Unveiling birth control myths

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: 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 of once every three months or less. There’s a wealth of different pills to choose from, brand name options and generic options.  Only one pill will soon be available over the counter and without a prescription, the mini-pill.

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 negatively affect your fertility. After using certain hormonal birth control methods, it may take a few months to get to know your cycle and how regular it is. 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 generally considered entirely safe to skip your week of placebo pills period and avoid any bleeding. It’s also very easy. Just continue to take a pill that includes hormones every day and skip the hormone-free “reminder/placebi” pills at the end of a pack. Some people like to skip their bleeding 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 sometimes get 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 control isn’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 or no bleeding at all.

MYTH: Birth control’s primary use is to prevent pregnancy 

Certainly, a lot of people use birth control to prevent pregnancy — and as 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.

MYTH: You need to cleanse or balance your hormones after stopping hormonal birth control

The dose of any hormonal birth control – pill, IUD, ring or implant – is very small. After you stop taking hormonal birth control or have it removed, your body will process and eliminate any “extra” hormones quickly. You don’t need to do anything to speed up or assist this process other than eat and drink normally. For most people, depending on the type of birth control, you’re considered fertile again right away. It can take time to get used to your new cycle and symptoms without the addition of birth control hormones. You’re not imagining that things feel differently, but you don’t need expensive supplements or cleanses to adjust. Most people need a few cycles to find out what their non-birth control cycle length is and how regular or irregular it may be. 

MYTH: Having an IUD placed is painful

Okay, I know what you’re thinking! Yes, having an IUD placed can be very painful, but it doesn’t have to be. This is one area where knowing what’s available and how to advocate for yourself is key. Some people, especially those who have had a vaginal birth before, may have little to no pain with insertion. Typically a dose of Ibuprofen ahead of time can keep these people comfy. But many other people experience serious pain during insertion and in the 24 hours after. There are options for pain relief that are excellent but not always offered upfront. These range from oral medications to local anesthesia and anti-anxiety support. Their availability depends on where you get your IUD. If you really want the excellent long-term option of IUD birth control without the pain, it’s possible!

  • “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.
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