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04/03/2023 By AskAwayHealth

Debunking Common Birth Control Myths and Misconceptions

Wondering about birth control myths? The world of birth control can be confusing, and there are a lot of misconceptions out there.

happy looking pretty woman of african origin in a thin strapped dress standing by a fence

This article debunks common misconceptions to help you make informed decisions about your reproductive health.

Using key categories, we address the more common areas in which myths about birth control are spread and shared.

Common Side Effects or… Myths?

1. Birth control causes birth defects. In reality, there is no evidence that birth control causes birth defects.

For the small number of cases where pregnancy happens while on hormonal birth control, the method is usually stopped. In the case of a method like a coil (IUD), it may be possible to remove the coil depending on its location.

2. Birth control pills make you gain weight. In fact, while some women may experience minor weight gain, research suggests that the pill does not cause significant weight gain. Other types of birth control (like the depo shot) may also be associated with weight gain in some women, but it is not a guaranteed side effect.

3. Birth control causes infertility. The truth is: birth control does not cause infertility.

In fact, some forms of birth control, such as the hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), can help preserve fertility by reducing the risk of pregnancy.

For instance, the coil is a highly effective form of birth control (>99%).

This means that you are very unlikely to get pregnant while your coil is in place. However, in (the less than 1% of) women who get pregnant with the coil, that pregnancy may be ectopic.

4. Birth control decreases libido. Not particularly. While some women may experience changes in libido (sex drive) while using birth control, studies suggest that birth control does not generally decrease libido.

5. The pill causes cancer. In response to this rather commonly held notion, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that birth control pills (and patches or rings) cause cancer.

In some women, however, the risk of cancer (breast, cervix) may be higher while they are currently using the method.

The risk of cancer starts to reduce back to a normal risk after stopping the method, and by 10 years after stopping, it is the same as any woman who has never used the pill.

6. IUDs can cause infection. This is not exclusively true. While there is a small risk of infection when getting an IUD (around the time of insertion), the risk is low and can be managed with proper care and follow-up.

7. Birth control causes depression. It is true that some women may experience changes in mood while using birth control (especially hormonal methods), but studies suggest that birth control does not generally cause depression.

8. Birth control can damage the uterus. In reality, there is no evidence that birth control damages the womb.

No birth control method can prevent sexual infections except the barrier methods (male/female condoms).

Using condoms reduces the chance of developing a pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can damage the womb if you develop an infection that is not treated.

9. Birth control is addictive. This is not true; no birth control method has been found to be addictive.

lady with a measuring tape around her waist holding a packet of birth control pills

Pregnancy (mis)beliefs about birth control

10. You can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding. While breastfeeding can reduce fertility, it is not a reliable form of birth control. You can still get pregnant while breastfeeding.

Learn more about Lactational Amenorrhoea (Breastfeeding birth control) here.

11. Birth control is only for preventing pregnancy. This is not true, as birth control has use in many female gynaecological issues. It can also be used to regulate menstrual cycles, treat endometriosis, and reduce acne.

12. Birth control can damage fertility. Fact: Birth control does not cause long-term damage to fertility or cause infertility.

In fact, fertility typically returns quickly after stopping the method, with a notable exception in many cases – depo progesterone injection.

Other birth control methods (like the combined contraceptive method) can actually help regulate menstrual cycles and improve fertility.

13. You can’t get pregnant during your period. In fact, while the chances of getting pregnant during your period are lower, it is still possible. Sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract for up to 5 days.

20. Birth control is a form of abortion. No, birth control prevents pregnancy from occurring in the first place and does not terminate an existing pregnancy.

alarm clock beside a packet of birth control pills

Effectiveness myths unravelled

14. Pulling out is an effective form of birth control. In truth, the “Pulling out” (withdrawal method) is not a reliable form of birth control as pre-ejaculate fluid may contain sperm and can lead to pregnancy. Learn more.

15. Condoms are not effective. Not so: when used correctly and consistently, condoms are a highly effective form of birth control and can also help protect against sexually transmitted infections.

16. Birth control is 100% effective. In reality, while birth control methods are highly effective, no method is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. Consistent and correct use of birth control can improve its effectiveness, but abstinence is the only method with 100% effectiveness.

different birth control methods on a black background

Method myths around birth control

17. Emergency contraception (morning-after pill) causes abortion. Emergency contraception works by delaying ovulation (pills) and fertilization (Copper IUD/coil) and does not cause abortion.

18. Using multiple methods of birth control is unnecessary. Contrary to this belief, using multiple methods of birth control can provide additional protection against unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

This is particularly the case for the ‘natural‘ methods, which are often less reliable on their own in comparison to the hormonal methods.

Examples include:

  • Rhythm method and condom
  • Spermicide gel and condom
  • Pull Out method and rhythm method

19. Birth control pills need to be taken at the same time every day. While consistency is important for some types of birth control pills, there are other types that offer more flexibility in terms of timing.

This is because there is usually a small window of time in which they can be taken without affecting their effectiveness.

23. Birth control pills need to be taken every day of the month. There are several different types of birth control pills, and they can vary in the way they are taken. Some types of birth control pills are taken for only 21 days of the month, with a break of seven days, while others are taken every day.

21. Birth control is not natural. While some people prefer to use natural methods of birth control, such as fertility tracking, there is no inherent moral or ethical superiority to these methods over other forms of birth control.

22. Birth control pills protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is very important to realise that birth control pills do not protect against STIs, and it is still important to use condoms to reduce the risk of infection.

lady holding vaginal ring in her open palms

Myths about Access to birth control

24. Birth control is expensive. The cost of birth control depends on the type and your location across the world. However, there are many affordable, low-cost or free birth control options available, including condoms, hormonal methods, and long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs).

25. Birth control is difficult to obtain. Thanks to various marketing and public health campaigns raising awareness about the dangers of unplanned pregnancy, birth control is popular worldwide. It is widely available at clinics, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers.

Misperceptions about Users of Birth Control

26. Birth control is only for sexually active people. No, this is not the case. Birth control can also be used to regulate menstrual cycles and treat menstrual-related symptoms of conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, even for people who are not sexually active.

27. Birth control is only for women. There is a wide range of birth control methods available for both men and women. Male condoms and vasectomy are methods specific to men.

28. Using birth control is unnatural. Fact: Birth control methods are a safe and effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy and are a personal choice.

29. Birth control is only for women who have had children. The main limits to the use of birth control depend on their suitability for the person or the presence of any health factors that makes their use unsafe. Women who have never had children can also use birth control.

30. Birth control is only for young women. In reality, women and men of all ages can benefit from birth control.

More Reading

References

Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on various healthcare conditions to promote quality healthcare. 

The advice in our material is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare practitioner’s management of your specific condition.
Don’t hesitate to contact a health practitioner to discuss your condition or reach us directly 
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