9 Birth Control Myths Debunked
Deciding which birth control method is right for you can be challenging. The uncertainty of it all may cause you to turn to friends or family for support. While their guidance might be helpful, it could also be tinged with bias and inaccurate claims. In this article, you’ll learn about some of the most common birth control myths and the facts behind them.
Myth 1: Birth Control Is Only Available Through a Doctor
One of the biggest misconceptions about birth control is that you can only get it by visiting a doctor’s office. While you do need a prescription for most hormonal birth control, an MD isn’t your only option. Nurse practitioners at health clinics can usually provide these prescriptions, as can pharmacists in some states.
In the last few years, telehealth providers like Nurx have become an option for many. These sites enable people to get their birth control online. With any of these sites, you’ll have to complete a health consultation that is reviewed by a medical provider before you can receive your prescription.
Myth 2: Birth Control Is 100% Effective
Once you fill your prescription, you start taking it and never have to worry about pregnancy, right? Not quite. No matter which birth control method you choose, there will still be a chance of pregnancy. That risk is higher with some methods than others.
Hormonal inserts and IUDs can be slightly more than 99% effective. If taken perfectly, the combination pill is 99% effective. Most people won’t use their birth control with perfect reliability, though, so the chance of pregnancy increases slightly. Bear that in mind when deciding which method is suitable for you.
Myth 3: Birth Control Is Just for Pregnancy Prevention
Of course, not everyone on birth control uses it exclusively to prevent pregnancy. Despite the common perception, contraceptives can have more than one use. Certain types can be used to treat hormonal acne or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), for example.
Hormonal birth control can also help women with irregular menstrual cycles. If you struggle with any of these issues, talk about them with your medical professional. They may have a certain birth control method they recommend to treat that specific issue.
Myth 4: Birth Control Protects You From STIs
Now that you know of their other uses, you may think contraceptives also prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Unfortunately, that is not the case for most. Condoms, both male and female, are the only method that protects you from STI transmission.
To limit the spread of STIs, be sure to get tested and encourage any partners to do the same. You can also choose to combine contraceptive methods, like the pill and a male condom, just to be safe. Preventing disease and infection is an essential part of your sexual health. Be sure you’re relying on the right tools to help.
Myth 5: Birth Control Is Not Safe to Take Long-Term
Sometimes, you’ll need to use the right contraceptive tools for a long time, and that’s completely fine. Despite a common misconception, there is no need for you to take “breaks” from your hormonal birth control. If you’re a healthy woman of reproductive age, ceasing to take contraceptives will simply increase your risk for pregnancy.
It’s recommended to consult with your doctor about changing birth control after 15 or more years on the same method. You may also want to check in about your contraception after turning 35. As you get older and your life goals change, you’ll want to adjust accordingly.
Myth 6: Birth Control Negatively Impacts Fertility
As you make those adjustments under medical advisement, remember that birth control doesn’t alter your fertility. Many think that hormonal methods make you temporarily infertile. This isn’t true. With some contraceptives, it’s possible to become pregnant immediately after stopping use.
A study conducted in 2013 found that long-term birth control use does not have a detrimental effect on fertility. The same study found promising signs that longer use of oral contraceptives may even increase the chances of successful pregnancy.
Myth 7: Birth Control Is Unnecessary for Older People
With all the focus on pregnancy and fertility, it’s easy to assume birth control is just for younger people. However, any woman who hasn’t gone through menopause can still get pregnant. Fertility does diminish in men and women as they age, but there’s no immediate drop-off.
A benefit to continuing birth control as you age, especially hormonal methods, is regularity. It’s not uncommon for women to experience irregular menstrual cycles as they get older. Your doctor could prescribe contraception to help with that or other hormonal changes.
Myth 8: Birth Control Causes Weight Gain
Changes in hormones affect the body. That’s likely why the belief that hormonal birth control causes weight gain is so persistent. While some contraception users report weight gain as a side effect, there’s no conclusive proof of this (other than with the birth control shot).
Because everybody reacts somewhat differently to every form of birth control, it’s hard to say this myth is entirely false. If you’re experiencing any sort of side effect from your contraception method, inform your doctor. They’ll want to know and may suggest a different contraceptive that works with your body better.
Myth 9: There Is One Right Choice for Birth Control
While side effects will vary by method and by person, the effectiveness of birth control (assuming reliable use) does not. Because of this, choosing which one works for you is based mainly on your lifestyle and preferences. Your insurance coverage and any pre-existing health conditions can also impact what options are available to you.
You may have a friend who swears by her IUD or a family member who’s taken the pill for years. Their preference does not mean you have to choose either one. Instead, figure out which type is the best for where you are right now and use it as prescribed.
The advice of friends and family is helpful in all kinds of situations. However, sometimes it’s more confusing than beneficial. Seek out advice from those you trust, but don’t rely on them for all your birth control information.
When you get a chance to speak with a medical professional, ask any questions you may have. Ultimately, figuring out what birth control will work best is between you, your partner, and your doctor. The latter, at least, will help you make the right decision based on facts.