The Lies We Tell Pregnant Women (Video)

The Lies We Tell Pregnant Women (Video)

As a sex educator, I’ve been asked many times whether it’s safe to have sex during pregnancy. I’ve answered this question before on the blog and, although the research is pretty clear that it’s safe to do so long as the pregnancy isn’t high risk, a lot of pregnant women who aren't in that high-risk category are still given subtle and not-so-subtle cues that they should probably avoid sex anyway. So why is that?

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Sex During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

Sex During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

A reader submitted the following question:

"Is it OK to have sex if you're pregnant? Especially during the later months?"

You're not alone in wondering about this. In fact, survey studies have found that 25-50% of pregnant women and 25% of their partners are concerned that sex could potentially hurt or "traumatize" a developing fetus [1]. Such concerns have the effect of causing many pregnant couples to have sex less often than they'd like, or perhaps to have sex that is less satisfying than usual because they are anxious or worried. Fortunately, research suggests that these concerns are largely unfounded.

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Progress in the Search for a Male Version of the Birth Control Pill

Progress in the Search for a Male Version of the Birth Control Pill

Scientists have been hard at work for decades trying to develop a safe, highly effective, and reversible contraceptive for men—something akin to the birth control pill that has been available to American women since 1960. Thus far, nothing they’ve tested has been remotely ready for prime time. However, a new study just published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests that they may be nearing a breakthrough.

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Are There Any Benefits Or Risks To Having Sex During Your Period?

Are There Any Benefits Or Risks To Having Sex During Your Period?

A reader submitted the following question:

“I have read several blogs and magazines saying that having sex during menstruation can help to alleviate cramps. Is there any truth to this? Is there any research? Also is there any risk in having sex in those moments?”

Thanks for these great questions! With respect to the idea that sex reduces cramping and pain during menstruation, you’re right—there are a TON of websites out there making this claim. I did a quick search and saw it mentioned on WebMD, Kinsey Confidential, Medical Daily, and ABC News, among many, many others.

However, not a single one pointed to a specific study or source to back this idea up.

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What’s More Likely From Unprotected Sex: Getting Pregnant or Getting an STD?

What’s More Likely From Unprotected Sex: Getting Pregnant or Getting an STD?

A reader submitted the following question:

“What is more probable in a random heterosexual encounter without protection: getting an STD or getting pregnant? I assume the answer will change with age (higher chances of STD for older people, higher chances of pregnancy for younger women) but I think would be interesting to know the answer for an average person.”

Thanks for this very interesting, but very complex question! There’s not a simple answer because there are a lot of unaccounted for variables here.

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Sex Question Friday: Are There Any Health Effects Of Swallowing Semen?

Sex Question Friday: Are There Any Health Effects Of Swallowing Semen?

A reader asked the following:

“Are there any health effects of swallowing semen? Is it better to spit it out instead of swallowing?"

Thanks for these very interesting questions. Let me start by saying that if you perform oral sex on a man who has an STI (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis), you run the risk of contracting that infection. It doesn't matter whether his semen is actually swallowed—the risk comes from simply having his ejaculate in your mouth. So, if you know your partner has an infection or you aren’t sure of his status, it would be advisable to use a condom to prevent contact with his semen, thereby lowering your infection risk (read more about the potential STI risks of oral sex in this article). 

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What You Should Know About Having Sex During Pregnancy

What You Should Know About Having Sex During Pregnancy

Many women (and their partners) have concerns about sex during pregnancy. For instance, survey research has found that 25-50% of pregnant women and 25% of their male partners have concerns about potentially hurting or "traumatizing" the baby by having intercourse [1]. Another common concern is whether there is a certain point during a pregnancy at which sexual activity should cease. These concerns lead many pregnant couples to have sex less often than they would like, or to have sex that is less satisfying than usual because they are distracted or anxious. So what does the research have to say with regard to these concerns? 

