Myths surround many aspects of women’s health, and birth control is one area of your health where you might hear things that simply aren’t true.
Some myths are passed down by well-meaning family members and you might find others online. Knowing the facts gives you more control over your family planning decisions and health, and may save your fertility and your health.
Let’s debunk some of these common birth control myths.
While barrier methods—such as condoms—can help to reduce the possibility of contracting an STI, they are not foolproof. For example, the herpes virus can exist on parts of the genitals that are not covered by a condom.
Other forms of birth control are completely ineffective for preventing STIs. Oral contraceptives, IUDs and surgical sterilization do nothing for preventing you from catching an infection. If you use this form of birth control, then talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk of catching an STI.
Birth control can have side effects, but this is one that you don’t have to worry about. There are currently no studies that show that birth control causes significant weight gain. Anecdotal reports of women gaining weight may be linked to other lifestyle factors.
For instance, many women begin birth control during times when their body is already going through major changes. When weight gain does occur, it is usually below 5 pounds.
The process of going through menopause can span several years. Although your odds of conceiving a baby go down after the age of 40, it may still be possible to get pregnant.
To avoid having a surprise pregnancy after you hit midlife, you’ll want to talk to your gynecologist about your fertility. In most cases, you’ll still need to use some form of birth control until you’ve stopped menstruating for at least 1 year.
Cancer prevention is a huge part of women’s health. The idea that you can get cancer from oral contraceptives is one of those birth control myths that you can stop believing. Hormonal birth control can actually help to prevent certain types of cancer, such as endometrial and ovarian types.
Your doctor can also perform cancer screenings during your visits for birth control to further reduce your risk.
With the exception of permanent sterilization methods, birth control will not harm your fertility. With most hormonal forms of birth control, you’ll simply stop using your preferred method and begin to work on trying to conceive. Your body quickly resumes its natural reproductive functions, and most people can conceive even if they’ve used birth control for years.
If you have trouble conceiving, then there may be another issue at play. Always work with your doctor to identify potential issues that could be impacting your fertility.
If you put a group of people together in a room and ask which birth control method is best, you’ll likely get some passionate responses. The truth is that all of the birth control options have their pros and cons.
The important thing is to pick one that works best for your goals and that you can use regularly. For instance, some women prefer the ease of IUDs since they don’t have to think about taking a pill every day. Others like using the birth control pill since they are already familiar with it.
Some people believe that the body needs to take a rest from hormonal forms of birth control. This might come from the idea that most doctors recommend revisiting your birth control plan every 10 to 15 years. This isn’t because your body needs a break, though.
Instead, birth control education is different at every age. As your body and lifestyle change, you might need to change your plan. For example, some women may be ready for a permanent form of birth control after having their preferred amount of children. Others might want to switch to a type to deal with fluctuating hormones during perimenopause.
If you start taking the birth control pill within 5 days of beginning your period, then you are likely covered. Starting the pill at any other point of your cycle means that you’ll need to wait at least a week before you can feel safe from experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. During this time, you can still engage in sexual activity. You’ll just need to use a backup form of birth control, such as a barrier method.
Even when you know the truth, figuring out which birth control method works best for you might still be a challenge. Make sure to talk to your gynecologist about your options. Knowledge is power and helps you feel confident with the choices that you make regarding your body.