From the time we come of age, and start becoming intimate, we have to consider a plethora of information about birth control pills and other methods of birth control. We get a lot of this information from our peers, and unfortunately a lot of it is false. In fact, as adults, we still get a lot of our birth control information second hand from our peers, and not where we should really be getting it, from the doctor.
We’ve all heard the many myths out there. A big one is that the pill causes fat and massive weight gain. Another one is that it’s available for free now, or that we should double up when using condoms. And if we asked our doctors about any of those, they’d tell us the same thing. No, no, and no.
Some of these myths are still put out there as fact, either by well meaning family members (looking right at ya, grandma), to other mediums like magazines. Even our friends continue to pass these myths around the inner circle sometimes.
Being educated on birth control methods and their efficiency is important. It’s important that we know how efficient they are, and it’s important that we know what’s real and what’s false out there in the information spectrum. Like every other topic on the internet, there is a plethora of false and poor information out there at our fingertips, and we need to be aware of that and know what’s true and what’s a big, fat lie.
15 Myth: The Pill Makes Her Gain ALL The Weight
No. No no no. This is not true. A large review from 2014 did not find any sufficient evidence that birth control pills OR patches cause weight gain. That said, a study done back in 2009 found that people who were on the shot gained weight. Obviously, some people lose weight and some will gain weight while on the pill, but the evidence to blame that on the pill just isn’t there.
The local fast-food taco place has a higher set of evidence to being linked to that weight gain than the pill does.
That said, some women DO gain a little weight, but it’s not fat. Some women experience the temporary side effect of water retention when they’re on the pill. For most, the water retention is minimal and lasts a few months. If it’s lasting longer than that, talk to the doctor, and they can possibly switch to a new pill.
Why? Because not every kind of pill will react the same for every woman.
14 Myth: Take A Break From Birth Control
Absolutely if a baby is on the agenda, sure, go for it. The thought process of having to take a break from birth control is a total myth that actually started way back when the first birth control pills came out. You know, the ones full of extremely high levels of hormones? Yeah, those.
The pills today? Much lower amounts of hormones, so taking a break isn’t necessary anymore and they’re completely safe to take for years at a time.
Some doctors actually think that staying on the pill is better for the body. Hormone fluctuations can have a really negative effect on the body, both physically and emotionally. Not only that, but by choosing to go back on the pill after stopping, all of the symptoms that were there when first starting the pill, like moodiness, yeast infections, and sore breasts? They can come back again.
13 Myth: Only Moms Can Or Should Ask For IUDs
Something we hear all the time, is that only people who have already had kids should get an IUD. Mainly, because of the though, ‘But what if you decide to have kids after getting it’ debate. The main perk of an IUD is how long it lasts. Non-hormonal IUDs can last upwards of 12 years.
That having been said, it doesn’t have to last that long, not at all. It can be removed any time after being inserted. All it takes is one simple trip to the doctor, they find and pull the strings, and voila, the IUD is out!
Keep in mind that once an IUD is removed, the contraceptive effect it had on the body is gone immediately. This means that, if a baby is not in the plans, than getting another form of birth control before being sexually active again is highly, highly advised.
Some providers who are extremely behind on the times may refuse to insert an IUD for a teen or a woman who is childless, but thankfully many of them are catching up with the times.
12 Myth: If a Baby Is In The Plans, Stop Now!
Yeah, this is another myth. The hormones that are in many forms of the pill are actually out of the system in a day or so with most methods of birth control, so it’s very possible, and safe, to get pregnant as soon as birth control is stopped. The only reason to stop taking the pill before wanting to get pregnant is to regulate ovulation, which can either happen right away, or may take a few months. That depends on the woman, and has nothing to do with the pill.
The amount of time it takes to return to normal ovulation after stopping birth control honestly depends on the woman and how her cycle was before she got on birth control in the first place. There is an exception to this rule, and that, again, is the birth control shot. It can take 10 months or more to get ovulation back on track after stopping that shot, with research showing that most people are back to normal by 12 months.
11 Myth: Pulling Out Is Not Using Birth Control
Not quite. Pulling out, which is also known as coitus interruptus, is actually about 73%-96% effective, depending on if it’s done correctly. During intercourse, the man releases 2 kinds of fluids: pre-ejaculate, which is a lubricant that usually contains no sperm cells or semen.
