How men can help take responsibility for no babies

It’s really easy to get a woman pregnant, when the situation is right. That is, an ovulating woman and live load of healthy sperm in her vagina. Having sex is supposed to be fun, but during a woman’s life, she’ll worry a lot about being pregnant, and maybe later, about not being pregnant.

The reason we worry is because we are not taught about our bodies properly – guys or girls – and so we end up in a no-information-worry vacuum. Girls don’t know how they get pregnant, and guys have less idea. No information on how we get pregnant ends up with pregnancies, so the first step in protecting yourself is to learn how a woman gets pregnant in the first place.

Yes, an ovulating woman and a live load of healthy sperm, but what is ovulating and when does it happen? How can you tell? There is a lot to learn, but it’s worth learning to be in control of your own fertility.

But she said she was on birth control!

Birth control is not magic. Women on hormonal birth control where she is in charge of applying the dose (the pill, Nuvaring) have remarkably high failure rates, due to plain old forgetfulness and sloppy use.

Most women have no idea how their hormonal birth control actually works, so if they skip a day, or a pill, especially around the seven ‘off’ days they get their ‘period’, they can spontaneously ovulate, and voila – up the duff she is. This can be a costly mistake for both you and her.

Letting a person who is ignorant of how their birth control works be the boss of your possible future offspring/abortion count is a dangerous situation to put yourself in. Be scared. It’s scary! Imagine you got told you could take a pill to prevent pregnancy; sweet, so you do. And think it’s magic. Then you forget to take a pill one or two times. No big deal? Yes, big deal.

Birth control is not magic and it has sharp edges that need to be respected.

Birth control that you can feel safe with:

Birth control to be suspicious about:

  • The pill – if she misses a pill at the start or end of the 7-day sugar pill phase, ovulation can occur on the 8th day
  • Mini pill – relies on being taken at exactly the same time every day to work
  • Nuvaring – if she puts it in a day late or takes it out a day early, ovulation can occur on the 8th day of no protection
  • Diaphragm – these are supposed to be used with spermicide, which is icky, not super reliable
  • Sponges – barrier method, works well if used properly, but can be hard to use and remove
  • Patches – rely on staying stuck on and replaced at the right time, dispensing hormone into the blood via the skin

If you are having sex with someone who is not on a safe type of birth control, and they don’t seem to understand how their birth control works, you need to wrap up. Relying on them not to be forgetful or for a somewhat unreliable birth control is a huge gamble.

Male birth control options

Unfortunately at the moment, male birth control options outside of condoms and being permanently sterilised (vasectomy) are unavailable.

This situation is changing, with trials currently underway on hormonal and non-hormonal male contraceptive options, so watch this space. Take a look at the male contraceptive trials that are underway.

Is sex safe when she has her period?

Generally, yes. If she has really short cycles, however, she may ovulate at the tail end of her period. In this case, the bloodier the better. It means the hormone cascade hasn’t ramped up again yet.

You can ask her how long her cycles are to determine the general risk of this, with anything less than 21 days (three weeks) being not only abnormal, but risky. If she has short cycles, she could benefit from an investigation into why.

Just after her period is often quite safe too, but again, it depends how long her cycles usually are. Figuring out when she ovulates is the next question.

How do we know when she can get pregnant?

If your lover is not on hormonal birth control that blocks ovulation, she probably does not know exactly when she can get pregnant. That means, she does not know when she ovulates. You probably don’t know this either, and maybe think it’s none of your business.

It is, in fact, the most important part of a woman’s cycle, and the time that affects you the most in some interesting ways, not least of all because that’s the only time she can get pregnant in her whole cycle.

During her ovulatory period, a woman will be much more inclined to have risky sex (read: with no condom) with you because her libido and confidence may be increased due to the action of testosterone and other hormones, which are spiking to provoke that exact action.

Ever wondered why guys can be so cocky and horny? Testosterone. Give a woman a burst of that once a month, and you have a cocky horny woman on your hands. This is great for sex – she’s more likely to be open, responsive, and up for it – but this is precisely the time nature designed to get her pregnant.

The number of one night stands women have results in a disproportionate number of unwanted pregnancies for this very reason. That one Friday night she gets dressed up, feeling hot, with her eye on one thing: getting it on with someone. She might only do that once a month. Slap you both into a bar one ovulating Friday night, and you have an unwanted pregnancy on your hands.

Our little peanut brains don’t comprehend pregnancy as a real thing, because frankly it’s an abstract concept: do this fun thing and a what comes out? ANOTHER PERSON! It’s too weird to contemplate and sex is too much fun, and we don’t really think it will happen to us.

How do we know when she is ovulating?

Remember, cycles do change from month to month, and a normal cycle length can range in a single woman from 21 days to 35 days. That’s a lot of room for error in figuring out when she is actually ovulating, so just remember: she almost certainly doesn’t ovulate at the exact same time every single month.

It’s a fertility window. Until she is completely across her cycles, which takes time, figuring out the exact time of ovulation is hard. Bear in mind that there is ‘definitely safe’ and ‘definitely not safe’ times where you could theoretically either not worry as much, or enjoy bareback sex.

Figuring out when she ovulates is easy for her when she knows what to look for, but very mysterious if she doesn’t. She can read this guide on how to tell if she is ovulating. Over time, she’ll start to know by how she feels and what comes out of her vagina.

You will be able to start to tell too, if you are having sex with the same person over time. Talk about it. Ask. The patterns become clear over time, and ovulation is just so much fun, it’s a great time to take advantage of her more sexually responsive body.