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The Science Behind Men’s Attraction To Women's Rear Ends

The Science Behind Men’s Attraction To Women's Rear Ends

Evolutionary psychologists have long argued that many of the physical features heterosexual men are drawn to in women reflect traits that signify female health and fertility status. The basic argument is that our male ancestors developed an attraction to these traits because it enhanced their odds of reproductive success. These mating preferences are thought to have been passed down across generations and still influence what men are attracted to today on some primal level. In a new study just published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, researchers examined whether men’s attraction to women with more prominent rear ends might represent one such evolved mating preference.

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10 Surprising Facts About Birth Control

10 Surprising Facts About Birth Control

Did you know that Lysol and Coca-Cola used to be used as contraceptives? Or that usage of birth control pills is related not only to what women pay attention to when watching pornography, but also to the amount of money that a female stripper makes in tips? Read on to learn more about these and other surprising facts about the past, present, and future of birth control.

1. In the not-too-distant past, some women used to flush out their vaginas with Coca-Cola after sex in an attempt to prevent pregnancy. Believe it or not, there was even a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1985 claiming that this technique actually worked (and not only that, but it also claimed that Diet Coke worked better than regular Coke!) [1]. However, subsequent research found that soda isn’t all that effective as a contraceptive and can potentially lead to vaginal infections [2].

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Sex Question Friday: Why Does Menopause Exist And Is It Unique To Humans?

Sex Question Friday: Why Does Menopause Exist And Is It Unique To Humans?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know more about the topic of menopause:

“Are humans the only species in which the females experience menopause? Why does menopause exist?”

Thanks for these great questions! As it turns out, human females are not unique in having what some scientists term a “post-reproductive lifespan” (or PRLS for short). In fact, studies have found that many primate and non-primate species show evidence of a PRLS [1].

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Did PMS Evolve In Order To Split Up Infertile Couples?

Did PMS Evolve In Order To Split Up Infertile Couples?

Premenstrual syndrome (or PMS as it is more commonly known) is a catchall term for any unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms a woman might experience just prior to getting her period. Research suggests that as many as 80% of women experience PMS; however, the nature and severity of the symptoms varies dramatically across individuals [1]. On the surface, PMS might not appear to be an adaptive trait, especially considering that, at least for a very small percentage of women, the symptoms are so severe as to become debilitating (in which case it may be referred to as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD). But if PMS is so widespread, is it possible that perhaps it came to exist for some evolutionary reason? That’s what Dr. Michael Gillings argues in a controversial new paper just published in Evolutionary Applications [2].

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All I Want For Christmas Is Safe Sex

All I Want For Christmas Is Safe Sex

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? In all likelihood, you’ve probably had some sex. Research has found that there are seasonal peaks in sexual activity, with one of the biggest spikes occurring right around the Christmas holiday [1]. In a lot of ways, this makes sense. Most people are off work for a couple of days and college students are out of school for a couple of weeks. Without the stress and distraction of deadlines and homework, people have more time and energy to "get it on." However, it turns out that while people are having lots of holiday sex, it appears that they aren’t having very safe sex, which may result in some unexpected outcomes.

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Why “Safe Sex” Isn’t Quite As Safe As You Think

Why “Safe Sex” Isn’t Quite As Safe As You Think

Although “safe sex” means different things to different people, the most common thing people associate with this term is the male condom. We have been told time and again by sexual health educators and condom manufacturers alike that condoms can be highly effective at preventing unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—and there is no disputing that. However, research has found that people tend to overestimate how effective condoms are in practice [1] and for that reason, it is important to step back and look at what condoms do and don’t do, and reconsider our usage of the term “safe sex.”

