Birth control myths busted by an expert
No, your body doesn’t need a ‘break’ from the pill
If you’re like most, then you probably got your first pieces of information about birth control not from your doctor, but from your friends. Hey, you definitely picked up some useful information – but there’s also a lot of false information going around too. Who’s to blame you though, some of these myths have been going around for generations. And why? Myths like these most likely arise plainly from a lack of understanding of the menstrual cycle.
So we asked Shari Brasner, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology as well as an assistant clinical professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mountain Sinai Hospital in New York City, what the deal is on the most common rumors when it comes to contraception.
You gain weight: False
“When subjected to rigorous scientific studies weight gain was just as common in the women who were given placebos as women who were given birth control pills. Having said that, I am certainly convinced that there are often other lifestyle changes that are happening as a woman starts the pill, and sometimes its easier to associate the weight gain as opposed to the fact that she is now potentially in a relationship and eating out and drinking more often.
“Have I never had a patient gain weight on the pill? No. I have patients who tell me the weight gain started as soon as they started the pill, and lost it when they stopped. It is certainly possible. But when it’s been studied with large groups of women, its been proven false. Weight and women is a very interesting topic.”
The Pill may kill your sex drive: Potentially
“It comes down to the fact that there are two hormones in each of these birth control pills. An estrogen and a progestin, and the progestin’s are what vary from pill to pill, and brand to brand. They all have the same estrogen, although they may vary in dosage. Progestins are pretty potent hormones and there is some potential that it will affect sex drive.”
The Pill causes breakouts: False
“No, in fact the estrogen pill can help treat mild to moderate acne.”
Your boobs get bigger: Sometimes
“There is estrogen in 99 percent of the pills that young women are prescribed and there is no doubt that the breast is an organ that is estrogen sensitive. So there are women who will see those changes, however it is not universal.”
You have to take The Pill at the same time every day… Or at least you should aim for it
“So, the pills are designed to be taken once a day at around the same time, but there really is leeway built in and I usually say with a plus or minus two hours, which gives most women a four-hour window day to day.”
Being on The Pill for a long time will make it harder to get pregnant later: False
“Absolutely not true.
“The pill only works while you take it as very effective pregnancy prevention, but it does not affect fertility in the long run. If a woman has very irregular periods to start with, and sometimes that is the reason some women want to go on the pill in the first place (for cycle control) there is every reason to think that when she comes off she’s going to go back to being the woman she was – and irregular periods could signal some difficulty in getting pregnant. But, if there were no issues before, having taken the pill should have no effect on whatever fertility you would have at your current age.”
Your body needs a break from The Pill: False
“No. In fact, for some women where we’re using The Pill to treat a medical condition, like endometriosis, or incredibly bad periods, there is zero reason to take a break.”
The most dangerous time to miss a pill is in the middle of the packet: False
“That really is a myth, and the most dangerous time to miss a pill is actually towards the beginning of the pack. This is because at the end of the pack before you’re taking hormone free pills (placebos) if you extend that period of “no hormone” that gives your body a change to recruit an egg for that cycle. If you miss a pill towards the middle of the pack its not enough time to recruit an egg, you don’t ovulate on the day you miss a pill. So it’s really pills towards the beginning of the pack because you don’t want more than seven hormone free days.”
Blood clots are usually caused by The Pill… Let’s take a closer look
“That’s not really a myth – it is clear that estrogens do increase the risk for Venous Thromboembolism Blood Clots, however the absolute risk is still very low for a young, healthy, non-smoking woman of normal weight. Age is a risk factor, weight is a risk factor, smoking is a risk factor, and then if you add estrogen you have too many risk factors. If you don’t have those other three than The Pill is safe for you.”
The Pill can cause cancer: Definitely false
“No. The Pill even reduces reduces (by almost half) the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers.”
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