from URI wants to know…..
I have a rather
embarrassing problem. When I am with my girlfriend we have
no problems until I put on a condom - then I lose my erection. I
think it's the tightness that causes this, but I'm quite
sure I'm not particularly large. I try not to make
a big deal out of it, and I am very lucky to have such
an understanding and loving girlfriend, but it's still
very frustrating. I was wondering if this is a common
problem, and what, if anything, I can do about it. Thank
you. Male, Sophomore
Answer: Your situation is not uncommon. Please
remember that condoms come in different sizes. If
tightness is a problem, how about switching to a larger
brand. That should provide some relief. Many
men - tight-fitting condom or not - experience some loss
of sensation. Condoms take some getting used to. Rather
than putting the condom on within seconds before intercourse,
you may want to expand your sex play to include putting
on the condom a few minutes before intercourse - so that
you or your girlfriend can stimulate you to the point
of another erection (think how much fun she'll have bringing
it back up!). I might also suggest switching methods
- for example, you might want to try using the female
condom. It might be a nice alternative - providing
protection from disease and pregnancy. You would
not wear the condom - she would "wear" it. You
may want to talk to someone about other alternatives
methods of protection.
A student from Western Kentucky wants to know...
My girlfriend and I are thinking about birth control - we've been together over a month and want to move things further along - but we don't want to end up pregnant. neither of us have ever had sex before, so we are not worried about infections or those types of things. Can you make any suggestions of what might be the best one to use?
Dr. Caron's Response:
Good for you for thinking about this issue BEFORE becoming sexually involved. Fortunately, you live in a time when there are many options. In general, the best method is the one that combines the greatest effectiveness with acceptance by the individual using it. If someone feels more comfortable and natural using a given method of birth control, they will be more inclined to use it correctly and consistently. An individual's attitude toward the method they're using makes all the difference; no method works if the individual doesn't use it.
Deciding on a method is a choice that should be based on several factors, including age, amount of sexual activity, lifestyle, medical history, and religious beliefs. I think it would be best for the two of you to visit your local health clinic that distributes birth control for a consultation (either your local campus health center or the local family planning). Certainly, The Pill is popular because it is easy to use and has been shown to be very effective in preventing pregnancy. It works by suppressing ovulation. Without an egg ever being produced, there is no risk of pregnancy. Examples of other methods that work similarly include Depo Provera and The Patch. Of course there is also the condom, that is effective if used correctly and consistently each time. No matter what you decide to use, you should both keep in mind that no method is 100% effective, so be sure to educate yourself on emergency contraception (e.g., should the condom slip off or break), and talk about what you might do if you found yourself pregnant. Best wishes on your decision.
A student from the University of Maine wants to know….
Emergency contraceptive pills—where do we go to get it? We had sex without any birth control and we’re worried she will get pregnant. I know we were stupid.... She’s going on the Pill as soon as we get past this. Help! Male, Junior
Dr. Caron’s Answer:
Emergency contraception (also called “morning-after birth control” or “after-sex birth control”) prevents a pregnancy from occurring only if used within 5 days of unprotected intercourse (although effectiveness is greater if taken within 72 hours/3 days). It reduces your chance of becoming pregnant by almost 90%. Approved by the FDA, it is available by prescription thru your medical provider, Family Planning, Planned Parenthood, and other health clinics. It is sold under the name Plan B, and involves taking two pills containing progestin as soon as possible after unprotected sexual intercourse. The directions suggest taking one pill as soon as you can and the other 12 hours later. New research indicates that both doses can be taken at the same time. Be sure to follow up with the clinic about using an effective method of birth control. Please note: It is not an “abortion pill” – since you are not pregnant. Unfortunately, there has been some confusion around emergency contraception and RU-486, which is the drug now available to terminate a pregnancy within the first 2 months. RU-486 leads to abortion and you would see a medical provider for this once you know you are pregnant, unlike emergency contraception that you take to prevent the pregnancy from occurring. For more information on emergency contraception or for information on the closest provider, check out www.not-2-late.com.
student from the University of Wyoming wants to know...
I got my girlfriend pregnant. What do I do?
Don't panic and don't run. This is a human life you have started together
and you both need to sit down and seriously talk about what you want to do. Legally,
she has the power of decision whether to carry through with the pregnancy or
abort. But if you are continuing to be caring and supportive with her,
chances are that your views will be included in the decision. Pregnancy
counseling and referral to medical services are probably available at your
student health center and many local agencies, including Family Planning and
at Boston University wants to know....
What is emergency
contraception and is it pretty easy to buy?
