February 2009

Can I get pregnant from oral sex? Sexual health misconceptions and their possible sources

Wynn L, Foster A, Trussell J. Can I get pregnant from oral sex? Sexual health misconceptions and their possible sources. Contraception. 2009 Feb;79(2):91-7

Background: This study identifies sexual and reproductive health misconceptions contained in e-mails sent to an emergency contraception website.

Study Design: From July 1, 2003, through June 30, 2004, 1134 English-language questions were e-mailed to http://ec.princeton.edu. We performed content analysis on these e-mails and grouped misconceptions into thematic categories.

Results: Of the questions sent during the study period, 27% (n=303, total N=1134) evinced underlying misconceptions about sexual and reproductive health issues. Content analysis revealed five major thematic categories of misconceptions: sexual acts that can lead to pregnancy; definitions of "protected" sex; timing of pregnancy and pregnancy testing; dangers that emergency contraceptives pose to women and fetuses; and confusion between emergency contraception and abortion.

Conclusions: These misconceptions have several possible sources: abstinence-only sexual education programs in the US, the proliferation of medically inaccurate websites, terminology used in public health campaigns, non-evidence-based medical protocols and confusion between emergency contraception and medication abortion in the media.