I’ve had unprotected sex in the past and never gotten pregnant. Am I infertile? Can I take a test to find out?

This is a really common question for a lot of teenagers. Especially if you’ve had a few birth control mishaps that haven’t resulted in pregnancy, you may wonder about your ability to start a family when you’re ready. Fortunately, according to a study out of Johns Hopkins, only about six percent of women 18-29 are infertile, in contrast to the 19 percent of women in that age group who THINK they’re infertile. As you can imagine, this can lead to a lot of anxiety, as well as some lax contraceptive use! However, clinical infertility is defined by failure to conceive after a full year of actively trying–not just after a few slip-ups with birth control. Since infertility in teens is so rare, you should assume that you are fertile and protect yourself accordingly if you’re not ready to have a baby.

Your personal fertility depends on a lot of factors. Because causes of infertility are complex and vary by individual, there’s no simple test you can ask your doctor for right now to conclusively determine your fertility. Definitely tell your medical provider about your specific concerns, unusual GYN symptoms, and any family history of infertility. If you begin trying to conceive without success, a medical provider will run specific tests to narrow down potential barriers to conception.

The majority of teens don’t have to worry about their fertility, so you should focus on finding a birth control plan that works best for you if you don’t want a baby right now. Some teens worry that using birth control can cause future infertility, but this is a total myth! If you’re not ready to have kids, birth control now is an important part of planning for babies later. You can help protect your fertility further by practicing safe sex and getting tested regularly–untreated STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can contribute to fertility problems in the future. Let your medical provider know that you’re having these concerns–they can talk to you about your specific history and hopefully help put these fears to rest.