These are some of the questions we’ve been asked about contraception and birth control. To see the answers, click on the question.

If you’d like to ask your own question, fill out our form here.

Can you get pregnant if you are on your period?

Yes! There is no safe time to have sex without protection. Sperm can live inside the body for three to five days. It’s best to use protection every time you have sex. Also, remember that even if you’re not worried about pregnancy, you can still get a STI or sexually transmitted infection.

Want to know more? This article from explains how ovulation, and the menstrual cycle work, and when you can become pregnant.

How can I get affordable birth control?

The Sexual Health Centre gives free condoms to individuals. You can also contact us to discuss budget-friendly birth control options.

If you cannot get to a site where there are free condoms, you can try a dollar store. Sometimes brand name condoms are sold in such stores, although they may be in smaller packages than at a pharmacy.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada has a program through which doctors can order free birth control for their patients. Ask your medical practitioner if he or she is willing to apply on your behalf.

Sometimes doctors and nurse practitioners get samples of various contraceptives. They may be willing to offer you samples before you pay for a prescription.

What’s the best form of birth control?

There is no best form. It all depends on your needs.

Some things to consider are the price, how often you take it, how effective it is when used properly, and potential risks. For example, many contraceptives like the birth control pill use hormones to prevent pregnancy; if you are uncomfortable taking hormones, you may prefer another form of birth control.

Finally, birth control is only one aspect of safer sex. Reducing your risk of STIs, or sexually transmitted infections, is also important. Birth control pills and other hormonal methods do not cut the risk of infection. Only a condom can act as a barrier between two partners so they do not share something like HIV or gonorrhoea.

Even oral sex, in which there is no risk of pregnancy, requires an oral dam or flavoured condom to reduce your risk of STIs, which can be passed onto the mouth, throat, or anus.

Discuss with your family doctor or nurse practitioner which options are best for you. You can also meet with your local Sexual Health Centre; however, most centres cannot write prescriptions for birth control options like the pill, the ring, or the IUD. These can only be written by a doctor or nurse practitioner.

For a full list of Sexual Health Centres in the province, visit the Nova Scotia Association for Sexual Health webpage.

How long do IUDs hurt?

Although it may be uncomfortable or painful when inserted by your doctor or nurse practitioner, and may cause some cramping for a few days, an Intrauterine Device (IUD) or Intrauterine System (IUS) should not hurt.

However, an IUD may cause irregular bleeding or spotting. The copper IUD can increase cramping when you are menstruating, or make your periods longer. Some women may notice they menstruate less, especially if they are using a system with hormones.

If you feel a lot of pain while using an IUD, consult a health practitioner immediately, as there is a small risk of ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies occur when the baby develops outside the uterus, often in a Fallopian tube. This can be life-threatening for a woman. If you had a copper IUD inserted as a form of emergency contraception, keep this in mind, especially if you are experiencing any signs of pregnancy.

Talk to your Sexual Health Centre or family doctor about whether the IUD or IUS is right for you.

Complications with IUDs are rare, but do happen. See your health care provider as soon as possible if any of the following occur:

• You cannot feel the IUD threads
• You or your partner can feel the lower end of the IUD
• There is a chance you are pregnant
• You experience persistent abdominal pain, fever, or unusual vaginal discharge
• You or your partner feel pain or discomfort during intercourse
• You experience a sudden change in your menstrual periods

Is it true you can get blood clots if you smoke while you are on birth control?

There is always a risk of blood clots when you are on hormonal birth control, and smoking can increase the risk of developing clots. When asking for hormonal birth control, tell your doctor or nurse practitioner the truth about your smoking habits. If you are over 35 and smoke, or have a family history of blood clots, discuss your risk with your medical practitioner.

What is the sponge method?

The sponge method is a type of contraceptive that involves a small circular sponge and spermicide being inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse.

You use an applicator to insert the spermicide (a cream, jelly, or other substance that stops the sperm from ‘swimming’ and meeting up with an egg), and then you insert the sponge so it fits over the cervix. The cervix is the tough nub at the end of the vaginal canal; it is like a door between your uterus and vagina. The spermicide will have instructions for when it must be inserted.

There are no hormones in this contraceptive; however, it is important to make sure you are not allergic to the spermicide. Also, this method does not protect against STIs.

