7 common birth control myths debunked by OB-GYNs

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It’s ok to skip your period using birth control. Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

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While birth control is commonly used, many myths surround it. When left unchecked, these myths can negatively impact a person’s health and their perception of birth control.

Here are seven myths about birth control and the truth behind them.

Myth 1: Birth control will make me gain weight

Researchers have not found any indication that birth control, besides the birth control shot, causes significant weight gain.

A 2017 report reviewed previous studies that compared the effect of hormonal contraceptives to placebos. None of the studies found a significant difference in weight gain between those taking birth control and those taking a placebo. However, researchers believe further studies are needed, stating that there were not enough participants in the studies and that the participants’ weight was not recorded carefully enough.

Patients do self-report weight gain, says John Zhang, MD, an OB-GYN, medical director, and CEO of New Hope NYC, but the reason for the disconnect is unclear. However, some estrogen-containing pills may cause fluid retention. In a 2016 report examining 22 studies, researchers found that the mean weight gain at six and 12 months was less than 4.4 pounds. The study determined this weight gain too small to be significant.

Myth 2: You have to take the pill at the exact same time each day

The time you have to take your birth control varies based on the type of pill. Combination pills like Lo Loestrin Fe and Annovera contain both estrogen and progestin, and you can take these anytime in a 24-hour period.

General advice: While it doesn’t have to be exact, taking the pill at a similar time every day helps build the habit, meaning you’re less likely to skip a day and risk pregnancy, says Charis Chambers, MD, an OB-GYN.

If you’re using progestin-only pills like Camila and Errin, you must take it within the same three-hour window every day. If ingested outside of that time period, your risk of pregnancy increases.

Myth 3: Birth control makes you infertile

In a 2009 study, researchers found no link between taking oral contraceptives and infertility. Of those who stopped taking the pill, 20% became pregnant after one cycle, and 80% became pregnant after one year.

In fact, when taken for an extended period of time, birth control may help with fertility. In a 2013 study, researchers compared the fertility of people who used oral contraceptives for less than two years to those who used them over four years. Longer oral contraceptive users had higher rates of conception when they stopped using birth control compared to those who took it for two years.

For most people, your ability to conceive should return within a few days after stopping the birth control pill. But other types of birth control can take longer to become fertile again.

“With the birth control shot, it may take months for all of the hormones to leave your system,” says Charis Chambers, MD, an OB-GYN. “Additionally, women who want an implant or IUD removed should also factor in delays caused by scheduling the removal procedures.”

Myth 4: You shouldn’t skip your period on birth control

It is possible and safe to skip your period with birth control pills or a vaginal ring. In the case of oral contraceptives, skipping your period involves bypassing sugar pills and immediately beginning a new pill pack.

While this may lead to occasional spotting, doctors do not consider it dangerous to do, and people can skip their period long-term. The primary drawback is it may be more challenging to determine if you are pregnant.

Speak to your doctor if you’re interested in skipping your period to determine the most effective way for you to do so.

Myth 5: Birth control is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy

Even when using birth control, there is always a risk of pregnancy. However, the level of risk varies tremendously based on the type of birth control used. Each birth control method has different levels of effectiveness.

Common types of birth control ranked from most effective to least:

  • Implant: 99.95%
  • Hormonal IUD: 99.8%
  • Copper IUD: 99.2%
  • Pill, when taken correctly: 99%
  • Shot: 94%
  • Typical pill use: 91%
  • Typical Ring: 91%
  • Typical Patch: 91%
  • Male condom: 82%
  • Female condom: 79%
  • Rhythm method: 76%

To reduce your risk of pregnancy, use a condom even if on birth control. This also protects you from STIs.

Myth 6: All forms of birth control are the same

Not all birth control is the same — some don’t contain any hormones, others contain different hormones, and some contain varying amounts of hormones.

Hormonal birth control uses either a combination of estrogen and progestin or only progestin.

Non-hormonal birth control options include condoms, spermicides, copper IUDs, the diaphragm, the cervical cap, and the sponge. Copper IUDs are the lowest maintenance and most effective of the non-hormonal birth control options.

Myth 7: Birth control protects against STIs

Oral contraceptives, the ring, the patch, the shot, and IUDs do not protect against STIs. The only methods of STI prevention are dental dams and condoms — both external and internal.

Regular STI testing can also help limit the spread of disease between partners.

Insider’s takeaway

Birth control is a unique experience for everyone, and there are many different options. Understanding what is a myth and what is fact allows you to determine which birth control is best for you and how to use it properly.

If you have any questions or uncertainty around birth control, your doctor can provide accurate and clear information.

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