Dr. Caron's Response:
Emergency contraception is commonly sold under the name Plan B. It is a method
of birth control one uses after unprotected intercourse (hence, the nickname "The
After Sex Pill"). It is sold as two white pills with instructions
to take one as soon as possible and the other 12 hours later - however,
new research says you should take both pills together as soon as you get
the prescription. Emergency contraception should not be confused
with another drug that became available in the U.S. around the same time:
RU-486 is commonly referred to as the "abortion pill" and is used once
a woman discovers she is pregnant. Instead, emergency contraception
is taken before one is pregnant - it prevents ovulation, fertilization
and implantation - and therefore the woman never becomes pregnant.
For a long time,
emergency contraception was known as "America's best kept
secret" - it is a repackaging of the birth control pills
we all are familiar with - simply given in higher doses.
It has been used in hospital emergency rooms for decades
- most commonly given to rape survivors to prevent a pregnancy. We
have known about it for year's - but avoided giving the
information out to the general public until now. Meanwhile,
it has been used widely for years and years in other countries.
For example, The Netherlands has claimed it has reduced
90% of unplanned pregnancies.
Although it is
commonly known as "the morning after pill," this is an
inaccurate description of its use. It can actually be taken
up to five days after unprotected intercourse, although
most instructions will say to use it within 72 hours (3
days) of the unprotected sex. It is most effective when
used as soon after unprotected sex as possible.
is available over-the-counter by talking to a pharmacist
in six states (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico,
and Washington State) and plans are underway to make it
available over-the-counter nationally. Right now one can
get it through most family plannings, Planned Parenthoods,
and college health centers. You can also call 1-800-887-4029
to talk with a trained medical provider who can fax in
a prescription to your local pharmacy. Probably the best
website on emergency contraception is Not-2-Late.com ( http://ec.princeton.edu/ ).
It offers the latest news and political discussions, it
also allows you to search for the nearest provider by entering
either your zip code, area code, or town. There is also
an on-line service at http://www.getthepill.com/ which
will take your request for emergency contraception and
fax a prescription to your local pharmacy if it is deemed
appropriate. The cost is $24.95 for this service.
Lots of people
find themselves in situations where they might need emergency
contraception - either because the birth control method
they used failed (e.g., the condom slipped or broke) or
there was no contraception used. By making emergency contraception
widely available, we will be able to reduce the number
of unplanned pregnancies, and in turn reduce the number
of abortions in this country. Let's hope politics
does not get in the way of good health practice.
A college student from Northwestern wants to know....
I recently had sex with my girlfriend
on the first day of her period. After
a few "in and outs" I decided
to put on a condom. I don't know if I had precum, but now
I am worried about pregnancy. I would like to know your thoughts
response: Thank you for your question. I want
to start by saying you have a right to have concerns, but
the risk of pregnancy as you describe the situation is quite
small. The first part of your question has to do with whether
or not unprotected intercourse on the first day of a woman's
period is risky - in other words, could she be ovulating?
Please know that most women ovulate and then later (days
or weeks later) have their period. Knowing this was the first
day of her period would mean that most likely no egg was
available to meet your sperm. The second part of your question
relates to the discussion of pre-cum and possible presence
of sperm in this fluid - which some have suggested could
contain sperm if the male had ejaculated just a few hours
before and not urinated in between sessions. The presence
of sperm in the pre-cum is a remote possibility. Many people
have been told that pre-cum might contain sperm - but the
new studies show that there is no sperm in pre-cum. The risk
of pregnancy with withdrawal has to do with not pulling out
in time...not the pre-cum. While we can say anything is possible
- in this case, it is unlikely that there was a risk of pregnancy.
from UNCC wants to know….
Can a woman get pregnant at any time, or is there a time when
she can't get pregnant?
response: You get pregnant when an egg and sperm
so both need to be present for this to occur. Most women
ovulate (release an egg) in the middle of their cycle. For
example, if a woman menstruates every 28 days, she typically
ovulates on or around the 10-16th day before the start of
her next period. The egg lives only 4 to 24 hours after ovulation.
Sperm are most active within 48 hours after ejaculation. So,
one way to avoid pregnancy is to avoid having intercourse
around the time you ovulate. (of course you can also use birth
control pills that stop ovulation completely no egg
= no way to get pregnant).The problem is trying to determine
when you ovulate. For some women the signs are more obvious.
For example, some women experience a twinge on one side of
the lower abdomen during ovulation, called mittleschmerz (German
for middle pain). Around the time of ovulation there is an
increase and a change in cervical mucous secretions. The mucus
becomes clear, slippery, and stretchy (like egg white). It
is at this time that a woman can most easily become pregnant.
If you really want to understand your body and your ovulatory
cycle, I suggest learning natural family planning (there are
books explaining this); this method teaches you how to chart
your temperature and mucus changes in order to predict ovulation.
