There are a lot of birth control myths out there. We’re here to set the record straight by debunking some widespread myths and help you get closer to finding the best birth control method for you.
MYTH: Hormonal birth control makes you gain weight
Birth control might make you retain water, but it doesn’t make you gain weight. It’s not uncommon to gain a little weight as a result of retaining water when starting hormonal birth control, but this side effect typically goes away quickly. Some hormonal birth control may come with other side effects, like an increased appetite or feeling bloated, but there’s no proven association between hormonal birth control and longer term weight gain. (One exception is the birth control shot [Depo Provera], which for some patients has been shown to have longer-term weight gain as a side effect.) As with all birth control, if you’re concerned about or if you experience any side-effects, you should speak with your healthcare provider to see if there’s another option that might be a better fit for you. It could just be a matter of switching to a similar birth control with a different combination of hormones.
MYTH: All pills are created equal
There are many different types of birth control pills. Combination pills contain estrogen and progestin, whereas the minipill contains only progestin — both options come in a variety of doses. Some pills are organized in conventional packs and you can expect a period every month, others are continuous dosing/extended cycle packs with a period once every three months. There’s a wealth of different pills to choose from, brand name options and generic options.
Birth control pills have different benefits and side effects. For people with certain medical conditions, sometimes the pill is not a good fit. Your healthcare provider can help you learn more.
MYTH: Taking birth control can negatively affect your fertility
Birth control use — whether used for a short time or long-term — doesn’t affect your fertility. After using certain hormonal birth control methods, you may need to wait a few months before your menstrual cycle will return to normal so you can get pregnant. But there’s no evidence that birth control presents any long-term fertility issues.
MYTH: Using the pill to skip your period isn’t good for you
While you should check with your healthcare provider about the specifics for your birth control pill, it’s entirely safe to skip your period. It’s also very easy. Just take a pill that includes hormones every day and skip the hormone-free “reminder” pills at the end of a pack. Some people like to skip their period if it’s going to fall on a special occasion — like on a vacation or while traveling — others opt for this option to avoid period discomfort. Regardless of the reason you’d like to skip yours, you can expect a little bit of spotting, which is normal. This can be minimized by taking the pill at the same time each day.
MYTH: Long term use of hormonal birth control isn’t healthy
Hormonal birth controls aren’t necessarily a good fit for everyone — certain health conditions might increase the risks associated with using specific birth control pills, or the pill in general. But hormonal birth control is a very good fit for a lot of people. It can even help certain people feel better. For those with particularly irregular or uncomfortable periods — a heavy period, lengthy periods, heavy cramping and discomfort, or pain and other health problems related to endometriosis — hormonal birth control can improve quality of life, with lighter, shorter, more regular, more comfortable periods.
MYTH: Birth control’s primary use is to prevent pregnancy
Certainly, a lot of people use birth control to prevent pregnancy — and the name suggests that’s the primary reason many people might use it. But many take birth control for other reasons already mentioned — like to have a more comfortable or more regular period and relieve major pain and discomfort — or even to help improve mood or acne. Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to use birth control, and no matter your reason, a healthcare provider can help you find the type of birth control that’s a good fit for you.
- “Birth Control.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, May 2019. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/especially-for-teens/birth-control.
- “Combined Hormonal Birth Control: Pill, Patch, and Ring.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, March 2018. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/contraception/combined-hormonal-birth-control-pill-patch-and-ring.
- “Contraceptive Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 21 2019. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/contraceptive.htm.
- “IUD.” Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood, Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/iud.
- “Long-Acting Reversible Contraception: Intrauterine Device and Implant.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, January 2018. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/contraception/long-acting-reversible-contraception-intrauterine-device-and-implant.