Ask anything: a couple of questions about pregnancy and going on/off the Pill

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Here are a couple of questions and answers we got recently in our anonymous questions box to the right ->  Great questions about pregnancy risks and birth control pills!  Hope this helps, and keep ’em coming…

Q: can you get pregnant if a guy fingers you with sperm on his hand?

For pregnancy to occur, sperm has get inside the vagina or on the vulva (where semen could be pushed into the vagina through intercourse, touching etc.). If someone has semen on their hand, and it is still wet, and then fingers someone else, then yes, there is a pregnancy risk there. However, sperm have a hard time surviving once the semen has dried up, so pregnancy is pretty unlikely if the person had semen on their hand that had dried up. Either way, there are a few ways you can reduce this risk: hand-washing is a quick and easy way to make sure there’s no remaining ejaculate around, or use gloves and lube for fingering. If you’re concerned about pregnancy in general, check out this post for some different birth control ideas. The more you know about your body and how pregnancy happens, the better!

Q: My boyfriend is moving away for a year, and we won’t be seeing each other much. Is it safe for me to stop taking birth control for the year he is away, and then start again when he comes back? Are there bad side effects from going off the pill?

The Pill is a reversible form of contraception – meaning that once you stop taking it, your body resumes its natural cycles and you are able to get pregnant. It’s safe to stop taking it whenever you want to stop taking it, just remember that it may take awhile for your body to adjust. When you first go on the Pill, your body is adjusting to the new levels of hormones in your system. Similarly, when you stop taking it, your body has to get used to not having those levels of hormones around. This means that it can take a few months for your menstrual cycle to become regular again – for example, many people don’t get their period for an average of 3 months after going off the Pill, and when it does come back, it can still take awhile to become a regular, predictable cycle. This is normal. It also varies depending on the type of pills you’re on, so you can consult your doctor or the information sheets in your Pill packs.

You can also choose to go back on the Pill when you’re sexually active again, and there shouldn’t be any problems there. Remember that its effectiveness depends on when you start taking it: If you begin your first new pack on the first day of your period, it should be effective immediately or within seven days, if you take every day at the same time throughout that whole cycle. If you start taking on the Sunday after your period (the “Sunday start”), and you continue to take it perfectly throughout that cycle, it should be effective within seven days of starting. If you take it at any other time during the month, then it should be fully effective after taking it for a full month. I always recommend to use a back-up method (like condoms) throughout the whole first month of starting the Pill – because it’s hard to predict whether you’ll take at the same time every day for the rest of that month.

In your case, you could consider even starting back on the Pill in advance of your boyfriend coming back, so that you’d be sure of its effectiveness. Either way, you can think about using back-up options like condoms if and when you’re becoming sexually active again.

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