But, if the urethra contains sperm cells from a previous ejaculation, these cells may get swept up in the tide and carried forth in the pre-ejaculate. Many experts ensure that, as long as withdrawal happens well before the man ejaculates, and he does not do so anywhere near the baby-making bits of the lady, then the chances of pregnancy are highly unlikely.
The same experts also claim that this method can be ineffective if the man does not urinate before intercourse, because urination helps to rinse any remnant of all sperm cells from previous ejaculations out of the tubing, leaving it clear of anything for the current session. So, is it perfect? No, none of the methods are perfect. But pulling out is a heck of a lot better than doing nothing.
10 Myth: Grapefruit and Birth Control Is No Bueno
The myth goes like this, eating grapefruit makes the pill and other forms of birth control methods ineffective, just like antibiotics. The real answer? Absolutely not! I’d have personally been pregnant a dozen times over by now if that was true. (I love me some grapefruit.)
But, that having been said, it CAN interact with some kinds of birth control that contain ethinyl estradiol, like Yaz, Yasmin, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Levora, and others. It does NOT make it less effective. Instead, there is a chemical in the fruit that can increase the amount of estrogen in the blood stream. This can lead to other side effects or health risks.
If eating a lot of grapefruit is important, then maybe talking to the doctor about the interaction risks is a good idea. If it’s only an occasional thing or it’s not something that’s eaten often, then don’t worry about it. It’s not going to affect anything. Keep in mind, though, antibiotics DO mess with the efficiency of the pill! So keep that in mind!
9 Myth: It’s Free Now!
Who said that? The pill is covered under most insurance providers, as the Affordable Care Act mandates they do, but some insurances are not complying with that, and if the pill is being bought outside of insurance, fully out of pocket, then the cost is fully there, 100%. Check with the insurance company to see what is covered and what is not, so that there are no surprises. For instance, they may only cover generic versions of the pill, or may not cover anything until it’s time to renew the plan. And some religious organizations may be completely exempt for covering birth control for any of their employees.
In the end, we’re moving towards free birth control, but we’re not there yet. And the only things covered are pills and other methods that require a prescription. Still gotta pay for all the costs of a rubber, or for a spermicide gel or cream. It sucks, but maybe in the future we can get there.
8 Myth: Over 35? No Birth Control Allowed!
I just… I can’t. No. There is no reason that someone who is perfectly healthy with no other health risks cannot be on the pill. That having been said, if the person does have other risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, or a personal or family history of blood clots, then they really shouldn’t be on the pill.
But, that’s for their health, not due to their age. With factors such as these, there is a higher risk of blood clots on the pill, which they do not want to happen. So, to be safe, they recommend that any woman 35 and up with these risk factors not take the pill.
It’s best to talk to the doctor to see what they recommend. Another precaution is with estrogen-containing birth control, which is not recommended if there is a history of breast cancer. Again, discuss it with the doctor.
7 Myth: The Failure Rate? Only 2%
Actually, the various methods of birth control fail a LOT more than one would think. The failure rate is the percentage of people who get pregnant in a given year while on birth control, and the failure rate varies for perfect use and typical use. Perfect use is when the method is used consistently and correctly. Typical use is the opposite, and it’s when it’s used inconsistently or incorrectly.
Guess which category many people fall into. And usually it’s not on purpose, but it’s due to lack of knowledge about the topic.
Condoms typically have a failure rate of 2% with perfect use, and 18% with typical use. For the pill, ring, or patch, the failure rate is 1% or less with perfect use, and 9% with typical use. For the IUD and implants, the failure rate is less than 1%. There is no typical use for IUDs or implants. For the shot, the failure rate is 1% or less with perfect use, and 6% with typical use.
For the diaphragm, the failure rate is 6% with perfect use and 12% with typical use, and for the female condom, the failure rate is 5% with perfect use, but a whopping 21% with typical use. Yikes!
6 Myth: OMG! It Causes Blood Clots!
Fun fact: The risk of getting blood clots while on the pill is drastically less than the risk of getting blood clots while pregnant. True story. Yes, being on the pill does up the chances of a clot, but not that much. It goes from a 0.04% chance to a 0.18% chance.
Birth control is far from a leading, or even a large cause, of blood clots. The risk only goes up when there are other factors at play, which is why the doctor asks all of those annoying questions about your health and personal life before prescribing the pill.
