10 July 2018

7 birth control myths you should stop believing

Will the Pill make you gain weight? Can you fall pregnant while breastfeeding? We bust seven common myths about birth control.

There are many different forms of birth control – the Pill, condoms, IUDs, implants. It’s important to find the one that works for you so that you are able to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. One of the simplest forms of contraceptive to take is the Pill.

How does the Pill work?

In combined oral contraceptive (COC) pills, oestrogen and progesterone prevent your body from ovulating. That means if an egg is not released, you cannot fall pregnant. The Pill has an added back-up – it makes the cervical mucus thicker, which makes it more difficult for sperm to get through. In addition, the Pill also thins the lining of the uterus so on the off chance that an egg is fertilised, it will have a harder time implanting. 

Here are four myths to stop believing about the Pill.

1. ‘I’ve just started taking the Pill, so I’m immediately protected against pregnancy’

Doctors will advise that you take extra precautions, such as using a condom, when you first start taking the Pill. According the Cleveland Clinic most women should complete a menstrual cycle so that the hormones in the Pill can work with their hormones to stop ovulation. Always take the Pill exactly as directed by your doctor. 

2. ‘The Pill will affect my fertility, so if I want to fall pregnant it will take longer'

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) says that the COC does not cause infertility, no matter how long you have taken it for. They add that there is no evidence that COCs will delay your return to fertility after you stop taking them. 

3. ‘The Pill will make me gain weight’

When women first started taking the Pill, there was a risk of weight gain due to the fact it contained much higher levels of hormones than today. For example, the early pills contained 100–175 micrograms of oestrogen compared to 20–50 micrograms today. Women’s Health Queensland says, in the first year of use, it is estimated:

  • 20–25% of women will gain more than 2kg.
  • 60% of women will experience no change or have a weight change within 2kg (either gaining or losing).
  • 15–20% of women will lose more than 2kg.

Progesterone can increase your appetite, resulting in weight gain and some women may experience water retention and bloating. If you are worried about gaining weight, speak to your doctor about what will work best for you. 

4. ‘I have to take the Pill at the same time every day otherwise it won’t work’

Good news – this is just a myth. Dr Vanessa Cullins, Vice President for External Medical Affairs at Planned Parenthood, says taking it at the same time every day will not make it more effective against an unplanned pregnancy. If you are taking the mini-pill, however, then you must take it at the same time every day.

Additional myths about preventing an unplanned pregnancy:

5. ‘I can’t fall pregnant if I am breastfeeding’

Don’t take a chance. Dr Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Yale University School of Medicine, says this myth is probably to blame for many unplanned pregnancies. She says breastfeeding only (no supplementing with formula) can suppress the hormones from the pituitary gland that are responsible for making you ovulate. However, it’s not foolproof. "And if you breastfeed sometimes while supplementing with formula, all bets are off," says Dr Minkin.

6. ‘I will only fall pregnant if I have sex during my fertile period’

There’s a lot happening in your body every month. Four hormones are responsible for your menstrual cycle – follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinising hormone (LH), oestrogen and progesterone. The Cleveland Clinic says “a delicate balance of these hormones regulates the release of an egg (ovulation) and – if the egg is not fertilised – menstruation.”

Although you might think your cycle is regular, this balance of hormones can be interrupted at any time due to stress, medication or exercise. Attempting to identify or predict a “safe” day is risky.  

7. ‘My partner pulled out before he ejaculated, so I won’t fall pregnant’

Don’t rely on this method to prevent a pregnancy. Some ejaculate, which contains sperm, can be released before your partner climaxes, which could lead to an unplanned pregnancy. You're also at risk of your partner not pulling out in time.

Image credit: iStock


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