10 Birth Control Myths, Busted
1. The pill must be taken at the exact same time every day. While this is likely what you’ve heard about using the pill, and maybe even what your doctor has told you, most birth control pills are effective so long as they’re taken every day, no matter what time. It can be useful to take your pill at the same time every day so the practice becomes habit, but it isn’t medically necessary. The exception here is the progestin-only minipill, which must be taken every day within the same three hour window to remain effective.
2. Your body needs a break from hormonal contraception. Hormonal contraception is powerful medication, but it is safe to use indefinitely. So long as you are not at risk for developing hormonal contraception-related health conditions, it’s safe for you to stay on birth control for years at a time. Doctors suggest you revisit your contraceptive method at least once every fifteen years—but that’s not because hormonal contraception is unsafe, it’s only because your contraceptive needs might change with time.
3. The rhythm method is just as effective as other birth control methods. While you are more likely to get pregnant at certain times of the month, correctly tracking and predicting your fertility involves a regular cycle (which many women don’t have) and constant attention to changes in your menstruation, cervical mucus, and/or body temperature. Relying on your cycle for birth control is known as the “rhythm method” or “fertility awareness method”, and it’s about 76-88% effective. While it can be a useful tool for family planning, it’s not the most reliable method of birth control.
4. Birth control makes you gain weight. While weight gain is a common immediate side effect of hormonal birth control, it’s usually just water weight that will flush out with your next cycle. Hormonal birth control makes you retain fluid differently, but it typically doesn’t permanently change your appetite or how you store fat. There is no link between hormonal birth control and sustained weight gain. The exception is the Depo-Provera shot, which has been linked to longer-term weight gain, and only about a quarter of patients experience this side effect.
5. Birth control can impact your fertility. Another common myth about hormonal birth control is that sustained use can affect long term fertility. This is false. Whether you’ve been on the pill for one month or fifteen years, you can get pregnant after you stop taking it (assuming you don’t have any fertility issues). There are many reasons as to why someone may face fertility issues, but hormonal birth control is not one of them.
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6. It’s unhealthy to use birth control to skip your period. Birth control is healthy to use indefinitely and continuously. Though periods can be useful in tracking your fertility, they aren’t medically necessary. If you want, you can safely skip your period for years on end using hormonal birth control.
7. Condoms diminish pleasure. Condoms can diminish pleasure for some people, but they don’t have to, and many people don’t feel a difference. There are actually lots of pleasure-enhancing condoms on the market, with different sizes, textures, materials, flavors and brands to choose from. Additionally, condoms (internal and external) are the only form of contraception that prevents the spread of STIs, and nothing kills the mood like an STI. Safe sex is better sex!
8. You need time for birth control hormones to leave your system. Sure it might take some time for hormonal birth control to fully exit your system after you stop taking it—but it typically just takes a day or so. Hormonal birth control stops working immediately after you stop taking it, so there’s no grace period where you can have pregnancy-free unprotected sex. If you’re ready to stop taking the pill, you need to use another form of birth control (or be ready to get pregnant). The exception to this rule is the Depo-Provera shot, in which case your body will take 6-12 months to return to normal ovulation.
9. The pill starts working immediately after you take it. The pill takes a little time to take effect, depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. If you start a new pack within the first five days of your period, you’ll be protected immediately. If you wait longer, it’ll take seven days to be protected from pregnancy. If you’re taking the progestin-only minipill, it will take 48 hours to take effect, regardless of where you are in your cycle.
10. All birth control methods are 100% effective. The truth is, no birth control method is 100% effective (except abstinence), and many people are surprised when they learn the true efficacy rate of common methods. The pill, patch and ring are 91% effective at preventing pregnancy. Condoms are only about 85% effective—this means that 15 out of every 100 women will get pregnant when they have sex using a condom. You can see a full list of birth control methods and their efficacy here.
If you’re considering birth control or already using it, use Simple Health for the pill, patch or ring. You can skip the hassle of the doctor’s office visit, get your birth control prescribed online and get your refills delivered right to your door (and your birth control always ships for free). Check out our simple, doctor-designed consultation to make your birth control process convenient and affordable.
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