need to do to have a healthy pregnancy.

Questions about the Birth Control Pill

What do you do if you miss a pill?

If I miss one of my birth control pills what do I do? I am super worried about getting pregnant, I don't have time for it right now. - Age 18, Ashland

A ~ Take your missed pill as soon as you remember, take the next one at the usual time, and use a backup method (like condoms) for the next week, just in case. Depending on which pill you are taking, your chances of getting pregnant may be higher if the pill is not taken at the same time every day. If you find yourself forgetting more than once, you could set an alarm on your phone, mark it on your calendar or switch to a method that is easier to remember. 

What are some hormone-free options for birth control? 

I took the pill and the side effects were so annoying I stopped taking them. I tried the Nuvaring and didn’t like that either. I am starting to wonder if it's the hormones. Are there any good hormone-free choices for me? - Age 20, St. Helens

A ~ Yes, you are in luck. The most effective hormone-free method is the Paraguard® IUD. It's a small copper-releasing device that that disables sperm from doing its job. Other methods you might consider are diaphragm, condoms, and vaginal spermicides. Of course, these methods only work if you remember to use them and use them correctly!

Do you really have to take the pill at the same time everyday?

Do I really have to take the pill at the same time every single day? I forget a lot but I’m not pregnant yet so I must be doing something right. – Age 20, Tillamook

A ~ Yes, you should take the pill at the same time every day to keep the hormone level needed to prevent pregnancy. If you don’t, you have a greater chance of getting pregnant. If you are having a hard time remembering to take the pill, call or drop-in to the clinic to talk with a nurse about other methods that are easier to remember and easier to use like the IUD, implant or NuvaRing.®

Do medications interfere with the birth control pill?

Do medications interfere with my birth control pills? – Age 34, Cannon Beach

A ~ The birth control pill might be made less effective by certain anti-viral medications, anti-seizure medications, Rifampin, and natural supplements. Talk with your health care provider to see if your medication will affect your birth control pill and use a back-up method, like condoms, if needed.

Questions about Other Methods

Does weight matter when it comes to E.C.?

I heard that emergency contraception does not work if you are overweight. Is this true? – Age 30, Tigard

A ~ Yes, studies show that for emergency contraception (EC) pills, Plan B® may not work if you weigh over 156 pounds or have a body mass index (BMI) over 25; and ella® may not work if you weigh over 193 pounds or have a BMI over 35. However, there is another option—the ParaGard® IUD, if placed up to 5 days after unprotected sex, works regardless of your weight. Talk with your health or Reproductive Health provider to find the best EC method that will work for you, if you need one.

Is the implant noticeable in your arm?

I am thinking about getting the implant because I heard it is super effective. However, I am nervous about it being bothersome and noticeable. – Age 20, Dayton

A ~ The implant is one of the easiest birth control methods to use. Once it is put in place, it is good for 3 years, so you can forget about it. If you press on your inner arm, you can feel it below the skin, but it’s really small, it doesn’t hurt, and no one can see. 

Is the NuvaRing noticeable to both you and your partner?

My friends are raving about the NuvaRing® but I am afraid my boyfriend will feel it when we are having sex and not want to have sex with me anymore. What should I do? – Age 22, Scapoose

A ~ The best thing to do is just ask. Try the NuvaRing® and see if he can feel it. Sometimes guys can just barely feel it’s there. Most say they don’t notice it at all. If it’s causing some discomfort and you find the NuvaRing® isn’t for you, talk to your health or Reproductive Health provider about another method that may suit your body better. 

How do I talk about condoms with my boyfriend?

I want to talk to my boyfriend about using condoms but it’s so awkward. How do I bring it up? What should I say? - Age 28, Tillamook

A ~ It is so great that you want to talk to him about condoms, and it doesn’t have to be awkward! How about bringing it up casually over coffee or when joking about how fake that love scene looks in the movie you are watching? Talk about how sex will be even better if you are not worried about STDs or unplanned pregnancy. There are so many different kinds out there (including internal aka female condoms) that you can find condoms that you will both like! Remember, communication is key to a healthy relationship, so start talking.

Questions about Choosing the Right Birth Control

Does birth control affect your future pregnancy? 

Are there any methods that cause problems when you want to get pregnant later on? I don’t know if I want kids later or not, but I have heard some stories – Age 21, Woodburn

A ~ Those stories are just that - “stories.” Birth control is really effective and most people have good experiences.  It works to prevent pregnancy only when you use it. There are no long-term effects when you stop. Depending on which method you are using, it may take some time for your cycle to become normal again, like with the implant or the shot (Depo-Provera). However, most women can get pregnant as soon as they stop taking their birth control. Keep in mind that STDs can make it harder to get pregnant later - so use condoms for STD prevention!

Perfect vs typical use, what does it mean?

