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30 Birth Control Myths Debunked

"Birth control only helps avoid pregnancy."

Women take birth control for a variety of reasons. Avoiding pregnancy is one reason, but others may take it to regulate their period, decrease PMS symptoms, and even lessen pain during cramps. For more information, you can check out our slideshow on the best and worst side effects of birth control.

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"Birth control causes infertility."

Women who want to have a family can stop taking the medication and get pregnant within a year. For those that are trying to conceive, it’s possible to become pregnant as early as one month once quitting birth control.

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"You don’t need birth control if you’re breastfeeding."

Women that are breastfeeding and using formula can definitely still have children. Some forms of birth control shouldn’t be used while breastfeeding, but there are options that are safe to use for you and your child.

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"Birth control causes weight gain."

Birth control can cause increased hunger, but no studies have shown a link between weight gain and contraceptives. A woman can certainly gain weight if she doesn’t watch what she eats, but birth control isn’t the main reason.

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"You need to take your birth control at the same time every day."

Taking your pill every day is the most important part of oral contraceptives. Most doctors suggest taking it at the same time to create a routine, which makes you less likely to forget. If you miss a pill, many doctors recommend you take two the following day to stay on schedule. Women who take progestin-only pills (the “mini-pill”) do require a regular schedule.

"Newer forms of birth control are dangerous and less safe."

This myth stems from misinformation spread about birth control like Yasmin, Yaz, and the NuvaRing having more hormones than older brands. In reality, newer forms have fewer hormones. Both brands are tested and ready for use, although you should keep in mind that your body may react differently to each formula.

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"IUDs are only for women with children."

Any woman can get an IUD even if they haven’t had a kid. The reason for this myth stems from some forms of IUDs that are larger and require a larger cervix and uterus. Newer IUDs are smaller and designed for non-moms in mind.

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"It’s unhealthy to use birth control to skip your period."

It’s perfectly okay to take two packs back-to-back to avoid having your period. Some birth control medications are made to produce three or four ovulations per year. However, you shouldn’t be surprised if there is breakthrough bleeding. This is completely normal when you skip your normal flow.

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"You need to take breaks from birth control."

The only reason you need to take a break from contraceptives is if you want to become pregnant. Birth control doesn’t harm the body while you’re on it. If you don’t feel well on your birth control, or you feel the need to take a break, it’s best to talk to your doctor to possibly find a new formula.

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"Blood clots are usually caused by birth control."

The risks associated with oral contraceptives are rare and unlikely to occur. It’s actually less likely for you to get a blood clot while on birth control versus when you’re pregnant. The risk goes from a 0.04% to 0.18% chance.

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"It takes a while for the hormones to leave your system."

This myth depends on which form of birth control you’re using. In many cases, it’s possible to get pregnant right after you stop your medication. Most women can get pregnant within the first year, with a percentage pregnant within a month. The only exception is if you use the birth control shot. This can take 10 months or longer for ovulation to return to normal. 

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"You can’t get pregnant on birth control."

It’s possible to get pregnant on birth control, although the risk is low. Condoms have a 2% failure rate with perfect use and 18% with typical use. The pill, ring, and patch have a less than 1% with perfect use and 9% chance with typical use. IUDs have a less than 1% chance, and shots have a 1% rate with perfect use and 6% with typical use.

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"People over 35 can’t be on birth control."

Women of any age can take birth control, and some older women take contraceptives to supplement their hormones while going through menopause. However, women over 35 should remember that they have a higher risk of blood clots.

"Grapefruit can make birth control less effective."

Grapefruit has a chance to interact with a specific type of birth control that contains ethinyl estradiol, but it won’t make it less effective. Instead, it could increase the amount of estrogen in your bloodstream. This could lead to additional side effects and health risks.

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"The Pill causes cancer."

The Pill can actually reduce the risk of certain cancer. For example, it reduces the risk of ovarian cancer 30% to 50%. It can also lower instances of endometrial cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

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"Birth control affects your mood and personality permanently."

This myth is partially true. Birth control can certainly affect your mood and personality, but it isn’t permanent. The Pill can alter your mood for the better, but it can also increase your risk of depression, although this is uncommon. The majority of women have fewer mood swings from PMS while on birth control.

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"Birth control means taking tons of hormones."

Birth control is comprised of estrogen and progestin. If you’re sensitive to hormones, you can get a low-dose formula or progestin-only birth control pill. Like with any medication, there are tons of options to choose from. 

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"Birth control causes abortions."

Birth control pills do not cause abortion. A pregnancy that’s already established won’t be harmed or affected negatively by oral contraceptives. Oral contraceptives are designed to prevent implantation. Once fertilization is complete, and the egg is implanted into the uterus, birth control has no effect.

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"You can miss a pill or two and be alright."

Missing a pill isn’t the end of the world, but it increases the risk that you could get pregnant. Many medical professionals encourage patients to take the missed dose as soon as possible. It is also best to use backup forms of birth control in the meantime.

"All antibiotics cancel the effect of birth control."

Most antibiotics don’t have any effect on birth control, but some can make it less effective. These include medications with rifampicin and rifabutin. These drugs are used to treat tuberculosis and meningitis. Unless you have either of those, you’re probably fine.

"Birth control causes birth defects."

This myth is somewhat fuzzy, but the Food and Drug Administration stands firm that birth control will not cause birth defects. Unfortunately, research is limited due to ethical limitations, but studies have concluded that a fetus is unaffected by birth control.

"The Pill can make your hair fall out."

Oral contraceptives can change the way your hair grows, but this is only until your body gets used to the new cycle. Most women barely notice any difference and those that do notice an improvement after a short period. There’s also a chance for birth control to increase hair growth. 

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"Birth control will give you constant headaches. "

Headaches can be a side effect of the birth control pill, but it won’t be permanent. Most women will see improvement after a month. If you still have headaches after that, it may be time to find a new formula. Not feeling well on one brand is a sign that you need to switch to another.

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"Long-term use can hurt your body."

Completely false. Women who take birth control don’t experience adverse effects long-term. In fact, a study with 830 women showed that women on oral contraceptives showed better verbal memory and performed better on global cognitive tests compared to those that didn’t take the Pill. 

"The final week of birth control isn’t important and can be skipped."

The last week is often called placebos or “sugar pills,” but they actually have ingredients that can help the pills work better and aid in women’s health. Some of them have low-dose estrogen while others contain iron, folic acid, or other vitamins. 

"It’s difficult or unhealthy to change brands or switch to another form of birth control."

Switching brands or to another form of birth control is completely fine, especially if your current brand isn’t working out. There is a wide range of formulations available, and the first one you try may not be appropriate for you. Just follow your doctor’s directions.

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"Birth control can keep you from getting sexually transmitted diseases."

Birth control doesn’t protect you against sexually transmitted diseases. The only way to protect yourself is abstinence, although using condoms can lower the risk of STDs.

"Birth control is free."

The Affordable Care Act changed birth control, but it didn’t make it free. If you don’t have insurance, you still have to pay. Additionally, some insurance plans can still reject some forms of birth control.

"The “Morning After” pill is 100% effective."

Plan B One-Step, or the “morning-after pill,” isn’t 100% effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies. If you take it within 24 hours, it’s 95% effective, but it drops from there. At the 72-hour mark, you’re looking at 89%.

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"Access to birth control increases promiscuity."

The reason women choose to use birth control varies and is often related to medical reasons. Many studies have shown that birth control doesn’t increase promiscuity.