You can also buy an ovulation-predication kit at the drug
store; but this can be a bit expensive, as it requires you
to check your urine daily for the presence of hormones. Best
a student at University of Maine: I am rather ashamed
to say that my ex-boyfriend and I used to have sex all the
time and we never used any sort of birth control. He would
always pull out of me before he ejaculated, and luckily, I
never had a pregnancy scare. What are the chances of getting
pregnant doing this?
(aka "pulling out," coitus interruptus, "pull
and pray") is probably the oldest method of contraception.
The Bible contains many references to contraceptive techniques,
including withdrawal. The story of Onan, for example, implies
knowledge of the withdrawal method. This method means that
the man removes his penis from the vagina before ejaculating.
Withdrawal has a first-year failure rate among typical users
of about 20%. That means about 20 in 100 women using this
method in their first year will get pregnant. The biggest
reason for failure is that the man does not withdraw in time.
Even if the penis is withdrawn just before ejaculation, some
ejaculate may still fall on the vaginal lips, and sperm may
find their way to the fallopian tubes. If a man does not withdraw
in time and the woman believes this is her fertile time, emergency
contraception should be used to prevent pregnancy. By the
way, it used to be thought that there was a risk of pregnancy
with withdrawal due to sperm in pre-ejaculatory fluids ("pre-cum"),
but new research suggests this is not a risk.
of its unreliability and high failure rate, withdrawal is
considered an ineffective method of contraception. As Robert
Hatcher, author of Contraceptive Technology says, "it
is a considerably better method of contraception than no method
at all." What is interesting to note is that more than
half the couples around the world use withdrawal to prevent
pregnancy - it is free, does not require a doctor's presciption,
is always available, and is better than nothing at all. One
has to wonder though, with all the effective methods available
to us here in the United States, why someone would resort
to using such a risky method to prevent pregnancy.
a student at Clarke University: Is it possible for me
to get pregnant from anal sex?
Answer: No. The man's sperm would have no way to reach
the woman's egg via her anus. The egg is fertilized in her
fallopian tube. The only way to reach it is via the vagina
- the sperm would need to be deposited in the vagina. To help
you better understand reproductive anatomy, I suggest you
find a book on basic anatomy. The library has many good books
on the topic. I think you might find it useful to learn how
your body works, and specifically how conception takes place
in the body.
a student at University of Memphis: How long has abortion
been legal? Up to what month can a girl have an abortion?
Dr. Caron's Answer: In 1973 the Roe vs. Wade decision
legalized a woman's right to obtain an abortion from a qualified
physician. However, what many people may not realize is that
the decision talked about this right in terms of trimesters
During the first
trimester of pregnancy (when over 90% of abortions are performed
in this country), a women can request (sometimes called "demand")
an abortion; however, during the second trimester, she can
only get an abortion with a physician's consent. During the
third trimester, an abortion is only permitted in extreme
cases - for example, to save the life of the mother or when
the fetus has died in utero.
a student at Central Washington University
What is the safest brand of condoms
to use? Also, if possible could you give me a list of ratings
that condoms got for being safe?
There are more than 100 brands of condoms available in the
United States today. Latex condoms are the most effective
method for reducing the risk of infection from HIV that cause
AIDS, as well as other STDs. For people who are sensitive
to latex, polyurethane condoms are a good alternative. Some
condoms are pre-lubricated. These lubricants do not increase
birth control or STD protection. Non-oil-based lubricants,
such as water or K-Y jelly, can be used with latex or lambskin
condoms. Do not use oil-based lubricants with a latex condom
(such as petroleum jelly/Vaseline, lotions, or massage or
baby oil) because they can weaken the condom and cause it
The FDA, which
regulates condoms as a medical device, reviews production
records and examines stock at random. Should leaks turn up
on 4 per 1000 condoms in a run, the entire lot is thrown out.
It is important to know that an estimated 2-5% of condoms
tear during use. Most of those failures are thought to stem
from misuse, not inherent product flaws. That's why the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides directions
on the importance of consistent and correct use of condoms,
including: use a condom with every act of intercourse from
start to finish store in cool place, check expiration date,
open carefully, use a new condom every time, put condom on
erect penis before it touches any part of partner's body,
be sure to leave a reservoir tip, withdraw soon after ejaculation
while still erect.
has also tested the effectiveness of condoms. Their report
in 1999 tested 30 models of latex condoms major brands and
small brands, in different sizes, textures, and lubricants,
some promoting extra thinness or strength. Only 2 products
of the 30 failed their tests: Durex Pure Protection Spermicidally
Lubricated and Trojan Plus 2 Spermicidal so avoid those 2
All of the following
passed their minimum burst standards, as well as their higher
threshold test, so these would be brands to consider purchasing:
that did well:
Beyond Seven, Class Act Ultra Thin & Sensitive, Durex
Extra Sensitive, and Trojan Ultra Thin are thinner than most.
