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Advice – I am terrified of becoming pregnant. [NSFW]

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/u/relationship_ta0326 writes on /r/relationship_advice…

“I’m [23F] still a virgin and this is my first long-term relationship. When I was younger, I thought I was waiting to have sex until marriage because I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home. I’ve since left the church and no longer have any religious convictions on the subject, but I still wanted to wait until I was in a stable long-term relationship with someone I truly care about.

I’ve absolutely found that kind of special relationship with the guy [22M] I’m dating. He’s been extremely caring and patient as I’ve worked through my religion-related hangups around the idea of sex before marriage and I’m at a point where I feel absolutely ready to share this experience with him. He’s also a virgin and we’ve been dating over a year.

The last problem I’ve run into is one that I never expected to become my main issue with sex — feeling completely uncomfortable with every form of contraception I’ve been researching. I guess I have a lot of anxiety around the idea of getting pregnant and even the very smallest microscopic chance terrifies me. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’d get an abortion if I did become pregnant because I know I absolutely do not want kids (definitely not now, and possibly not ever). My boyfriend are on the same page about this so that’s a plus.

Something we are on very different terms about, however, is contraception. I’d like to use condoms as a secondary form of contraception but I want a more reliable primary form of contraception. This alone has already been an issue, as my boyfriend has expressed he doesn’t want to use condoms. OK fine, plenty of other forms of birth control out there, right?

I began researching every type of contraception I could come up with. I would feel most comfortable with taking the pill but I have a history of reacting TERRIBLY to hormone-affecting medications. Medications I’ve taken in the past have caused me terrible acne, weight gain, and – above worst of all – mood swings and depressive episodes that made me feel utterly unlike myself. These medications messed with my brain/body chemistry so much, it quite literally took me years to fully recover.

Now, I’m at a point in my life where I’m just not willing to risk that again. I’ve been eating really healthy the last few years, worked out nearly every day and I’m feeling better and stronger than ever. Besides that, I’ve been happier and feeling more myself than I have since childhood. I’m so happy with the direction my life is going and I’m just scared that hormone-based contraception will affect all my successes.

I looked into getting an IUD but I’ve heard so many horror stories about something going wrong and/or pregnancy happening anyway. I have terrible health insurance so I absolutely can’t risk having some kind of medical emergency related to my contraception, it would completely sink me financially. I also have a lot of anxiety around these kinds of things and I’d much rather have a form of contraception with a virtually non-existant failure rate and incident rate. Is this an impossible dream?

This has plagued me with so much anxiety that I’ve even briefly considered more permanent forms of contraception, especially given that I really can’t picture myself ever having kids and if I did I would be interested in adoption. My boyfriend got super angry when I suggested the idea of tubal ligation (along with other less drastic forms of contraception) and told me I was just overthinking everything, I wasn’t going to get pregnant and I was just worrying too much.

What should I do?”

TL;DR – My partners and I are both virgins, but disagreeing about forms of contraceptives. What should I do?

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Dear Relationship TA 0326,

There are so many different threads here I would like to unravel.

First is your sense of virginity. There is this weird sense of fascination with “pureness” coupled with religious sanctity that highly overvalues what virginity really means to the human experience. I have always wondered why penetrative intercourse using genitals defines a loss of virginity for both men and women. Does this mean that two cisgendered lesbians who do not possess genitals to penetrate will forever be considered virgins?

You say that you’ve been dating this man for for over a year. And I am sure that during that time, you and your partner could have explored various forms of intimacy together that might not be penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse. They’re all still valid forms of sex and intimacy even if they’re not PIV sex. At which point do you stop being a virgin? After oral sex? After digital stimulation? After mutual masturbation? It’s all just a sliding scale. Is someone who has only had one PIV intercourse somehow less “virginal” than someone who has had multiple oral sex but no PIV sex with multiple partners?

