Birth Control Myth Debunked
Myth #1: The Pill makes you gain weight
Reality: The truth is, it might depend on your prescription. In 2011, researchers at the Cochran Database System Review analyzed 49 studies that compared a variety of birth control methods with placebos and found no evidence that birth control causes weight gain. However, a 2009 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women using the Depo-Provera shot gained an average of 11 pounds and increased their body fat by 3.4 percent over three years, though they’re not sure what caused this effect. If you’re concerned about gaining weight, talk to your doctor about the best option for you.
Myth #2: You don’t need to be on birth control if you’re breastfeeding.
Reality: This very common myth is totally false—and probably to blame for many unplanned pregnancies—says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine. The truth: breastfeeding exclusively (without supplementing with formula) can suppress the hormones from the pituitary gland that make you ovulate, says Minkin. So while there’s certainly a dip in your fertility at this time, it’s nowhere near foolproof. “And if you breastfeed sometimes while supplementing with formula, all bets are off,” says Minkin.
Myth #3: You have to take the Pill at the same time every day.
Reality: Despite what you may have heard, taking the Pill at the same time each day does not make it more effective, says Vanessa Cullins, M.D., Vice President for External Medical Affairs at Planned Parenthood. This common belief is only true if you’re taking the mini-pill (a progestin-only birth control pill which must be taken at the same time every day), however the majority of women take the regular birth control pill, which contains a combination of estrogen and progestin. That said, you might want to stick to a strict schedule if you have trouble remembering to take it or if you’re on a very low-dose form of the Pill, as you may experience some breakthrough bleeding, says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., co-author of V is For v**ina.
Myth #4: Being on the Pill for a long time will make it harder to get pregnant later.
Reality: It might seem hard to believe, but it’s possible to get pregnant as soon as you stop taking birth control, says Minkin. This holds true for all methods of hormonal contraceptives, with the exception of the Depo-Provera shot. It can take up to 6-9 months for all of the hormones in the shot to leave your body before your fertility is restored. That said, it’s still possible to get pregnant during this time, so don’t count on this buffer period for contraception. The bottom line: Birth control will not screw with your fertility long term, says Minkin.
Myth #5: Newer forms of birth control aren’t as safe as the older brands.
Reality: You may have heard that newer forms of birth control—like Yasmin, Yaz, or NuvaRing—come with more hormones and more health risks than the old standbys. The truth is, the newer the birth control, the fewer hormones it contains, says Minkin. And while some studies have shown a slightly higher risk of blood clots in women taking newer forms of birth control, the increase is extremely low and still much lower than your risk of developing a clot while pregnant, says Minkin.
Myth #6: You shouldn’t get an IUD unless you’ve already had children.
Reality: Anyone looking for super-effective pregnancy prevention should talk to their gyno about the IUD—even if they haven’t had a kid yet. The reason for this misconception is that some forms of the IUD (like Mirena and ParaGuard) are generally recommended for women with children, since your cervix and uterus are slightly larger after giving birth, which should make implantation and use more comfortable, says Minkin. However, a newer IUD called Skyla is slightly smaller and delivers a lower dose of hormones, making it perfect for non-moms, too. Plus, the IUD is 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy—so don’t knock it just because you’re childless.
Myth #7: It’s unhealthy to use birth control to skip your period.
Reality: It may seem sneaky and taboo to manipulate your monthly flow by taking two months of pills back to back—but the truth is, it’s totally safe. “If you are a good candidate to be on birth control in the first place—you’re healthy, you don’t have high blood pressure that’s uncontrolled, you’re not over 35 or a smoker—then you are indeed a candidate for fiddling around with your cycle,” says Minkin. Just be prepared for some breakthrough bleeding, which is more likely if you just started a new pill, if you’re on a tri-phasic pill (like Ortho Tri-Cyclen), or if you delay it for more than a month or two. Click here for more tips on safely skipping your period.
Myth #8: Using a condom seriously diminishes his pleasure.
Reality: Forget what you’ve heard about condoms screwing with your s*x life. Both men and women enjoy s*x with condoms just as much as they do without them, according to a recent study in the Journal of s*xual Medicine. So if you’re looking for a hormone-free birth control method, don’t be swayed by the myth that condoms can kill the moment. Check out these pleasure-enhancing options, and keep a stash at your place. That way, you’ll be prepared if a guy tries to use one of these lines to avoid wrapping it up.
Myth #10: Your body needs a break from birth control.
Reality: The only reason to take a vacation from your contraceptives is if you’re hoping to get pregnant. Other than that, you can stay on your chosen method of birth control for as long as you want, says Minkin. The only exception: Depo-Provera, the birth control shot. Because it’s been linked to a greater potential for bone mineral loss, the FDA advises that women only take it continuously for two years.
And while there are plenty of health benefits from being on the Pill, a 1996 analysis of more than 50 studies found that taking birth control was associated with a slightly increased risk of chest cancer, though the risk disappeared after being off the Pill for 10 years. More research is needed, but it’s worth talking to your gyno if you’re concerned.