Preventing Pregnancy FAQs

Here are some of the most commonly-asked questions about pregnancy prevention. If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, you can check out more resources or submit your question to experts by sending an email to

Can I really get pregnant or get someone pregnant the first time I have sex, or if I only have sex with someone once?

Yes, you can. Every single time you have sex there is a chance of pregnancy. The only 100% foolproof way to avoid pregnancy is to not have sex. If you are having sex, there are different methods of protection to choose from. Read on for more on what works and what doesn’t work so well. It’s important to use protection each and every time you have sex.

If I am having sex, what are the most effective options for preventing pregnancy?

If you do have sex, there are different methods of protection to choose from- condoms, the pill, the patch, to name a few. When used correctly and consistently (that’s every time) they are very effective at preventing pregnancy. Some options- like trying to “time it right” or withdrawal- less so. To find out more about the options that are available check out What Works/What Doesn’t or talk to your health care provider about finding the method that’s right for you.

Do I need my parent’s permission to go on the pill?

You can’t just go into a store and buy the pill like you can with condoms, but there are many health centers and clinics where you do not need your parent’s permission to get a prescription for it. The best place to start is to make an appointment with a health center near you to get an exam and discuss all of the various options for preventing pregnancy. If you can’t talk openly with your parents about using protection, it’s a good idea to find a trusted adult. Remember that only condoms can protect you against both pregnancy and STDs.

I tried the pill but didn’t like it. What other options do I have?

There are nearly 50 different brands of pills and chances are there is one that will work for you. And if the pill isn’t right for you, there are many other protection options. It’s best to speak with a health care provider about what will work for you. Remember that condoms are the only method that protect against both pregnancy and STDs.

Check out What Works/What Doesn’t or talk to your health care provider to find out more about finding the method that’s right for you.

I had unprotected sex last night, or the condom broke…

If a condom breaks or you forgot to take your Pill a few times this month, there is something that you can do to reduce the risk of pregnancy, but you need to act quickly. Emergency contraceptive pills (sometimes called “morning after pills”) may be taken within 120 hours (5 days) of having unprotected sex, but are most effective within the first 24 hours.

Emergency contraception works by preventing or delaying ovulation, preventing fertilization, or preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. Emergency contraception does not interrupt or terminate an established pregnancy; rather, it prevents pregnancy from occurring. That means if you are already pregnant, emergency contraception won’t end your pregnancy. Studies show that emergency contraception reduces your chance of pregnancy by 75 to 89 percent. It is not an alternative to regular contraception, which is much more effective in preventing pregnancy.
Emergency contraception will not prevent pregnancy if you take it before sex, nor does it protect you from pregnancy during future sex acts. It is for emergency-use only and in situations when regular contraception fails. It also provides no protection against STDs.

Emergency contraception does not have any known serious side effects, but it can cause nausea or vomiting for a day or so.   You can ask your provider to prescribe an anti-nausea medication to combat any symptoms. If you do vomit, it can make the treatment less effective, so let your health care provider know.

Emergency contraception costs about $45; it may cost less or be free at family planning clinics and health centers. Women 18 years and older may buy emergency contraception directly from a pharmacy, that is “over the counter” without a prescription. Younger teens still need a prescription from a health care provider. To find a provider near you or for more information, call the Emergency Contraception Hotline at 1-888-NOT2LATE or go to

I’ve had unprotected sex and I’ve never gotten pregnant. Does this mean I can’t get pregnant?

No. If you are sexually active and not using protection, you have a chance of getting pregnant. Just because it hasn’t happened yet is no guarantee that it won’t. Unless you are actively trying to prevent a pregnancy, chances are high that you will get pregnant. The only 100% foolproof way to prevent pregnancy is to not have sex. Check out What Works/What Doesn’t for more information. It’s important to have a protection plan in place. If you are having sex, use a condom each time you have sex. No exceptions. Condoms are the only method that protect against both pregnancy and STDs.

I think I might be pregnant…

If you have had sexual intercourse and you’ve missed your period, especially if your breasts are tender or swollen or you feel tired or sick to your stomach, you may be pregnant. If you think you might be pregnant, you need to get a pregnancy test right away to find out for sure. You can arrange an appointment to see your health care provider, or buy a home pregnancy test at a drugstore, supermarket, or online (they cost anywhere from $10 to $30). Home pregnancy tests are fairly accurate if you follow instructions carefully, but you should have a test done at a health clinic to confirm your results. Many Planned Parenthood and health department clinics provide pregnancy testing for free or at reduced cost.

If you experience any of the following, you should call your provider or clinic, or go to a hospital emergency room right away. These may be signs of a problem such as a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy or miscarriage:

- Sudden, intense pain, persistent pain or cramping in the lower abdomen, especially if it’s on one side

- Irregular bleeding or spotting with abdominal pain, especially after a light or late period

- Fainting or dizziness that lasts more than a few seconds

- Sudden heavy bleeding with clots or clumps of tissue after a late period

- Abdominal pain and a fever

I am pregnant…

When you find out you are pregnant, you essentially have three options to consider: to continue the pregnancy and keep the baby, to have the baby and put it up for adoption, or to have an abortion. This is a big decision; take your time and talk with your partner, your family and other trusted advisers.

I am NOT pregnant…

Even if you just thought you might be pregnant when you didn’t intend to be and found out you were not, it can be a life-changing experience. Take time to consider what you can do to avoid this situation in the future. The most effective method of pregnancy prevention is abstaining from vaginal intercourse. Many people practice abstinence for some period of time, even after they have had sex, and surveys show that most teens in the U.S., including those who have had intercourse, think teens should wait to have sex until they’re older. But, if you do choose to be sexually active, you need to use contraception each and every time. Sexually active couples who don’t use contraceptives during intercourse have an 85-90% chance of becoming pregnant over the course of a year.

Protect Yourself. For those who are sexually active, the only protection against BOTH pregnancy and STDs, including HIV, are condoms. Not only does the consistent and correct use of condoms offer protection against pregnancy, it can also reduce the risk for many other STDs including HIV. To be doubly safe, it is recommended to use condoms with another contraceptive method, such as oral contraceptives.

For more about options for preventing pregnancy and STD check out What Works/What Doesn’t.

What if I think I want to get pregnant and have a baby?

Remember, it’s all about timing: preventing pregnancy now can help you be the best parent you can be later in life, when you’re emotionally and financially ready. Most teen moms say they love their children but wish they’d waited 10 years. Babies are wonderful. They give a lot of love back, but they depend on you for everything. Having a baby often leads to a lot of problems in a relationship — it usually won’t strengthen a relationship or necessarily lead to marriage. In fact, 8 out of 10 fathers never marry the teen mothers of their babies. Raising a child is hard. Raising a child alone is even harder. Being a teenager is a great time for growing up, getting an education, meeting new people and having fun — pregnancy and parenthood make that all very hard to do.