Debunking common birth control myths

Many myths surround birth control safety and efficiency and these myths create needless fear and may discourage some people from using the most appropriate birth control for them.

People who are hoping to avoid pregnancy can choose from dozens of options for birth control, including pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), condoms and other barriers.

We look at the facts behind a range of birth control methods in this article, and debunk the myths.

Myth: Hormonal methods are the only option

Couples enjoying their self
There’s a number of different birth control methods available.

May often use the term birth control to describe hormonal forms of birth control, such as birth control pills, patches, implants or the intrauterine hormonal system (IUD).

Hormonal birth control is only one choice among many, though. Many may choose not to use hormonal methods, or must stop them, and they can choose from a number of alternative methods.

Some other birth control methods are similarly, if not more successful than hormonal alternatives.

For example, the copper intrauterine device (IUD) contains no hormones and is effective at 99 percent — more effective than the pill.

Breastfeeding can be an even more effective contraceptive than some hormonal methods, if used correctly. Those who breastfeed may choose this birth control method instead of hormonal forms immediately after childbirth.

Myth: Birth control causes cancer

Another common misconception is that cancer is caused by birth control pills. It’s true that birth control can slightly increase the risk of certain types of cancer, particularly breast cancer and cervical cancer.

For example, one 2010 study found a slight rise in levels of breast cancer among women who had used oral contraceptives. The overall risk was kept low.

Most of the increased risk, however, was among women using a triphasic pill that uses three different doses of hormones during a woman’s cycle.

With other forms of pills the risk may be smaller. Additionally, it could not monitor all other risk factors because the study was prospective.

However birth control pills can also decrease the risk of other types of cancer.

Although research indicates generally a slight increase in breast and cervical cancers, hormonal birth control may reduce the risk of:

  • endometrial cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • colorectal cancer

Myth: Natural methods do not work

Birth control methods based on lifestyle may be more difficult for a person to adopt correctly, which is why some people think that they don’t function at all.

Knowledge of fertility is one form of natural birth control that can be successful when a person is doing it right. It involves a person tracking their body temperature closely, noticing daily changes in their cervical mucus and knowing exactly when it is due to their time.

Breastfeeding can also act as an important method of birth control. Nevertheless, during the first 6 months of his life, a person must breastfeed the baby, give the baby few or no other foods and must not have had a period yet. This is called the Process of lactational amenorrhea (LAM).

Some prolonged periods without breastfeeding will significantly increase pregnancy chances. If the baby drinks formula or consumes other foods, then ovulation will start again, followed by a period.

Even the controversial method of withdrawal, which involves “pulling out” before ejaculation, with consistent, correct use is available at 78 per cent. Yet for others, it’s way too high a 22 percent risk of becoming pregnant (more than 1 in 5 chance). Those who choose this method will add other ways to improve effectiveness.

People might want to keep emergency contraceptives at home (such as the morning-after pill) just in case their partner doesn’t withdraw in time, and semen gets into the vagina.

Emergency contraceptive pills are effective up to five days after birth.

Myth: Birth control can prevent STIs

Barrier methods, such as condoms, can decrease the risk of many sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These methods, however, can not prevent all STIs and there is no safe way to have sex with someone you know that has an STI

Example, Herpes, that can live on parts of the genitals that condoms do not cover.

Any method of birth control that does not create a barrier among bodies of people can not prevent STIs.

Hormonal birth control, permanent sterilization, knowledge of fertility, IUDs and other methods also cause STIs to spread during sex from one partner to another.

Myth: Hormonal types cause abortions

Many anti-abortion advocates have broadened their emphasis to include contraception, in particular hormonal birth control.

Birth control is unable to induce abortions. This is because all types of hormonal birth control work to prevent ovulation, and implantation is avoided by ovulation. Implantation marks the start of pregnancy.

Myth: Birth control causes weight gain

While many people are worried that hormonal contraceptives cause weight gain, numerous studies have either shown that birth control does not result in weight gain, or that the average user only gains a few pounds.

A 2014 study that took a moderate weight look at both participants and those with obesity found no significant change in body weight or appearance after using oral contraceptives.

A 2016 study by Cochrane of 22 previous studies found little or no evidence of weight gain.

Even among studies that showed slight weight gains the average weight gain was just 4.4 pounds.

The research for 2016 looked specifically at progestin-only tablets, which give a lower hormone dose. It suggests people dealing with weight gain may consider using low-dose pills.

Myth: Birth control damages fertility

After using hormonal birth control, including IUDs, pill, patch, to implant, it may take a few months for a person’s menstrual cycle to return to normal. There is no evidence, however, that hormonal contraceptives will in the long run affect fertility.

A 2011 study compared pregnancy rates when different forms of hormonal birth control were used. Overall, the pregnancy rates among former birth control users were comparable and those who had never used it.

Infertility is common, especially when people are ageing. Approximately 12–13 percent of couples have difficulty getting pregnant. Birth control problems do not mean birth control induces infertility.

Myth: Older people do not need birth control 

Many people think they can’t get pregnant because they are older or they have irregular periods. Pregnancy is still possible until a person has gone through the menopause and has had 12 consecutive months without a pregnancy.

Although male fertility also declines with age, males will continue to be fertile well into their 60s, 70s, and after.

However the risk of congenital anomalies and other complications increases with the age of the man.

Myth: The morning-after pill is like an abortion

Emergency contraceptive pills, also known as the morning-after pill or Plan B, are high-dose birth control pills that prevent pregnancy after a person’s birth control without having sex.

Taking a pill in the morning after that is not the same as having an abortion. An abortion is a procedure whereby an existing pregnancy is interrupted. Thanks to an unplanned pregnancy, emergency contraception eliminates the need for a subsequent abortion.

Scientists initially thought the morning-after pill worked in two ways: by slowing or stopping ovulation, and by reducing the chances of ovulation implanting an egg and a sperm fertilizing the egg. Scientists currently only have proof that this slows ovulation, preventing release and fertilization of the egg.

Because there is also an abortion pill available, some people mistake this drug for emergency contraception. In fact, some anti-contraceptive proponents are promoting the idea that the morning-after pill causes abortion.

Emergency contraception does not induce an abortion and can not. It does not end a pregnancy, nor stops it from occurring first.

Myth: Birth control causes blood clots and stroke

Hormonal birth control does bring certain risks, but not everyone is typically affected by those risks. Certain people have particular risk factors which make them more likely to develop birth control complications.

For example, hormonal birth control can increase the risk of blood clots and stroke in people over the age of 35 who smoke, and people with a history of cardiovascular disease.

People with obesity and those with certain types of migraines should also discuss their risk for blood clots and stroke with a doctor. A doctor may prescribe birth control for these people that does not contain estrogen or would recommend a non-hormonal option.

Many people can find them a safe option for birth control. Even when there are dangers, sometimes the chances of pregnancy may be greater. The United States is one of the very few nations with increasing rates of maternal mortality.

This means that in the U.S., a woman is more likely to die in childbirth than her mother was a generation ago.

Giving birth is more risky than any form of birth control, and more likely to cause complications.

Summary

Many people can find them a safe option for birth control. Sometimes a person has to try out multiple methods or a combination of methods to find something easy and have the fewest side effects.

And while all pharmaceutical items, including birth control, bear certain risks, many misconceptions about the birth control hazards are unfounded.

Anyone who considers using a new type of birth control can ask a doctor or other trusted health care practitioner about proper use.

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