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Sex + Relationships

Preventing Unintended Pregnancies: A Beginner’s Guide To Safe Sex

Unintended pregnancies are pregnancies that are mistimed, unplanned or unwanted at the time of conception — and are more common than you might think.

In 2012, one in four pregnancies were terminated, which amounted to 10,960 abortions. Furthermore, a 2018 study by KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s Clinic for Adolescent Pregnancy revealed that nearly one in three girls and young women had successive pregnancies before the age of 21. 

Unintended pregnancies can happen for many reasons — accidents, emergencies, carelessness and for some, even the lack of sexual education.

Aside from teenage pregnancies, the topic of safe sex is still relevant, even if you simply want to educate yourself on its importance! Here’s everything you should know about the basics of safe sex, especially if you’re sexually active and know you aren’t ready to have a baby.

Causes of unintended pregnancies

In order to ensure safe sex, and plan for when (or if) you want to get pregnant, it’ll be useful to first understand the likely causes of unintended pregnancies.

1. Misinformation on reproduction 

Many who have been through Singapore’s education system, would know that our Ministry of Education (MOE) values an abstinence-based approach. But more often than not, safe sex isn’t just about abstaining from sex! 

When sex education fails, many people – especially youth – turn to adult movies to find answers about sex, which is damaging because they form unhealthy perceptions such as unsafe sex.

In 2018, a survey by AWARE revealed that many youths were unsure of or had misinformation on pregnancy, forms of contraceptives and condom usage.

2. Accidents or ineffective birth control 

Although birth control can help prevent pregnancy, it won’t do you any good if you aren’t taking it on time or changing it as needed. And birth control methods, even when used correctly, can fail. Globally, an estimated 33 million unintended pregnancies are the result of incorrect use or contraceptive failure.

Overall, the rhythm method (abstaining from sex only during your most fertile days) and the withdrawal (pull out) method are the least effective methods of birth control. They’re less reliable mainly because they involve factors that are difficult to control. For instance, pre-cum may contain sperm, and even if your partner pulls out every single time, there’s still a higher chance of pregnancy. Not to mention, just one slip-up can result in pregnancy. 

Also, although male condoms are easily accessible and offer protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), they’re only about 85% effective in real-life conditions for pregnancy prevention (one of the lowest) as there is a risk of condoms tearing and breaking during sex.

3. No birth control used 

Casual, in-the-moment kind of sex can be fun and enjoyable. The flip side is,  without birth control, this presents the highest chance of getting pregnant and even transmitting or contracting STIs. 

Studies have found that among couples who have regular sex without contraception, 84% get pregnant within a year and 92% within two years. Personal preference, lack of access to birth control, or cultural and religious norms and beliefs are all reasons for not using birth control; however, couples who are fertile and also frequently have sex should be prepared for the relatively high possibility of pregnancy.

4. Non-consensual sex 

Non-consensual sex happens when consent (making an active choice to agree to a sexual encounter) is not given, taken away, or you are pressured or emotionally forced to do something sexual.

A recent 2020 survey by AWARE revealed that although many young people in Singapore can recognise consent from a third-party perspective, they tend to second-guess themselves when it comes to their own experiences and many may feel hesitant to turn down a partner’s advances because they don’t want to hurt their feelings or ruin the relationship.

Sexual coercion is associated with unwanted pregnancies and STIs with consequential unsafe abortions and increased maternal morbidity and mortality.

Ways you can prevent unintended pregnancies 

1. Research your options

Don’t be afraid to take charge of your own safety when it comes to your sexual health. You should take all precautions such as using condoms to prevent STIs and hormonal birth control to prevent unintended pregnancies. 

Hormonal contraceptives have much higher success rates because if used properly, they’re at least 99% effective at preventing pregnancies! There are many types you can choose from, ranging from birth control pills and patches, to vaginal rings. When it comes to birth control, you’ve got options and, even better, there are no bad options!

Can’t wrap your head around your options? Speak to a sex-positive and judgement-free doctor via tele-consultation about your options and get a personalized prescription that will work best for you and your health needs.

2. Communicate with your partner(s) 

Birth control is a shared (and big) responsibility for everyone involved. Whether it’s pregnancy, STIs or how you feel while on different birth control methods, you and your partner share the experience. So why not make sure the end result is what you both want and expect, by having the Talk® before hitting the sheets?

3. Emergency contraception as your plan B 

Got caught up in the heat of the moment? Simply forgot about protection? Never expected your trusty condom to fail on you? 

Accidents happen, and that’s what emergency contraception (EC) is for! Also known as the morning-after pill, you take it to prevent pregnancy if you’ve had sex without contraceptive protection. The pill will then work to prevent or delay your ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation). As it only works up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex, it should be taken as soon as possible.

However, EC shouldn’t be used as a long-term birth control method as it doesn’t protect you from pregnancy in future sexual encounters. Instead, it’s used as a back-up contraception to prevent pregnancy when: 

  • Birth control failed (e.g. condom broke, missed birth control pill) 
  • No contraception used during sex
  • Forced into unprotected sex 

4. Abstain from sex 

This might be an unfavourable option but hey, it’s definitely 100% effective for both pregnancy and STI prevention. If you ever come to this decision, it’ll definitely help to share your feelings with your partner so both of you are agreeable and understanding of the situation.

The bottom line

What’s not to love about having great AND safe sex? It’s time you start taking control of your sexual and reproductive health by understanding the ways you can navigate and talk about sex! 

Being able to gain access to effective contraception with minimal barriers can make a huge difference. And it’s really all you need in order to learn how to prevent unintended pregnancies. 

With Siena, you can speak to our female doctors via a tele-consult, purchase your contraceptives online and await your discreet package in the comfort of your home at no extra cost!

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