You can play along at home. Make a note of the day each month in your phone – if you know – when she gets her period. Over a few months, you’ll be able to pinpoint first how many days it is between day one of her period, to day one of the next – that is the cycle length. The week in the middle of her periods is the week she will ovulate, so look for signs.

The week after that, her premenstrual symptoms may appear, if she gets PMS.

Some women know when they ovulate – ask her. It’s more interesting than you might think! The one main event in a woman’s cycle is ovulation (not the bloody, messy period that gets so much airtime), and it’s kind of a great slice of time to know about. Understanding women’s cycles has so much value to men, because you can find out:

  • When she’s likely to be the most horny and up for sex
  • When she is going to get her period
  • When she is going to get PMS or PMDD and maybe become a crazy person for a week and need a little more TLC
  • When she is more likely to want to watch cat videos in granny undies and eat too much
  • When she can get pregnant!

Things to remember about getting women pregnant:

  • There is a fertile window – your sperm can last for a few days inside of her body, lying in wait, until she ovulates
  • The egg itself is only viable for a teensy tiny 12 hour window
  • It’s both harder and easier to get pregnant than you may think, but nature is clever and lust is a strong motivator
  • Humans don’t just have sex to procreate – it serves a social function, which is why even period sex can be awesome
  • Male fertility has dropped off massively in the past decade – do you know how fertile you are?
  • After age 35, female and male fertility starts to take a nosedive
  • Young people are the most fertile, but any woman who is still getting periods can theoretically still get pregnant (you have to ovulate to get a period)

What to do if your semen gets into her vagina while she may be ovulating

Emergency contraception – up to 72 hours after the event

First things first – figure out if it’s possible that she is ovulating. If it’s not really possible based on how ovulating works, then she probably isn’t pregnant and you can relax. If it’s possible that she was ovulating, enjoy the moment (you have a bit of time), then plan to get hold of some emergency birth control pills.

You can use regular birth control pills as emergency contraception!

If you can find a friend to get some regular birth control pills from, getting her to take more as per this dosage chart. The pills are exactly the same hormones, but emergency contraception is a higher dose in fewer pills.

Normal birth control pills work well if you can’t get hold of emergency contraception due to cost, needing a prescription, or being somewhere that doesn’t supply this service. You can also request some from Women on Web if you are really stuck or live in a place where access to birth control or abortions is made very difficult and dangerous, like many areas in the United States.

Emergency birth control can sometimes fail, so make sure she takes a test in a few weeks’ time just to be sure.

What to do if you get someone pregnant

This can be a scary time for you both. The important thing to remember is that at the end of the day, if your lover decides to go through with the pregnancy, this is for better or worse her choice. You cannot make her have an abortion, and conversely you cannot make her keep the baby either.

This simple equation here is ultimately about rest of your life, which will be genetically, emotionally and financially affected by a child being born.You don’t get to decide once a woman is pregnant – only she can – which is why you should wear a condom every single time you have sex, and make sure not a drop of your semen gets anywhere near a possibly ovulating woman’s vagina, unless that is the plan.

Avoiding sperm jacking

Taking responsibility for your sperm might include disposal of the condom by rinsing its contents down the sink. (Don’t flush condoms – bad environmental juju.) While this might sound a tiny bit pessimistic, sperm-jacking is a real thing and women do it, sometimes.

You won’t know which women are going to be sperm-jackers, so just be assertive about what happens to your sperm during sex.

A woman who wants a baby, but doesn’t have a partner, may find someone who seems good enough (you), and go for it. It’s not fair, and it’s not polite, but it happens.

If she is pregnant and the outcome is not clear, there are going to be a lot of forces at play here – her views on abortion, your views on abortion, whether you both want to have a baby, what the world will think of you both, and so on. It gets emotional. It can also get ugly, especially if one of you wants to keep the pregnancy, but the other doesn’t. More so if she decides to keep the pregnancy, but you are opposed.

What to do if you find yourself with an unwanted pregnancy

Even if you don’t feel like it, it will work best in your favour if you stick with something along the lines of the following:

“I am/am not ready/able/willing to be a parent, but whatever you decide to do, I support you.” Being in a supportive position keeps you in the conversation, as opposed to being in an oppositional camp should that come up. The last thing you want is to be on the outer with someone having your baby. There are enough unhappy parenting stories out there as it is; don’t add to them.

Remember, abortions are quick, easy, and safe – it doesn’t have to be an emotional minefield. Kids are great too! If you both want them. Having a child should be something both parents agree to, but unfortunately this isn’t how our system is set up, so protect yourself and your future firstborn (or second or third or fifth or tenth). Be the boss of your birth control.

Abortion services – medical (take a pill) or surgical (suction)

Not every country has easy access to safe, legal abortions, which is a shame. Having abortions has a stigma attached that is nothing but trouble for women who – like you – enjoyed the sex (or not, as the case may be) and like you, don’t want a baby because of it. Having sex is fun; unwanted pregnancies are not, but they don’t have to be a terrible trauma either.

Medical abortions are now extremely easy, cheap and safe. If you are having trouble getting a medical abortion, write to Women on Web – they send drugs via post and offer support for medical abortions from afar. They also help with contraception and emergency contraception. They are not a substitute for your local clinic, however, so if you have services available, use them locally.

Surgical abortions are a very small procedure, and are in fact one of the easiest and safest procedures a doctor will ever perform. They take about four minutes in total, and involve  scrape and suction (D&C) to remove the contents of the uterus. Just like getting a period, but more equipment!

Talk to your friends, brothers, and sons about this. It’s important.

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)