If there are factors such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, migraines with aura, and more, then talking to the doctor to discuss all the options is definitely the best bet. They might recommend other, non-hormonal birth control options, such as the IUD without hormones, or condoms, or a diaphragm.
5 Myth: Fertility? Forget About It.
Nothing, and I repeat, nothing, is out there in the name of research suggesting that birth control can damage future fertility in healthy people. There are other factors that are more than likely taking place that are making conception difficult, but it wasn’t the pill. One of those factors could be PCOS.
If the doctor puts someone on the pill to help manage PCOS, then once they come off of it, the PCOS is the cause of their infertility, not the pill.
Infertility is awful, and anyone who has to deal with it is a strong person. But we need to put the blame right where it belongs and that’s not on the pill. Age can be a factor, as can just having irregular cycles in general, or endometriosis if there was a clear diagnosis after discussing the symptoms and running tests. Learning more about fertility is the best step to figuring out what could be causing the problems.
4 Myth: It Has ALL THE HORMONES!
Not always. It honestly depends on the kind of pill that’s been prescribed. The kinds and amount of hormones in each pill or method varies. So the birth control that the doctor prescribes and the patient chooses is often a very individual decision. Different pills have different amounts, as does the shot, the patch, and the IUD. Do some research, find out what’s out there and what the options are.
And if hormones aren’t ok, there are other options! There are condoms, which you can get at any grocery store, heck even a convenience store often sells condoms. There’s also the copper IUD, which works like other IUDs, but it lasts for up to 12 years and is 100% hormone free.
There’s the diaphragm, which can be combined with a spermicide gel or foam. And there’s even awareness-based methods that rely on the body’s cycles and patterns to avoid unprotected sex during ovulation.
3 Myth: Same Time, No Exceptions!
Another common myth that totally depends on the kind of pill that’s being taken. For many kinds of pills, the only reason to set an alarm to remember to take it at the same time, is if remembering to take it at all is a problem. As long as it’s taken once a day, the effectiveness will stay the same for many pills.
In fact, even if one pill is missed, don’t panic and rush for the Plan-B! They just recommend taking two pills the following day. There’s no need for back up unless more than one pill is missed.
Like mentioned above, though, there is an exception. The progestin-only mini pill, which is not all that common and is often prescribed to breastfeeding mothers, has to be taken at the same time daily, or it is in fact less effective. And the only other caution is when starting a new pill pack.
Since there was just a week of inactive, sugar pills, it’s important to start the new pack on time and on the right day. Taking it even one day late can reduce the effectiveness.
2 Myth: It’s Just Like Groceries, Always Double Bag!
NO! Do NOT do this! Yes, it seems like it makes sense, I mean we double bag groceries, and sometimes we put food in two ziploc bags to reduce freezer burn, so it seems like more is always better. It’s not! Friction is a very real thing, and it can cause the condom to rip, tear, and be as useless as a paper sack in a hurricane. It’s only recommended if the end result both parties are after takes nine months to get here, and cries at all hours.
Condoms were not designed for double bagging, so everyone from the doctors to the manufacturers advise against this practice. And more people do it than many would think! Especially teenagers who have not been taught differently, and may have heard down the peer grapevine that double bagging the goods is the way to go. Just because we double bag bananas at the grocery store, does not mean having him double bag his cucumber is a good idea. Don’t do it!
1 Myth: Breastfeeding? No Birth Control Required!
Totally false, and often to blame for many unplanned pregnancies. While yes, breastfeeding can cause the hormones associated with ovulation to be suppressed, causing a dip in fertility, it’s not foolproof and pregnancy is more than possible. In fact, if the mom is breastfeeding and also supplementing with formula, all bets are off.
There’s less suppression of those hormones with less breastfeeding, so the less it’s done, the less of a fertility dip.
Ever heard of the term Irish Twins? It’s the term used for siblings that are less than a year apart in age… so, siblings ages 1 and say, 2 months old. It's more than possible to get pregnant directly after giving birth (in fact, women are more fertile directly after birth), and there are options out there for women who don’t want to get pregnant again so soon after delivery.
These options aren't safe anyhow, because the body needs time to recover. There are a plethora of non-hormonal options, and even a pill that has no estrogen. Baby can have their milk, and mom can be protected.