While no type of hormonal birth control is 100% foolproof, you might have some questions about how protected you truly are against pregnancy, especially with more and more people on TikTok sharing their low-key scary “I didn’t know I was pregnant” stories.
Many women have been sharing their #crypticpregnancy experiences on social media. They reveal that they experienced a variety of symptoms, but did not link them to pregnancy for a number of reasons. Some seem to have had no symptoms at all, unlocking fears in anyone who has wondered whether or not that bloated feeling might actually mean a baby’s on the way.
Reports of women getting pregnant despite consistent birth control can be terrifying. ScaryMommy reached out to Dr. Suzy Lipinski, a certified OB/GYN from Pediatrix, to ask her if it’s worth stocking up on extra pregnancy tests in case your method doesn’t work.
When Should You Test For Pregnancy?
You’re likely well aware by now, but in case it bears repeating, per Lipinski: “No contraceptive method is 100% effective.” But how do you know if something going on in your body is pregnancy-related or not? Lipinski recommends testing at any time “if anything seems out of the ordinary for you and your body.”
“It is challenging with contraceptives that also stop periods as pregnancy may not be as obvious,” she says. “However, if you experience new symptoms like unexplained nausea, extreme fatigue, irregular bleeding, or breast tenderness, taking a pregnancy test is the safest way to rule out pregnancy. A pregnancy test should be done by anyone on birth-control who experiences new pelvic discomfort, particularly on one side. This will rule out an ectopic. Patients with ectopic pregnancies can also have bleeding, so bleeding doesn’t necessarily mean someone isn’t pregnant.”
These guidelines ring especially true if you’re just starting a new birth control method, even if you’re switching from a different one. “The most likely time to see birth control failures is in the first month of use,” says Lipinski. “If a patient has already ovulated prior to starting the contraceptive, then pregnancy is possible during that first cycle. Pregnancy in the first weeks of taking some contraceptives is possible because they need more time to be effective. When someone is starting a new contraceptive, it is important to discuss backup forms of birth control with their provider.”
The Story With the Shot
TikTok stories are replete with patients who were taking the Depo Provera shot. This is a contraceptive that’s given every 3 months. As Lipinski explains: “Depo-Provera has an efficacy of 99% with perfect use and 96% with average use. This means that even with perfect use, 1 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year of using Depo-Provera.”
Do patients need to request a test for pregnancy before receiving their shot in order to confirm that they are not pregnant? Lipinski says that they’re not required, but there are some reasons why taking an occasional test isn’t the worst idea if you rely on the shot. “The key is that the first Depo-Provera be given within the five days after a period (aka before ovulation),” she explains. “If periods are irregular or there is any question about possible pregnancy, then a pregnancy test should be done before starting it. If someone has already started their cycle, then they should use alternative contraceptives and wait until the period. For those with irregular periods, two pregnancy tests two weeks apart with abstinence or additional contraception in between can be effective.”
“Once a patient has started the Depo-Provera — as long as they’re on time for each subsequent shot — then additional pregnancy tests are not necessary. The DepoProvera follow-up shots should be spaced 10-13 weeks apart. Pregnancy testing may be necessary if the shot is received late. Depo-Provera works best in patients who are under 150 pounds. For those above this weight, Depo-Provera may be less effective, and additional pregnancy tests may be needed.” Yep, while it’s absolute garbage that certain contraceptive methods don’t protect patients over a certain weight, it’s crucial information to know if it’s your birth control method of choice.
Other birth control methods are effective
Do not panic. The majority of birth control methods available today are extremely effective at preventing pregnancies. “IUDs have a higher efficacy at >99%, but a small number of patients will still get pregnant each year,” says Lipinski. “Compare this efficacy to no birth control, and 85% of patients will get pregnant in a year. With condoms alone, about 20 patients in 100 will get pregnant within a year, and with traditional birth control, 3-10 people in 100 will get pregnant.”
Lipinski recommends that you discuss your options with your physician, just as you would with any other body-related concern. “When deciding on a birth control choice, you should discuss any other health issues and/or lifestyle factors that may interrupt use and personal preferences to find the contraceptive that best fits your needs.” Having a couple of extra tests on hand is never a bad idea, either, and you should always listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right or you have new, unexplained symptoms, you deserve care and the appropriate treatment that works best for you.
Leave a Reply