Whenever I read about the effectiveness rates of birth control methods, I always see two numbers: the typical-use rate and the perfect-use rate. What does this mean? – Age 34, Fairview

A ~ The perfect-use rate is exactly as it sounds: it is how well the method works if you were to use it perfectly. However, we all know that life doesn't always work out as planned. We miss pills, we forget to replace our patches, and condoms break - thus we have the typical-use rate. This rate takes into account human errors and other factors that affect how well the method works. It is important to think about these rates and chose a method that you think would be easy to use perfectly! 

Can you switch methods if you are not happy with the one you have now?

I don’t want to mess anything up jumping from one method to another, but I am not happy with the method I have now, can I switch methods? - Age 31, Sweet Home

A ~ The beauty of birth control is that there are lots of different methods. If you are unhappy with what you have, you can try out another one until you find the one that works right for you. Of course, you don’t want to stop your current method until you get the next one, so you’ll want to talk to your health or Reproductive Health provider first to narrow down the best one for you and give it a try.

Questions about STDs

Are STD tests really that important?

Is getting tested for STD's really that important? I don't have any symptoms, so I don't see the point. - Age 19, Dufur

A ~ Yes, absolutely. You may think that you have an STD only if you have a symptom like a wart or sore, but did you know that most STDs do not have any symptoms at all? For example, 75% of women with Chlamydia don't know they have it. Luckily bacterial STDs are easy to treat with antibiotics. However, the longer it's not treated, the more harm it can cause including infertility. So get tested.  It is important for you and your partner(s)!

Do hormonal birth control methods protect against STDs?

If I’m using birth control, the hormones will also prevent me from getting STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) right? – Age 25, Hermiston

A ~ Sadly no. Hormonal birth control protects against pregnancy, but not STDs including HIV. In fact, the only method of birth control that provides protection from STDs and HIV is the condom (external or internal also known as male or female). Even then, there is still a small risk if you don't use the condom correctly or in the rare event it tears or slips. That's why it's important for you to use a condom every time you are worried about STDs. Even better, talk with your partner and consider getting tested for STDs.

Questions from Men

Do vasectomies affect your sex drive?

I am worried, is my sex drive going to go down if I get a vasectomy? - Age 35, Pilot Rock

A ~ A vasectomy is a procedure that either ties off or cuts the tube carrying sperm. That's it. Think of it as a roadblock stopping your sperm from getting where they want to go. Your testicles and hormones will not be affected in the least, so your sex drive will be just like it was before the vasectomy. While we are on the topic, vasectomy doesn't cause problems with your erection, ejaculation, or orgasm. You know what can though? Stressing out over it. Vasectomy is the ultimate worry-free method for men who are finished having children or don’t want them! So get one and relax.

Men, are condoms your only choice? 

I am a guy, and I like sex. What I don’t like is using a condom. Is there anything else for me out there? I don’t want kids. - Age 24, Happy Valley

A ~ How about trying a different brand for a different fit? They come in alls sizes, shapes, and degree of thinness. You might also want your partner to use the internal aka female condom, it could be more comfortable, and it’s just as effective. Vasectomy is another option - but that’s only if you don’t want kids, EVER. Withdrawal is an option that's better than nothing. It's not always reliable so we don’t' recommend it. Best to talk with your partner and and health or Reproductive Health provider (even together!) to see what your full range of birth control options are.

Is it a good idea to carry condoms in your wallet?

My friend and I are having an argument about condoms that I hope you can clear up. I think that it’s a great idea to carry condoms around in my wallet, but he says that it isn’t. Who is right? Age 18, Corvallis

A ~ Your friend is right; it isn’t a good idea to store condoms in your wallet. When you put your wallet in your back pocket, you end up sitting on it for long periods of time. The heat and pressure can damage the latex, creating small holes that make the condom ineffective. Consider keeping them somewhere else, like your backpack. The best places for condoms are well ventilated, away from light and not too hot or too cold. Your friend is looking out for you, so give him some condoms and say thanks!

Are two condoms better than one?

Is it okay to use two condoms at once? Double the glove means double the love, right? – Age 28, Medford

A ~ There are many things in life that are better when doubled, but condoms are not one of them. In fact, using two condoms at one time increases the chance of them ripping due to friction. The same goes for using the male and female condom at the same time.

General Women's Health Questions 

What should I do if I want to get pregnant?

My partner and I are thinking about getting pregnant. What should we do to have the healthiest pregnancy possible? - Age 24, Molalla

A ~ Kudos to you both for thinking and planning ahead. There are many things you need to do even before you try to have a pregnancy. First is making healthy lifestyle changes for both you and your partner (quit smoking and drinking); next, make sure all your vaccinations are up to date; and last but not least, take folic acid every day for at least a month before getting pregnant. Of course, your health care provider will talk with you about all of this and much more. As for your partner, he or she can keep you happy by providing you with all those strange food cravings you are going to have!