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Birth Control Side Effects: What Your Doctor Probably Won't Tell You

Chances are that if you are between the ages of 15 and 44 you are among the 60% of American women using some form of birth control. Among this age group the birth control pill is the number one choice. It’s something we interact with every day; we set alarms, ingest it, and curse ourselves when we forget it. Yet despite the pill’s daily presence in our lives, it seems that the average woman doesn’t know a lot about it. 

Can you even remember the last time you spoke to your doctor about birth control, besides simply asking for a refill? Unless you have had complications, it’s likely that you haven’t had a serious conversation with your doctor or anyone else about birth control in a long time. Since many of us are busy, we operate with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, so as long as your birth control has been doing its job (as in keeping you childfree) why would it deserve another thought? 

Well, the answer is simple; you need to know what is going into your body. It’s important to be aware of the side effects and to be able to distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to your birth control. This article will serve as a quick refresher course on the side effects of birth control and will identify common myths that have been accepted as fact for far too long.

First things first, let’s look at the two different types of birth control pills and how they work. The most popular type of birth control pill is the combination pill, which contains two hormones, estrogen and progestin. The combination pill prevents ovulation, which means you don’t release an egg and without an egg to fertilize you can’t get pregnant. 

The other type of pill is progestin-only and is generally reserved for women who aren’t able to take estrogen. The progestin-only pill prevents pregnancy by thinning the lining of the uterus and thickening the cervical mucus. This makes it more difficult for eggs to attach to the uterine wall and for sperm to get in there to fertilize your eggs in the first place. You can get both pills in varying strengths but they all prevent pregnancy in the same way.

10 Birth Control Can Affect Your Taste In Men

 We all know how powerful smell can be in our daily lives, whether it’s sniffing out freshly baked cookies or remembering you have to take out the trash; but did you know that your birth control can affect your sense of smell? It won’t necessarily prevent you from smelling your Grandma’s freshly baked cookies, but it could prevent you from sniffing out your perfect man. 

Hidden in the scent of a man are clues about his genes. Instinctually women prefer men whose genes are different from their own. We evolved this way to ensure the survival of our children. A more diverse set of genes leads to a better immune system and a higher chance of survival. In a world where we don’t solely need to rely on our genes for survival, what are the repercussions of picking a genetically similar mate?

Couples who have similar genes have been found to have higher rates of miscarriage, than their genetically diverse counterparts. Additionally, similar genes can negatively affect your chances of having a happy relationship, and sexual satisfaction. It can also alter the way you feel about your partner if you discontinue birth control use at some point in your relationship.

9 Birth Control Can Affect Your Libido 

Have you noticed a change in your sex drive since you’ve been on the pill? It may sound like a cruel joke that a pill you take to have worry-free sex would decrease your sex drive, but for many women it does. The hormones in birth control have the ability to negatively affect your libido.

The estrogen in birth control can increase the amount of sex hormone-binding globulin, in a woman’s body, which binds to testosterone and prevents it from circulating the body. 

Add on to that the fact that you don’t get the mid-cycle spike in testosterone from ovulation (since you’re not ovulating) and you have the potential for a severely diminished sex drive. Some women don’t experience any libido changes, but if you haven’t felt “in the mood” lately, you might want to consider changing your birth control.

8 Birth Control Can Affect Your Mood 

Any hormone containing birth control pill has the potential to affect your mental health. If you are prone to depression, anxiety, sadness or mood swings, the synthetic hormones in birth control can worsen these symptoms.

One study found that the hormones in birth control might be affecting the structure of our brains. Two areas of the brain appear to be affected; one is involved in decision-making and the other in processing emotions. It is possible that these changes may be responsible for the aggressive mood swings and excessive emotions some women experience while on the pill.

If you have a history of depression or anxiety an IUD (intrauterine device) may be a better option for you.

7 Birth Control Can Make you Less Attractive to Men

 You already know that the combination birth control pill prevents ovulation, but did you know that this could make you less attractive to men?

During a natural menstrual cycle, a woman’s hormones fluctuate and her voice and scent are altered. Instinctively, men find the changes that occur during ovulation attractive because it demonstrates fertility. 

