According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), (opens in a new tab). Despite how common it is, there are still many misconceptions and myths that can cause confusion and fear when it comes to the many forms of birth control. At Advanced Women's Care of Pittsburgh, we always strive to educate our patients and equip them with the best information so that they can make informed decisions for their health and well-being.
Birth control has come a long way since the pill's creation in 1960. Today, there are dozens of different methods of contraception, including the birth control implant, patch, shot, vaginal ring, intrauterine device (IUD), and more. As the birth control pill has been updated and new birth control options have become available, some information has become outdated, while other pieces of misinformation have been spread. To get the facts, keep reading for a breakdown of 8 common myths about birth control.
1. MYTH: All birth control methods are the same.
Though each form of birth control works to prevent pregnancy, there are many differences between the various methods. From how often you need to take it to what its possible side effects are, each type of birth control is unique. This is a huge benefit to patients since having so many options can help you find the birth control method that works best for your lifestyle and health.
- Oral contraceptives: Also known simply as 'the pill,' these are taken by mouth each day. Contraceptive patch: The patch is a small adhesive patch that delivers hormones through the skin. Each patch lasts for a week and then is replaced by a new patch.
- Vaginal ring: The ring is a small, flexible ring that's inserted into the vagina each month for three weeks.
- Intrauterine device (IUD): A T-shaped device that's inserted into the uterus. Depending on the type of IUD, these can last from 3-10 years.
- Implant: A small implant that's inserted into the arm. It can last up to three years. Depo-Provera: A hormone shot that is given every three months.
2. MYTH: The only reason to go on birth control is to prevent pregnancy.
Though birth control can certainly help to prevent pregnancy, there are many other reasons why someone might opt for contraception. For example, some forms of birth control can help to regulate irregular periods, reduce menstrual cramps, lessen heavy menstrual bleeding, and even treat acne. In fact, use it at least in part for reasons other than pregnancy prevention.
3. MYTH: You can throw out other forms of contraception as soon as you start birth control.
No matter what method of birth control you choose, it's always important to ask your doctor how long it will take to start preventing pregnancy. Depending on the method and when during your cycle you start taking it, contraception can take up to seven days to be fully effective. During this time, it's important to use a backup method of contraception, like condoms.
In fact, using a barrier method even after you start birth control is a good idea for added protection. This way, even if your main form of contraception fails, the backup will help to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. After all, the pill has a failure rate of 7% not because the medicine is faulty, but because people often forget to take their pill every time they should.
There are a number of barrier methods available for preventing pregnancy, including the contraceptive or birth control sponge, a cervical cap, spermicide, and of course, condoms.
4. MYTH: If you go on birth control, you'll gain weight.
Though weight gain is a possible side effect of some birth control pills, , minimal, and typically only lasts for a few months. , but it doesn't happen to everyone who uses them. The ring, patch, and IUD, on the other hand, are not associated with weight gain at all.
In other words, if you're concerned about the potential of gaining weight after starting birth control, don't let that be a barrier. Thanks to medical advancements and the many other options available today, your doctor will be able to help you find a method that is best suited to your preferences.
5. MYTH: Birth control also protects against STDs/STIs.
Unfortunately, no form of hormonal birth control provides protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The only way to ensure that you're safe from these diseases is to use barrier methods, which in addition to preventing sperm from entering the uterus, also prevent the spread of STIs by blocking skin-to-skin contact. Some of these methods include:
- Male condoms: Also called an external condom, a male condom is a thin sheath that's worn over the penis.
- Female condoms: Also called an internal condom, a female condom is a pouch that's inserted into the vagina.
- Dental dams: A thin latex sheet that's used to cover the vulva.
- Diaphragms: A cup-shaped device that's inserted into the vagina and covers the cervix.
6. MYTH: Your birth control is going to make you less fertile.
Most birth control methods are meant to be temporary and reversible, so unless you get a tubal ligation, your fertility will return to normal after you stop taking birth control. When a person ceases any form of hormonal birth control, their body will go back to producing the hormones that it was before—including the ones that are required for ovulation. In fact, one research review found that 83% of people who stopped taking their birth control were (opens in a new tab).
7. MYTH: All birth control methods will affect your hormones.
Different types of birth control work in different ways, and while many common methods involve hormones, there are non-hormonal birth control options, as well. For example, the copper IUD works by slowly releasing copper into the uterus, which prevents sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg. However, because it's hormone-free, the copper IUD doesn't stop ovulation or affect your natural menstrual cycle.
8. MYTH: If you're overweight, birth control pills won't work as well.
Most forms of birth control can be used by any woman, regardless of her weight or body mass index (BMI). Though combination birth control pills, which use both estrogen and progestin, might be less effective for those with higher BMIs, a review of studies showed that .
That said, emergency contraception, which can be used to prevent pregnancy immediately following unprotected sex, is not as effective for those with higher BMIs. , one of the most popular emergency contraceptive pills on the market, is most effective for people with a BMI under 25, and will not work for those with a BMI over 30.
Talk To Your Gynecologist About Birth Control Today
The experts at Advanced Women's Care of Pittsburgh are dedicated to helping our patients find the method of birth control that works best for them. After all, everyone has different needs and concerns when it comes to contraception. That's why our knowledgeable staff of women's health experts will take the time to answer all your questions, explain the various birth control options available, and help you make a decision that works for you.