Sex-Ed = Scare Tactic

I always think of new post ideas when I am lying in bed trying to fall asleep and by morning they are a bit hazy.

One thing I do remember is that I was thinking about how junior high sex-ed was definitely misleading. It started in grade 7 with videos and a question box and then in grade 9 we had a guest come talk to us about birth control methods. I remember my teacher more or less mocking one of the questions I put in the box. For some reason I initially thought you could only get pregnant while on your period. My teacher scoffed and informed the class that that was the only time you couldn’t get pregnant. Now of course every woman’s cycle is different and some people ovulate earlier or later than others, but many of my friends continue to believe that you can get pregnant at any time. In actually, there are only about 5 days a cycle where a pregnancy is possible. If you take an average cycle of 28 days, most people will ovulate on day 14, so the 5 or so days leading up to and including ovulation day are your window for pregnancy. This is because sperm can live in your body about 72 hours and most eggs break down within 24 hours. So those little swimmers need to meet up with the egg within that short window. Now all my fears that I’d get pregnant through my jeans or at the mere thought of sex seem absolutely ridiculous.

Because not every woman has the perfect average cycle, and probably because the schools didn’t want to encourage the rhythm method, the sex-ed program took a “better safe than sorry” approach. That’s probably good. I know I was certainly scared into being extra safe – J and I continued to use the pill and condoms until we were ready to TTC, just in case. But, the sex-ed approach definitely leads to some unrealistic expectations when you start TTC. I think it adds to expectations of it happening right away. I mean surely after years of doing everything you can to prevent a pregnancy, the second you toss the protection you’ll be with child. But no, there’s actually only a 20% chance of getting pregnant any given month.

Now even that figure is a bit misleading because your chances of getting pregnant early into the TTC journey are better than they are as time goes on. According to Dr. Aaron Jackson over at the Ottawa Fertility Clinic, the first month offers about a 30% chance and after 12 months it’s less than 5% (of course those figures are all for unassisted conception and they vary by age). In the first 3 months of trying, 57% of couples get pregnant and after 6 months, that figure rises to 72%. So the fact that 9 months later, I’m not pregnant, does have me worried. And rightfully so I think!

I find that when I talk to others who conceived easily, they start out by saying, “Oh don’t worry about it. It will happen when you least expect it.” Some even cite the fact that 85% of couples get pregnant within a year of no birth control. But by the end of the conversation they are turning to giving me advice on how to make it happen (“Well have you tried . . . .”) and they seem shocked when I say that there’s only a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month. For me there’s a real sense of cognitive disonance. On one hand, I know that it doesn’t happen at the snap of your fingers, but on the other hand, the figures support that it’s less and less likely that we’ll get pregnant on our own. So sometimes I want to yell, “Listen, it’s not as easy as you think to just get pregnant! Just because it worked right away for you doesn’t mean that’s the case for all healthy couples.” and at other times  (often within the same conversation) I want to say, “Just relaxing and going with the flow doesn’t seem to be working for us and each month out it gets less and less likely.”

Moral of the story, sex-ed screwed up my perceptions on getting pregnant and everyone else’s too from the looks of it.


2 thoughts on “Sex-Ed = Scare Tactic

  1. I had a feeling after 8 months of trying that we would need a specialist. I was right. For your sake, I hope you are wrong and you get pregnant in month 10!

  2. Thanks! I hope so too since the wait for the fertility clinic here is so long and going to be so hard to deal with. I have heard of people getting pregnant in months 10, 11, 12, but it just gets more and more unlikely.

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