Unfortunately, if you are on the pill you won’t experience these natural fluctuations, as your hormone levels will remain relatively consistent. This poses a problem not only for attracting a future partner but for those in long-term relationships as well. The lack of hormonal fluctuations can diminish sexual attraction between partners and lead to decreased relationship satisfaction.

6 It’s NOT Unhealthy To Use The Pill To Skip Your Period

Many women use the birth control pill to manipulate their period. Taking two packs back-to-back provides the luxury of skipping your period for special occasions. All you have to do is skip the inactive week of your current birth control pack and immediately start another one. As long as it is done correctly, skipping your period is totally safe and will not decrease the effectiveness of your birth control.

Although it may feel like a sneaky way to outsmart mother nature, it is completely healthy to not have your period once a month. Some new birth control pills are specifically designed to limit your periods to a few times a year. The only downfall to skipping your period may be some breakthrough bleeding, but it’s merely an inconvenience rather than a health concern.

5 Taking Birth Control For An Extended Time WON’T Damage Your Fertility

 It was originally thought that prolonged exposure to birth control would affect a woman’s ability to conceive once she stopped taking it. As a result, doctors often suggested that women should take a break from birth control once in awhile. Taking a break from the pill, however, has been proven to have no benefits and can actually be the cause of an unplanned pregnancy.

The pill can actually help to preserve your fertility, since it has been proven to decrease your chances of ovarian and uterine cancer. Another way taking the pill may help your future fertility is by diminishing the symptoms of endometriosis (where the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus and causes fertility issues). 

So if you’ve been worrying about the length of time that you have been on the pill, you can take comfort in knowing that it may actually help your fertility down the line.

4 Birth Control WON’T Make You Gain Weight

Women who gain a few extra pounds often blame birth control, but recent studies have shown that there is no correlation between combination birth control pills and weight gain.

A woman’s stage of life may be more to blame than the pill. The first time many women begin taking birth control is as a teenager when their metabolism and bodies are going through changes that can result in weight gain. 

The other time women may start taking birth control is when they are in a committed relationship, which is also an instance where women tend to gain weight. Unfortunately, this is not the case if you are taking the progestin-only pill, as it has been shown to promote weight gain.

3 You DON’T Have To Take It At The Same Time Every Day

Even though many of us live by our daily birth control alarms, it is a myth that you have to take your birth control pill at the same time every day. Aside from the progestin-only pill, which must be taken consistently every day, it is unnecessary. As long as the pill is taken daily it is effective.

The only reason doctors suggest that you take the pill at the same time is to create a daily habit and decrease the chances that you will forget to take it. Human error is the number one cause for unplanned pregnancies while on the pill. As long as you ensure you are taking it every day, regardless of the time, it will be 99.9% effective.

2 You CAN Get Pregnant Immediately After Going Off The Pill

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to go off the pill for months before trying to get pregnant. In the past doctors warned that there was a heightened risk of miscarriage if a woman became pregnant within six months of discontinuing use of the pill. 

This has since been disproven, as the hormones from birth control do not linger in your system. Your body returns to normal almost immediately and you can get pregnant as soon as you start ovulating again.

If you do not begin ovulating within a few months of discontinuing birth control, you may be experiencing post-pill amenorrhea. This can prevent ovulation for up to eight months. Although it almost always sorts itself on its own, you may want to talk to your doctor if you don’t begin ovulating within a few months.

1 Men’s Birth Control Could Be Coming Soon

If you’ve ever gotten into an argument with your significant other after revealing you forgot to take your pill, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there’s hope on the horizon, as a men’s birth control pill is in the works. Both hormonal and nonhormonal birth control options could soon be available for men. This has been a long time coming considering women’s birth control has been around since the 1960’s. 

The challenge has been in preventing the large number of sperm from being released rather than the singular egg that female contraception controls. Recently, scientists have had a breakthrough in finding a molecule that dramatically lowered sperm counts in mice and could soon be tested on men.

Even if a male contraceptive pill is soon developed, birth control is and probably will always be a part of most women’s lives. Knowing the side effects and facts can simplify your daily life; especially now that you know you won’t have to turn around on your way to work to make sure you take your birth control precisely at eight o’clock in the morning.

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