Trojan Magnum is longer and wider than most. Kimono Microthin
is longer and thinner than most. Lifestyles Vibra Ribbed,
Trojan Ultra Texture, and Trojan Ribbed are textured condoms.
Durex Enhanced Pleasure, Lifestyles Extra Pleasure, and Trojan
Ultra Pleasure are uniquely shaped. Trojan Shared Sensation
is textured and uniquely shaped.
that did well: Trojan has a plain end; Trojan-Enz has a nipple
shaped reservoir like all other condoms in the ratings.
from a student at Arizona State University:
I know it's important to ask your sexual partner to wear a
condom, but how should I approach the issue? I'm not comfortable
Caron's Answer: Anyone you know well enough to be sleeping
with, you should know well enough to talk about protection
with. However, I recognize that talking about sex has never
been easy. In fact, some people even think it's wrong or that
it ruins the mood. But in this age of "fatal sexuality" -
where people can die from unprotected sexual intercourse -
it is crucial that you talk about using condoms. Forethought
before Foreplay is essential: Talk with your partner before
you end up in bed. You might try bringing up the subject by
saying, "Gee, I keep hearing all this stuff about AIDS and
safer sex. What do you think?" Or, "I'd love to make love
with you, but I'm worried about disease." Talk about your
need to have sex safely. If he's a former Boy Scout, he'll
understand the concept of being prepared. If he's ever played
sports he'll understand how important it is to wear protective
gear before you play the game.
a student at University of Rhode Island:
Is condom breakage a common problem?
And if a condom does happen to break during sex, what could
we do to prevent pregnancy?
Answer: An estimated
2-5% of condoms tear during use. Most of those failures are
thought to stem from misuse, not inherent product flaws. The
FDA, which regulates condoms as a medical device, reviews
production records and examines stock at random. Should leaks
turn up on 4 per 1000 condoms in a run, the entire lot is
thrown out. If you have the unfortunate experience of a condom
breaking, you may want to consider having her insert an application
of spermicidal foam immediately, and seeing someone at your
local health center or Family Planning clinic in the next
day or so. There, they can discuss emergency contraception
(after-sex birth control), which must be used within 72 hours
(3 days) after unprotected intercourse. If she feels she is
at risk of pregnancy - due to the time in her cycle where
an egg may have been released - she'll be given 2 pills, and
another 2 to take 12 hours later. For future reference when
purchasing condoms, check out Consumer Reports for their ratings
from a student at Colorado State:
here is the deal... i am in a relationship where we are sexually
active, but i have a problem. We have had unprotected sex,
and we tried to use protection. Every time we try, "brian" doesn't
cooperate and loses interest. I love my girlfriend to death
and when we don't use protection it's the greatest ever...
but help! we need/want protection, but its just not working...
you are using protection sometimes, and other times you are
not. By protection, I assume that you are referring to use
of condoms (the method that is causing "brian" to lose interest).
My first question is: What are you and your girlfriend trying
to protect yourselves from? If it is only pregnancy, there
are several options (e.g., contraceptive pills, shots, and
implants). Make an appointment to visit your local family
planning together to discuss these options. If you are interested
in protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases,
and a male condom is not working out for you (or "brian"),
then perhaps she could consider using the female condom. If
this is a monogamous relationship, and both of you are currently
disease free, then your best protection from disease is to
keep the relationship monogamous. There is no need to use
condoms for protection from a disease that does not exist
in such a situation. Whatever you decide, remember: FORETHOUGHT
BEFORE FOREPLAY is always useful in other words, be sure to
talk to your partner about this before you find yourself together
beneath the sheets. Facing an unplanned pregnancy is not something
either of you should have to contend with at this point in
from a student at Michigan State:
How many days out
of the month can a woman get pregnant?
A woman is technically only fertile for approximately
1 day; that is, the day she ovulates. The egg is generally
fertilizable for only 12 to 24 hours following its release
from the ovary. Ovulation typically occurs 14 days before
the start of her next menstrual cycle. Because sperm only
have an effective life of about 72 hours and the egg an even
shorter life, conception must occur within 24 to 36 hours
of ovulation. Knowing this, it is amazing to think people
are even able to get pregnant. If a woman is really interested
in tracking her own ovulation, she might want to pick up a
book explaining natural family planning. It's a method that
assists women in determining their time of ovulation by keeping
track of temperature and mucus changes.