There is also a risk of toxic shock syndrome if you forget to remove the sponge after intercourse.

Ask your doctor or Sexual Health Centre if this method is for you.

Why is the female condom so big?

The female condom is also called the internal condom. It can be used vaginally or anally. It is larger than the external condom, which is worn on a penis or over a toy or fingers, because it does not need to fit snugly to work. An external condom is designed to fit on a penis and not fall off during thrusting. The internal condom is made to sit in the vagina or anus. This allows for a wide range of motion, yet still prevents fluids from being passed between partners.

Some people prefer the internal condom because it can increase friction between the two bodies.

What is the best condom brand?

Because everyone’s body and preferences are different, this means that there isn’t a best brand.

There are many options out there. Play with colours, flavours, or textures until you find a brand that works for you and your partner.

Keep in mind that some people may be allergic to latex or spermicide. Latex free condoms are available, including at the Sexual Health Centre.

Are there different condom flavours?

Yes, there are many condom flavours available at most drug stores and sex toy stores. The Sexual Health Centre also has flavoured condoms.

STIs can be transmitted to any mucous membrane, which is the slick skin found in the vagina, in the mouth, under the foreskin, and in the anus. This means that anything you can catch on your genitals, you can catch in your mouth.

Flavoured condoms are a good way of protecting yourself during oral sex.

What size condom should I use?

A condom should roll down to the base of the penis and fit snugly. There should be room at the tip for ejaculate or semen. Remember to pinch the tip to create this space and prevent air bubbles and a broken condom!

Every company makes their condoms in a slightly different size. If the condom you try doesn’t work for you, experiment until you find a comfortable brand. Remember to try your brand before getting into a situation where you need a condom—or have different ones available in your safer sex toolkit!

Can you use a male (external) and female (internal) condom at the same time?

No. Never use two condoms at the same time. The friction can cause them to break.

Always use one and add lube to reduce friction. This will help reduce breakage as well.

Are condoms effective in water?

Sort of.

In water, condoms can still work (and are better than nothing!) but may not work as well. There is also a risk of the condom slipping off.

Pools, showers, and lakes strip away your body’s natural lubrication, increasing friction. This friction can cause the condom to break sooner than on land.

Finally, chemicals in hot tubs and pools may irritate your sensitive tissues, increasing your risk of catching a STI. Infections spread much more easily through irritated tissues.

If you do have sex in water, use a silicon-based lube. This kind won’t wash away (like a water-based lube) and will reduce friction. It will cut down on breakage and keep your tissues from getting irritated. Just remember that silicon-based lubes will make tubs and showers super-slippery!

Is it true that you can’t get pregnant if you pee right after sex?

No. There are no special tricks to avoiding pregnancy except abstinence or contraception.

When a penis ejaculates semen into a vagina, it bypasses the urethra, where you pee. These two systems are completely different. Urine will not wash semen out of a vagina.

Showering after intercourse, or even douching, will not prevent pregnancy. The only way to cut the risk of an unplanned pregnancy is to use contraception. This will also help reduce the chances of getting STIs or sexually transmitted infections.

However, peeing after sex can reduce your chances of getting a urinary tract infection because it washes out bacteria that may have climbed up the urethra during penetration.

What happens if you snort birth control?

Birth control is best taken orally, as directed. It’s meant to dissolve in your digestive system. You may experience more serious side effects if you snort it, since it goes directly into your bloodstream.

Snorting any pills or drugs irritates sensitive tissues in your nose and may cause nosebleeds or permanent damage. Taking even prescription pills this way may cause a life threatening emergency.

With any prescriptions, take as directed, or talk to a doctor or nurse practitioner.

Can you overdose on birth control?

It is possible to overdose on anything, even over-the-counter drugs that do not require prescriptions.

While an overdose on birth control should not be life-threatening, if you or anyone you know has taken a large number of birth control pills, contact a medical provider. You can also call the IWK Regional Poison Centre toll-free at 1-800-565-8161.

Some symptoms of a birth control overdose include:

  • breast tenderness
  • discoloration of urine
  • drowsiness
  • excessive vaginal bleeding (2 – 7 days following the overdose)
  • headache
  • emotional changes
  • nausea and vomiting
  • rash

Remember to keep the birth control pill away from pets and children.