Birth Control: Myths & Misconceptions
Knowing how to separate myth from reality when it comes to birth control can help you choose a contraceptive that works best for you and your lifestyle.
Here’s a closer look at the truth that debunks some of the most common myths and misconceptions about birth control.
Myth: Birth control causes weight gain.
Reality: Weight gain is not a direct side effect of hormonal birth control. However, a study in Journal of Women’s Health found that the progestin in some hormonal birth control may increase your appetite, which can lead to weight gain when not managed properly with diet and exercise. If you gain weight while using birth control or have concerns about weight gain, ask your doctor about non-hormonal forms of birth control that don’t contain progestin.
Myth: Birth control causes cancer.
Reality: A number of peer-reviewed studies have established that birth control does not directly cause cancer and that it may even reduce the risk of certain cancers, particularly those of the ovaries, endometrium, colon and rectum. However, women who meet certain risk factors for cancers, including breast cancer and cervical cancer, should consult their doctor before they start birth control. You may well have the impression that there is a link between birth control and cancer because of all the conflicting information out there, but the risk is overblown. (Research continues and we’ll update as new information is available.)
Myth: Birth control prevents STIs and STDs.
Reality: Some birth control methods may reduce your risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and diseases (STDs), but they cannot prevent them entirely. Male and female condoms, diaphragms and cervical caps are some barrier birth control methods that can significantly reduce your risk. However, STDs such as herpes can still be transmitted from parts of your genitals left exposed while using these methods. If your partner has an STI or STD, abstaining from sex until their infection has cleared is the most effective way to avoid transmission.
Myth: Birth control causes fertility problems.
Reality: Many women fear that hormonal birth control may affect their ability to become pregnant in the future, because of hormone fluctuations. But evidence shows that birth control does not delay fertility upon discontinuation and has no negative effect on a woman’s ability to conceive. Some women become pregnant when they skip or forget their daily dose of birth control, which is why it’s important to take the pill every day. In some instances, women may need to wait a few months after discontinuing birth control for their menstrual cycle to regulate before they can become pregnant.
Myth: IUDs can cause pelvic inflammatory disease.
Reality: Intrauterine devices (IUDs) do not directly cause infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). However, it is possible for an existing infection to spread following the insertion of an IUD. Women who have infection-causing bacteria in their vagina can push these bacteria up into their reproductive organs while inserting an IUD, which can potentially cause PID. The University of California, San Francisco recommends that women undergo an infection screening before receiving an IUD in an effort to prevent PID and avoid spreading other infections.
If you’re looking for a safe, effective way to prevent pregnancy, don’t allow myths about birth control stop you from using contraceptives. Ask your doctor about the available birth control methods that may work best for you and your partner.