 

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All I Want For Christmas Is Some Safe Sex

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? In all likelihood, you’ve probably had some sex. Research has found that there are seasonal peaks in sexual activity, with one of the biggest spikes occurring right around the Christmas holiday [1]. In a lot of ways, this makes sense. Most people are off work for a couple of days and college students are out of school for a couple of weeks. Without the stress and distraction of deadlines and homework, people have more time and energy to, ahem, get busy. However, it turns out that while people are having lots of holiday sex, it appears that they aren’t having very safe sex, which may result in some unexpected outcomes.
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Sex Question Friday: Is It Safe To Have Sex During Pregnancy?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader of the blog who wanted to know whether it is safe for women to have sex during pregnancy and, if so, how often it is okay to do it.  

If a woman is pregnant, how often can she have sex until she can’t anymore? And does the penis poke the baby or placenta and possibly cause complications or damage?

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No-Cost Contraception May Reduce Abortion Rates and Teenage Pregnancies

Although the teenage birth rate has decreased in the United States in recent years, the percentage of teen girls giving birth is still higher here than anywhere else in the developed world. Likewise, while the U.S. abortion rate has also fallen, the number of abortions performed in this country each year is higher than it is in Canada, Europe, and a number of other countries. In order to address these issues, some doctors and sexual health experts have proposed making free or low-cost contraceptives more widely available. And, in fact, as of August 1, 2012, the Affordable Care Act now makes contraceptives available without a copay for women who begin new insurance plans or renew their old plans. But will greater access to contraceptives actually reduce abortion and teen pregnancy rates? According to a new study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the answer is a resounding yes.
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What Is A “Legitimate” Rape Anyway?

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” – Todd Akin, Republican Senate Candidate from Missouri

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably seen a ton of headlines over the past few days referencing Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments about rape. Akin’s remarks were asinine on multiple levels because not only is it patently offensive to suggest that some rapes are “legitimate” while others are not, but there is absolutely nothing to back up his provocative claim that women’s bodies have mechanisms in place to prevent rape-related pregnancies from occurring. In fact, research has actually found the opposite of what Akin suggested: specifically, the per-incident pregnancy rate is higher for rapes than it is for consensual sex.1

Although the Akin controversy has stoked a lot of public anger, the silver lining is that his remarks have prompted a public dialogue about sexual assault that we desperately need to have. I have read so many excellent articles this week that are providing some much-needed attention to this important issue. If I may add one small bit to this, I would like to talk briefly about the definition of rape and how the wide variability in legal definitions of this crime may be contributing to confusion about what rape is and distracting us from the bigger issues at stake here.

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Sex Question Friday: Can Intercourse Position And Timing Affect The Sex Of Your Child?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week, we’re talking about whether you can pick the sex of your baby by having sex in certain positions or by timing how closely you have sex to when a woman ovulates. It appears that a lot of people are interested in learning about this topic because questions of this nature have come up with surprising frequency among students in my classes!

Can different sexual positions determine the sex of a child?

Can timing intercourse in relation to ovulation affect whether you have a boy or girl?

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As Many As 1 In 5 Pharmacists May Deny Emergency Contraception To Teenage Girls

In 2009, the United States Food and Drug Administration made Plan B, a form of emergency contraception, available to anyone over the age of 17 without a prescription. To obtain the medication, an individual must request it from a pharmacist and provide proof of age. Despite the fact that there are no legal restrictions on their ability to purchase Plan B, a new study reveals that a shockingly high number of 17-year-old girls may be incorrectly told by their pharmacists that they cannot purchase the medication, even in pharmacies where the drug is in stock.
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Oddities in the History of Contraception: From Coca-Cola Douches to Beaver Testicle Tea

Oddities in the History of Contraception: From Coca-Cola Douches to Beaver Testicle Tea
I recently posted an article discussing how women tend to overestimate the effectiveness of condoms and birth control pills. Even though these contraceptive devices aren’t quite as effective as we might like, they’re certainly far better than what people used to have in the past. In this article, I’d like to take you on a brief tour of five of the most interesting, bizarre, and humorous methods of birth control that have ever been attempted. After reading this, I think you’ll come to have a greater appreciation for modern contraceptives!
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