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Second thing that I want to talk about is regarding his contraception. More specifically, about condoms. In the same sense that you might feel uncomfortable with various forms of contraception, it is also within your partner’s rights to express his discomfort at using contraception that affects him as well. However, I have always held that any men who refuses to wear condoms should be immediately disqualified from having penetrative intercourse in general. It’s just an added level of barrier. Condoms don’t just protect you from pregnancy; they also protect each other from STI transmission. I know that both you and your partner have not yet had PIV intercourse, but STIs can be transmitted without any genital contact. I don’t think he gets to say he is not comfortable wearing a condom when he has never used one in the context of intercourse.

What might benefit for him is to try a condom on next couple times you two fool around. There are so many different types of condoms. And some might work for him and not for you. Some might work for you and not for him. But it is part of the fun to figure out what kind of condoms work for both you and him. So just try it out. What else does he have to lose as long as y’all are trying out penetrative intercourse for the first time?

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Third thing that I want to talk about is your contraception. Internet is great for a lot of things. But it is not great for sharing the middling or even good experiences of humanity. IUD in specific deserves a mention here for how the horror stories of IUD not working out is disproportionately represented in online communities. I have had a personal experience with a partner who recently had an IUD inserted. And for her, the dilation part was so much more painful than the actual insertion part. IUD is not as bad as what you hear online. Copper IUDs last ten to twelve years and do not directly affect your hormones as much as make your uterus inhospitable for fertilized eggs to attach. So that could be a worthwhile consideration for you.

As for BC pills, like condoms, there are many different varieties of oral contraceptives that you can take. One might work for you while the others might not. It could definitely take a couple tries to find the right pill that works for you, but that should be a collaborative effort between you and your doctor.

Please talk to your doctor about what kind of contraceptives will work for you.

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Last thing I wanted to talk about is with logical and emotional risk assessment. I come from a statistical academic background. So I’ve gotten very used to processing any risky endeavors by looking at:

  • The magnitude of each event, and
  • The probability of each event.

Once I have determined the values and probabilities for each event, I would calculate an expected value and make my personal decision based on that expected value. If the positives outweigh the negatives (i.e. if the expected value is positive), then I take the chance.

In your case, there are two different events to consider. You can have a very satisfying sex life with your partner without you getting pregnant. We’ll call that Event 1. Or you can get accidentally pregnant (since no form of contraceptive is truly flawless) and have to go through an abortion. And we’ll call this Event 2. I am going to assume here that usage of both contraceptive methods will yield a happy and happy sex life for you. I am also going to assume that you’ll use condoms & BC pills as your contraceptive strategy. Let’s assign values to each of those events.

Satisfying sex life means so, so much to not just the health of your relationship but also for your own personal satisfaction. So let’s say that Event 1 is +100 for both of you. On the other hand, you getting pregnant and experiencing abortion sucks for everyone involved. So Event 2 can be -500 for both of you.

According to Planned Parenthood, condoms are about 85% effective and hormonal birth control pills are about 91% effective. Let’s assume that you use both, which means the likelihood of you becoming pregnant (i.e. probability that both contraceptive methods fail) is 15% * 9%, or 1.35%. So that means, reflexively, Event 1 is a 98.65% probability.

Now let’s calculate the expected value. 100(98.65%) + -500(1.35%) is +91.9. If I was in your situation, I would always choose to use condoms and BC pills for a happy and healthy sex life. Even if we adjust the value of Event 2 to -5000, EV is +31.15.

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Maybe this isn’t about calculation. Maybe this is an issue of emotional processing. Your boyfriend might see this issue logically, as I have laid out above. But you might see this as an emotional issue and haven’t accepted it emotionally yet. It isn’t about the actual likelihood of any of those events, but whether you feel more comfortable with even the worst case scenario. How have you personally managed resolving possibly risky situations in the past? How were you able to get more comfortable without catastrophizing what could happen and balancing that with what is more likely to happen?

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

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