5 Myths About Birth Control
According to the Guttmacher Institute, former research arm of Planned Parenthood, the majority of American women in the childbearing years use some version of contraceptives.
And the most popular form of contraception?
By far, it's the pill.
But how much do you really know about birth control and the pill? Let's take a look at some of the facts (and myths!) about birth control.
Myth #1: You don't need birth control when you're breastfeeding. By far, this is the most important fact that I stress to my patients when I send them home after having a baby. So many women, myself included, might think that they are “safe” from getting pregnant when they are breastfeeding. The truth is, breastfeeding can delay your cycle coming back, but–and this is the big but–you can still ovulate without knowing it. Exclusive breastfeeding can help you space out pregnancies, no doubt about it, but if you are trying to rely exclusively on breastfeeding alone to avoid pregnancy, know that you would have to never miss a feeding and breastfeed on a regular, rigid schedule – which is almost impossible.
Myth #2: Birth control can make you gain weight. Ok, this one is a semi-myth. The truth is, birth control pills work by mimicking pregnancy in a woman's body. By introducing the same hormones that a woman's body produces when she is pregnant, the pills cause her body will stop ovulating. So while birth control by itself may not necessarily make you gain weight, the synthetic version of progesterone in the pill can cause an appetite increase in women, much like they would experience in pregnancy. However, there are a lot of different hormone levels that are available and a low enough level of the hormones may not affect women in the weight gain department, but still be effective in stopping ovulation.
Myth #3: Birth control might mess up your chances of getting pregnant later. For the most part, this one simply isn't true. Although different forms of birth control might have different consequences (for instance, shots like Depo may stay in the system longer and anything implanted in the uterus has the potential for causing long-term infertility), for the most part, the hormones from the pill don't stick around after a woman stops taking the birth control. One of my co-workers is pregnant with a baby she conceived only weeks after going off a long-term birth control that she had been on – for five years!
Myth #4: Birth control won't affect your breast milk. The truth is, some types of hormonal form of birth control have been shown to reduce a woman's breast milk supply. Again, this depends on the type of birth control used and the level of progesterin in the pill, as well as the timing. (Some experts believe delaying starting the pill until after breastfeeding has been well established will help.)
Myth #5: Birth control is totally safe. In reality, hormonal birth control has only been around for a little over 30 years – with early forms causing tons of damage, including birth defects and permanent infertility. Although the levels of hormones have changed, the formulas for birth control have stayed the same and it will be a long time before long-term consequences can be accurately assessed. Furthermore, the National Cancer Institute does cite that birth control has been associated with an increased risk of breast, liver, and cervical cancers, although more research is needed before a true cause-and-effect relationship can be determined.